In addition to my Dark Shadows coverage for this month’s issue of Rue Morgue, I was fortunate enough to be able to write a piece on the obscure Canadian TV series Strange Paradise - a program which was actually created to take advantage of the success of the monster-filled DS. A fantastically offbeat show featuring supernatural elements like voodoo, reincarnation, witchcraft and demonic possession, it ran here in Canada weekday afternoons (on the CBC, believe it or not) from October 1969 to July 1970. Though never to enjoy the same level of popularity as Dark Shadows, Strange Paradise did spawn a few pieces of memorabilia, some of which I thought I’d showcase here.
Probably the most popular items to stem from the show are three paperback tie-in novelizations published by Paperback Library (the same company that released a series of Dark Shadows novels) in 1969/70. Penned by prolific author Dorothy Daniels, the titles consisted of Strange Paradise, Island of Evil and Raxl, Voodoo Priestess.
Like the Dark Shadows books, the line also featured gold coloured covers as well as photos of the cast, which in this case consisted of Colin Fox as the wealthy, but cursed Jean Paul Desmond, who tries to bring his dead wife back to life; Cosette Lee as his all-wise voodoo priestess housekeeper, Raxl; and Kurt Schiegl as his mute strongman servant, Quito.
In 1993, Strange Paradise made its home video debut on VHS, via indie company Centaur Distribution Corporation. Unfortunately, only about half of the series’ 195 episodes were released and the show has to date, never received an authorized DVD release. However, the program has aired in syndication on television (most recently in 2007 on the now-defunct Canadian channel, Drive-In Classics) and episodes from that airing are currently available for viewing on YouTube.
Here’s one of the videocasettes, complete with an image of Jean Paul’s island castle home (the exteriors of which were shot at the Casa Loma in Toronto) and colourful, psychedelic cover art.
Here’s a shot of the Toronto landmark, taken during a recent visit of mine.
Fans of Strange Paradise can have their own replica of the castle with this little change/jewellery box featuring a miniature Casa Loma. It’s available from the Casa Loma gift shop.
Several of the cast members in Strange Paradise would go onto work in other Canadian-made horror and cult films, such as The Reincarnate (1971) featuring Jack Creley, Colin Fox and Trudy Young; and Deranged (1974) with Cosette Lee.