Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Strange Paradise









Woah, 'Strange Paradise' is a bit of an odd one to get slightly obsessed with but, I'm afraid, it has me in its wobbly clutches. A daily, live soap opera produced in Canada (part of the Commonwealth, so technically within The Island's remit) the show ran between October 1969 and January 1970.

Designed as a rival to the hugely successful US gothic soap 'Dark Shadows' (1,000 episodes and a film), it never really captured the public imagination in the same way but is its equal in its unholy mix of banal soap opera and horror. The actors are poor and quite often struggle with their lines, the scripts are alternately boring and outrageous, the locations limited (many episodes simply cut back and forth between two sets) and, best of all, it occasionally tries to be hip and happening with highly amusing results. But it's strangely compelling, like watching an amateur production of Lovecraft with all the atmosphere and tentacles taken out. Despite only being on air for four months, there's 185 episodes of this, and three distinct story arcs and casts. 

As a flavour, here's a synopsis of the mind boggling first episode: Jean-Paul Desmond is the millionaire owner of a tropical island called Maljardin. His beloved wife Erica has just died suddenly. Jean Paul cannot accept this, and decides to have her body cryonically frozen. In the front room of his mansion, Jean Paul is addressed by the portrait of his notorious ancestor, Jacques Eloi DesMondes. DesMondes (who is the spitting image of Jean-Paul, allowing the same actor to play him in flashbacks) offers to return life to Erica if Jean-Paul will help him to live again. To this end, Jean-Paul visits the family crypt, locates DesMonde's coffin, opens it, finds a a voodoo doll with a silver pin through its head, removes the pin and is promptly taken over by the malevolent DesMondes...

Yes. I know, I know. Here's a clip from a randomly selected episode, number 64, I believe. I haven't quite got this far myself, so I don't know what's going on either.   
  

4 comments:

  1. 185 episodes in four months...? No wonder the actors were having trouble with their lines. Imagine having to WRITE 185 episodes of this stuff... ye gods.

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  2. where did you get your hands on copies of this????
    i have been looking forever...i'm in canada and i've seen this program, back in the day, but it is impossible to find now. in fact, the television station that produced it...CHCH 11, was the channel that brought it to my home, produced numerous amazing no-budget shows...the hilarious house of frightenstien being probably the most famous, but also "trouble with tracey" a cheap knock-off of "that girl" and the totally obscure yet eternally brilliant "magistrates court" which used non-actors taking actual court records as thier script and re3-enacting small-claims court. a sort of pro-am precursor to judge judy. someone should document the goings on at this station in the late 60s-early 70s because it was obviously a hotbed of creativity and innovation. i have heard that all of their video tape library was erased in the late 80s to be reused and most of what was created at CHCH 11 is lost forever. There is a special hell for the person(s) who are responsable for destroying this brilliant body of work....may they suffer a million deaths and be buried in the dumpster of the locaal walmart! Curses!

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  3. yeah man...if you could invite me it would be great!!! sorry contacting you here in comments...i accidentally deleted your kind email.

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  4. If anyone wants to watch this series, all of the episodes are on youtube. Just search for "strange paradise." I vaguely remembered this show from my childhood and had been trying to find it for a long time. It is definitely very low-budget, but I love just about any 60s and 70s horror/sci-fi so I am enjoying it.

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