03 July 2005

"Strange Paradise" Finally Ends!

A CanCon nugget so obscure to elude even "cult" status, "Strange Paradise" was The Great White North's response to Dan Curtis' supernatural daytime sensation "Dark Shadows", debuting on Sept. 1, 1969 and running for a lengthy single season of 195 episodes.

The initial story arc was set on the fictious "Caribbean island" of Maljardin (in actuality, Toronto's Casa Loma for exteriors and an Ottawa farmhouse studio for interiors), where various meddlesome characters became the prisoner of eccentric millionaire Jean-Paul Desmond, his zombie henchman Quito , and handmaid/voodoo priestess Raxl. When not becoming possessed-and-un-possessed by the portrait of his ancestor--the DeSade-ian Jacques Eloi Des Mondes--Desmond dabbled with cryogenics to revive his dead wife.

With that plan going predictably wrong, everyone dead and Maljardin burned to the ground, Jean-Paul, Quito, and Raxl somehow avoided incineration and woke up in the Desmond ancestoral home in Canada to begin a second, and even more confusing, serial.

Miraculously, the entire run of the series survived, too, and Canada's "Drive-In Classics" channel relaunched it on an unsuspecting world in October of last year. I stuck it through five nights a week, without a single pre-emption, for the show's entirety (sorry Ken Jennings), which came to an end, mercifully (and appropriately), on Canada Day 2005.

Shot on videotape and starring Canadian vets Colin Fox, Jack Creley, Bruce Gray, and Cossette Lee, "Strange Paradise" was alternately as low-rent charming as the ambitious "The Starlost", or as laughably inept as a Coleman Francis director's cut, with wobbling sets, flubbed lines, and missed cues so de rigueur you'd start to believe they were intended with a knowing wink. This over-padded rubbish wore out its welcome by about episode...oh...100?...but ever the loyal genre nationalist, I stuck it out even thought by February I was slipping into my own empathic trance states along with poor, cursed Jean-Paul to make the weeks go faster.

Those intrigued can brave Drive-In Classics' re-re-broadcast of "Strange Paradise" starting this coming Monday, July 4th at 7:30 PM ET.