Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam Movie PosterGood Times Home Video
1986
PG

Notice, if you will, the robot’s lifelike movements, his ability to understand spoken tongues, and a vocabulary of nearly 700 words such as ATTACK ME! SEARCH AND DESTROY! TORA TORA TORA!”

From his neon-lit cave, Dr. Otto is on the verge of attaining his deranged dream of world domination. Can that bubble-head Lance Sterling stop the diabolical scientist with 15 fingers? Is Otto really your ol’ buddy Ernest? Will those wicked wenches ruin their beautiful manicures? If lance can unravel the riddle without wrinkling his nose…if the pirate’s iguana can talk…if you can spell Otto’s name backwards…hold on to your brain and let this mayhem of a movie unhinge you!

Back in 1992, Good Times Home Video—the home movie distributer that provided many of the low-budget and obscure titles I nursed my early interest in B-movies on—released this rather obscure Jim Varney sci-fi comedy on VHS. Back then, the late, great Jim Varney was a household name as Earnest, the bumbling good-ol’-boy character that had a couple of popular movies out at the time. He was like the precursor to Larry the Cable Guy. Anyway, in the typical cash-in-on-something-popular mode of doing things, Good Times Home Video put this title out, heavily banking on the Earnest brand…regardless of the fact that the Earnest character only appears for a few minutes at the end of the movie.

First made in 1986, Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam is what you would call an absurdest science fiction comedy that is so different in tone to what most normally associate with a Jim Varney movie, that I’m not entirely surprised that hardly anyone has heard of this flick. I probably wouldn’t have, either, had it not been included as a stocking stuffer the year Good Times released it.

Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam tells the tale of a mad scientist with a hand growing out of his head and his attempt at world domination by way of a “gloom beam”, a device that can delete matter or memory and has the power to destroy the world! Much, much better than the standard Steal-A-Nuclear-Warhead-And-Demand-Ransom go-to scenario. On his tail is the chowder-headed hero Lance Sterling, who can be described as Mr. Bean’s American counterpart trying to be James Bond, and his hapless assistants. On their way to Dr. Otto’s evil lair, they encounter the bad Doctor himself and his motley crew of henchmen (and women) in a series of weird attempts at stopping them from foiling his plans.

Let me reiterate: Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam isn’t an Ernest movie, though it is arguably the first appearance of the Ernest P. Worrell character on the big screen. Not that I would expect a lot of you to know who Ernest P. Worrell is in this day and age; but for those who remember, and have seen this movie lying around somewhere and were on the fence about watching it, let me go ahead and give you some advice—do so. Yes, I’m advocating finding Dr. Otto And The Riddle Of The Gloom Beam, precisely because it’s weird, makes no kind of actual sense in the traditional movie way, is really just a bunch of character sketches thrown together haphazardly with hardly a budget and costumes and effects looking like they pilfered the local college drama department, and the overall quality is just corny as all get-out. It’s one of those bad movies that is aware it’s bad, but doesn’t care, and the result will leave a big cheesy grin on your face.

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