Ian Martin's Other Paradise: Echoes of STRANGE PARADISE on CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER
by Curt Ladnier

In the closing weeks of 1969, STRANGE PARADISE co-creator and writer Ian Martin bade goodbye to the inhabitants of Maljardin, moving on to other projects after completing the script for Episode 44. However, he was far from finished with the terrors and curses the likes of which plagued the Desmond family, and he returned to them frequently in his later writings. In particular, many of the radio plays which he scripted in the mid-1970s resonate with echoes of his earlier efforts in supernatural television. Anyone interested in exploring more of Ian Martin’s work with the elements and themes he developed on STRANGE PARADISE would be well-advised to listen to the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER.

Without question, Martin’s radio play most directly descended from STRANGE PARADISE is his “To Die is Forever”, a tale originally broadcast by the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER on August 7, 1975. It tells the story of a wealthy eccentric on a remote island who endeavors to preserve his deceased wife via the process of cryogenics, in the hope of one day restoring her to life. His efforts are set asunder by the spirit of an evil ancestor, released from the imprisonment of a voodoo spell and determined to live again. The fundamental story and key components of this script are so familiar that it can almost be called a remake of STRANGE PARADISE’s early Maljardin plotline. It is a fascinating adaptation of a familiar story to a new medium, and reinforces the idea that, even years after parting ways with the series, Ian Martin was still intrigued by the situations and themes he created for STRANGE PARADISE.

While “To Die is Forever” presents a direct re-invention of an STRANGE PARADISE plotline, Martin’s January 25, 1974 radio drama “Speak of the Devil” offers a look at an inverted version of the Maljardin story. This episode evokes thoughts of STRANGE PARADISE early on, as its prologue ends with the phrase “the Devil to pay,” quoting a portion of the ominous inscription on Jacques’ tomb, “Who disturbs my rest has the Devil to pay.” As the story unfolds, a young couple goes to an ancestral home to get married, rather than
retreating to one after their nuptials as Jean Paul and Erica did on Maljardin. Adjoining the estate inhabited by the couple is a dangerous water hazard, recalling the deadly channel separating Maljardin from the mainland. During the couple’s stay on the estate, they participate in a recreational séance which unleashes a spirit which plagues the wife, in counterpoint to Jacques’ constant tormenting of husband Jean Paul. The wife becomes pregnant during their stay on the estate, unlike Erica who learned of her pregnancy before coming to Maljardin. As the time of the birth approaches, the husband dies unexpectedly. Bereaved, the wife insists on bringing the husband back via a séance, and she is successful, rather than conjuring up a demonic substitute. Ultimately, it is the baby who appears to be touched by the Devil, and in the end husband, wife and child all wind up dead. It is a grim tale which holds a warped mirror up to the early weeks of STRANGE PARADISE.

To chronicle every instance in which Martin revisited (or raided) his material from STRANGE PARADISE for the 246 scripts he authored for the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER is a daunting undertaking, but here are some of the more notable instances: [WARNING: the following entries contain major spoilers.]

  • “Here Goes the Bride” (2/4/74): a creepy vignette featuring an inaccessible family estate called Bon Repose (loosely translated from French as “Good Dreams”), a deceased wife who was a noted actress, a portrait, a male/female pair of servants of exotic extraction, and a windy site upon the headlands from which the mistress of the manor took a fatal plunge (that may have been more than just an accident). 

  • “The Walking Corpse” (2/17/74): a tale of voodoo set on a Caribbean island, which includes a zombie named Quito.

  • “The Spectral Bride” (9/26/74): a tragic drama centering on a bereaved young newlywed who renounces God and vows to find a method of bringing his wife back from the grave.

  • “The Bleeding Statue” (5/23/74): a story of magic and murder, featuring a remote mansion completely wired for sound, containing a secret chamber from which its eccentric owner can observe the goings-on in every room of the house.

  • “Sea Fever” (2/19/74): the horrific account of a deranged sea captain who, unwilling to accept the tragic death of his beloved wife, systematically disposes of his crew in the course of an extended voyage in order to keep them from spreading the news of her demise.

  • “And Death Makes Even Steven” (7/9/74): a strange yarn of an unscrupulous heir to a vast family fortune who is haunted by the twin brother whom he murdered. [Act Three of this production contains exchanges uncannily reminiscent of Jacques’ disembodied taunting rants to Jean Paul.]

  • “Wave of Terror” (11/11/74): a story of cultures clashing in the tropics, featuring a tremendously wealthy magnate who flies in the face of Providence with his profane declaration, “No one or nothing can stop me from doing as I want on this island!”.

The preceding list is the result of a cursory examination of selections from the CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER. While research continues, more entries will be added as further pertinent material comes to light.

One final point of interest - during the last years of his life Martin authored several paperback novels under the pseudonym Joen Arliss, most of which were adapted directly from his CBS RMT scripts. Of particular interest to STRANGE PARADISE fans is the 1980 Popular Library publication SHADOW OVER SEVENTH HEAVEN, which is a novelization of “Here Goes the Bride”. Other Popular Library titles from Martin’s pen include NIGHTMARE’S NEST and BELOVED VICTIM (based on the February 16, 1974 radio drama “A Lady Never Loses Her Head”). NIGHTMARE’S NEST bears the same title as the July 17, 1975 episode of CBS RADIO MYSTERY THEATER, but tells an entirely different story. The radio play has a contemporary setting, and presents a variation on the traditional vampire story. The novel is set in the early 1900s, and recounts a tale of gothic terror unfolding, once again, in a great house situated on an inaccessible island. Martin’s two other novels bearing the Joen Arliss byline were released by Zebra Books as entries in their Zebra Puzzlers series. Their titles are THE SHARK BAIT AFFAIR and THE LADYKILLER AFFAIR, and while neither has yet been identified as an adaptation one of his radio plays, it is probable these two volumes have their roots in Martin’s earlier radio work.

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