Here is a situation where a Horror Host became more of an idea that spread through a whole country than the work of a single individual. Australia’s first Horror Host was probably “Deadly Earnest” who was active on Aussie TV between 1961 and 1978.
Earnest began his march across Australia in Perth,
but spread quickly when adopted by the 0-10 Network.
Broadcast weekly, the show featured mostly grade “B” horror films
and was named DEADLY EARNEST’S AWEFUL MOVIES.
While the character originated with Max Bostock and TVW-7,
it isn’t known how long the first Earnest ran before it was returned
from the grave by Ian Bannerman in 1966.
The idea was so successful that other outlets in other cities soon had their own variant Deadly Earnest. The only thing that stayed the same for each was the approach to to the subject matter—ridiculing the schlocky film and playing it up to the audience. Young people who tuned in more for the host commentaries
than the feature.
Max Bostock (Perth)
Ian Bannerman (Sydney)
Ralph Baker (Melbourne)
Shane Porteous (Brisbane)
Hedley Cullen (Adelaide and later, Perth)
Ian Bannerman’s wit, ad-libs and black humor and commercial parodies made him note-worthy. Billed as a Dead-Pan Ghoul, Bannerman’s Earnest was an undead Mod in sideburns and horn-rimmed glasses. The show’s opening sequence implied that his Earnest was a zombified undertaker, suggested by his wheeling a casket through the studio’s hallways. Bannerman had a sideline band called The Grave Situation which released an album entitled RAVE IN PEACE. Little else is known of Bannerman and he is believed to be deceased.
Ralph Baker’s Deadly Earnest was truly gothic on ATV-0 Melbourne. Having previously worked in props and in comedy sketches, occasionally his wayward, willful foot, called “Hoof”, would try to lead him in directions different than he’d like to go. His other sidekick was “Claw”, a hand pupet who was once nailed to a table out of frustration. Besides introducing films, later Ralph’s Earnest would present The Outer Limits. A waxwork figure of Deadly was created in the seventies by the London Wax Museum in Saint Kilda
across from Melbourne Luna Park.
Deadly Earnest went to the tropics via Shane Porteous, who was also a star in soap operas. With a limited budget that featured only a coffin and little time, the intros were a pale shadow of the other Earnests. It wasn’t long before the Frightful Movies were taken over by Professor MacAbre
(portrayed by John Dommett).
Hedley Cullen portrayed Deadly Earnest in Adelaide on Friday nights. Rising from his coffin, Earnest would introduce the films and his trailing off laughter would lead into the movie. During or after it, he and his sidekick Yorick (a skull) would show drawings or announce competitions.
That's all for tonight, folks, enjoy the clips!