Before there was Jackass…there was Ralph Zavadil. His cable access television show, The Cap’n Video Show, ran in the US from 1990 to 1995, spawning a small but loyal cult following. Each week, Ralph performed a series of idiotic and occasionally dangerous stunts, challenging the sensibilities of his small audience for five seasons. With the advent of the Internet and reality television still years away, his unique brand of gross-out stunt comedy was truly ahead of its time. All it took was a broken neck for him to get noticed.
Ralph worked as a one-man crew, shooting all of his skits and stunts alone. Neighbours would watch through their windows-usually in horror- as Ralph, sporting a boffed head banger hairdo, tight cut off jeans and pseudo-futuristic welder googles, would perform dangerous stunts in front of his camera. He thrived on stupidity: eating Vaseline, sledding off the roof of his house in the middle of winter (wearing nothing but a speedo) and abusing his lawn in a number of ways.
It was his ‘pool plunge’ skit that found him dealing with some newfound, and not totally unwanted attention. Ralph filmed himself jumping off a poorly secured ladder into his swimming pool and ended up breaking his neck in the process. The resulting video received international interest from reality television programming specializing in on-camera accidents. Ralph had begun his fifteen minutes of fame.
Eventually, the forces behind the cable network had problems with some of Ralph’s increasingly risqué content. It was his Easter Special, in which Ralph hung a live bunny rabbit from bungee cords and poured chocolate syrup on a puppy, that resulted in his immediate cancellation. The Cap’n was gone.
Twenty years on, with a sense of nostalgia, Ralph decided to give Cap’n Video one last shot for the same cable station that cancelled him years earlier.
An apt mix of humour and humanity, ‘Beauty Day’ is a feature length documentary chronicling the life and times of cable television star Ralph Zavadil. The film combines broad comedic beats underlined by a subdued, introspective philosophizing on life. The result is an accessible, character driven non-fiction comedy. The themes explored in ‘Beauty Day’ are universal…..reconnecting with the younger self….the struggle to achieve satisfaction through creative expression while maintaining financial stability. Ralphs willingness to retrospectively examine his life onscreen is fearlessly candid, the passion he exudes for life and creativity is infectious, and his attempt to revisit his cable access glory days is inspiring, humbling, and ultimately, very, very funny.
In true Cap’n Video style, the Cap’n himself, aka Ralph Zavadil, is hoping to make a personal appearance at this year’s Byron Bay International Film Festival, along with a selection of directors, actors, producers and charismatic crazy dudes. Check out echonet for daily news, reviews, trailers and filmmaker insights. Further programming and ticketing information will be available in the lead up to the festival at www.bbff.com.au.