Strange Paradise is a Canadian occult-supernatural horror soap opera television series that ran from 1969 to 1970. The production was the brainchild of producer Steve Krantz, in an attempt to capitalize on the phenomenal success of ABC’s daytime serial Dark Shadows.
Krantz hired actor-writer Ian Martin and veteran TV and radio producer Jerry Layton. The series was produced in Ottawa at CTV affiliate CJOH-TV and aired for 39 weeks, presenting three separate thirteen-week story arcs.
Billionaire Jean Paul Desmond is a tragic character whose absolute refusal to accept the death of his beloved wife Erica on the remote Caribbean island of Maljardin leads him to a blasphemous defiance of God. He strikes an ill-fated bargain with the spirit of his sinister ancestor, Jacques Eloi des Mondes…
Like Dark Shadows, this TV horror soap opera suffers from the typical grueling combination of an excruciatingly low budget and rapid production schedule. Under such pressures, the actors barely have time for prep, and it shows, while the writers have little time to write, and it also shows; but this is neither the fault of the actors nor the writers, so they can’t be held responsible for much of the creative output.
On the contrary, they should be complimented for their relatively accomplished efforts under such parsimonious conditions. Although Strange Paradise was directly inspired by Dark Shadows, the writers were able to bring several original flourishes to the show, emphasizing intangibles such as voodoo, witchcraft, ghosts, curses, and transmigration, which contrasted subtly with Dark Shadows‘ focus on the more tangible creatures of the night.
Both programs abound in boring expositions, traces of silliness, and ample illogic, yet both also occasionally achieve magical, Brigadoonish flashes, capturing rare moments of Aeaean enchantment. It’s easy to toss Strange Paradise aside as kitschy trash but it’s more forthright and insightful to recognize its position as a minor fairy tale of the macabre.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES & MANIA
“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….” Island of Terror
“Strange Paradise, you heartless little minx, I wanted to hate you! And then first crack out of the box, you serve up a pixel-perfect artist’s rendering of what people who have never seen Dark Shadows think that Dark Shadows is like. The only way you could improve on this is to have a raven-haired girl run past, clad in a flimsy nightgown, and chased by a stagehand with a bat on a string.” Dark Shadows Every Day
In 1993, Centaur Distribution began issuing the series on videocassette. Eventually, 21 volumes were released on VHS, encompassing the first 105 installments of the series, before the project folded.
Image credits: My Love-Haunted Heart