1986 / Director. John Cherry III.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I am a self-confessed Ernest-geek. Anything to do with Ernest P Worrell will amuse me to no end. Even the later (shittier) DTV instalments... I'm a sucker! I think that Jim Varney was a genius and his talent was far too undervalued. Few people know that Ernest's first feature-length film was the oddity, DR OTTO AND THE RIDDLE OF THE GLOOM BEAM. Varney plays a host of characters with Ernest being merely one of many and the film's star character is Dr Otto, a mad and evil villain with world domination on his mind. He creates a gloom beam which will disable the world's electronic devices and cripple society. He also relishes the fact that it "may cause cancer amongst some people". Clearly this is a much darker film to the Ernest franchise, which followed... although it is still family friendly stuff. The plot makes very little sense and it plays out much more like a skit show, similar to the HEY VERN, IT'S ERNEST tv series. The curious thing about the film is that its humour (I would think) would be lost on most kids. Perhaps the chaotic and frivolous nature of the whole thing was enough to keep kids glued at the time... or maybe it was more of an experiment from the Ernest creators (John Cherry, Coke Sams & Jim Varney) to help hone their filmmaking skills. That's a more likely scenario because there is a lot of experimentation and wonderfully eclectic style going on in this film. I revisit DR OTTO every few years but it's not one that I can turn to randomly to pass the time. It demands the right frame of mind and the mind-set of a lunatic. If you're a fan of Jim Varney then get your mitts on this one. It showcases his talents better than anything else he made and it paves the way for the proper ERNEST franchise, which would begin a year later with the classic ERNEST GOES TO CAMP.