Screaming all over the world – global horror events

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

This weekend, the St Kilda Film Festival pays a loving tribute to the ghoul, the bad and the ugly. A session titled Horrorpalooza! will not only screen a selection of wonderfully lurid trailers for everything from The Green Slime and Motel Hell to The Great Spider Invasion but also revive a key figure from the vaults of horror history. On Saturday night, Deadly Earnest lives again.

Deadly, aka Ralph Baker, was a cult figure in the late 1960s and early ’70s who hosted a Friday night program of horror movies for what was then known as Melbourne’s Channel 0 (now Ten). Emerging from a coffin, dressed in Dickensian get-up – he was a dentally challenged Victorian undertaker with a twist – Deadly Earnest had a free-wheeling hosting role and a licence to entertain, insult and unnerve.

Baker, 72, will take to the stage of the Astor Theatre in his Deadly garb to introduce Horrorpalooza!

He started out at Channel 0 in the stage and props department but his histrionic talent was spotted early, when he stood in for actor Keith Michell in a rehearsal for the station’s opening night show.

Every state had its own Deadly, a figure created to host a series of low-budget horror movies the network had purchased as part of a film package; he was approached to be the Melbourne version.

Each performer developed the brief in a different way. One of Baker’s trademarks was a left hand with a mind of its own, a creature called Claw. When Baker was first preparing his costume, wardrobe master Ted Dunn inadvertently gave him two right-hand gloves and Baker immediately saw the possibilities of an awkward left hand. He was inspired, he believes, by Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, as the scientist who can’t restrain himself from giving a Nazi salute.

At first, Baker wrote a script ”but immediately we started getting mail, which we hadn’t really expected. It contained all sorts of material: poems, little stories, all sorts of things. And I was able to use them.”

He also tried to preview the films he introduced ”but we quickly found that it didn’t matter. And let’s face it, they were pretty terrible.”

Deadly Earnest also made guest appearances at various events and they were sometimes pretty hairy. Baker remembers someone handing him a hessian bag with a snake inside it at a gig at a Forest Hills cinema and he had to spend a uncomfortably long time inside his coffin before a guest appearance at a football match between Channel 0 staff and the cast of Hair.

For tomorrow’s screening, in tribute to Deadly Earnest, Horrorpalooza! programmers Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood) and Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) have decided to focus on movies from the ’60s and ’70s. They are trailer connoisseurs from way back and recently assembled two DVD compilations entitled Drive-In Delirium.

In a festival devoted to short films, they say trailers have an obvious place, though, they add, three minutes is as much as you would want to see of many of these movies. But when you can get a taste of Joan Crawford as an anthropologist in Trog, savour the motorcycle-mayhem movie Werewolves on Wheels or marvel at the combination of Mexican wrestling and heart transplants in Night of the Bloody Apes, it’s a pretty potent three minutes’ worth.


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