While none of them were blockbusters, it wasn’t bad meal money for funnyman Jim Varney and former ad man John Cherry, milking a character who appeared in thousands of “Hey, Vern!” advertisements on TV for everything from dairies and car dealerships to amusement parks and sports teams, including the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs.
In his fourth helping of cornball big-screen slapstick, Ernest P Worrell – good-hearted but with the IQ of a radish – is a garbageman in the small Missouri town of Briarville who unwittingly releases a giant troll called Trantor from his 200-year imprisonment.
The troll (Jonas Moscartolo, under a gruesome, cumbersome get-up with a voice provided by Ernst Fosselius), begins turning the town’s children into wooden dolls to break a curse and use their souls to repopulate the world with trolls.
In a cruelly demeaning role, none other than veteran singer Eartha Kitt costars as a witch called Old Lady Hackmore.
Varney also performs several other roles, including an Ottoman warrior and a matron named Aunt Nelda, that sounds an awful lot like Peter O’Toole.
Disney cut ties with Cherry and Varney after Ernest Scared Stupid underperformed at the box office, and all subsequent Ernest films were distributed independently – mostly straight-to-video.
Jim Varney died of lung cancer on 10 February 2000, aged 50.
Ernest P Worrell/Aunt Nelda/Phineas Worrell
Old Lady Hackmore
Ernst Fosselius (voice)
Mary Jane Harvill