STRANGE PARADISE’s “lost” pitch reel
examined by Curt Ladnier
Exploring the roots of STRANGE PARADISE poses a daunting task for even the most dedicated researcher in the 21st century. Both of the series’ co-creators passed away decades ago, and the majority of the documentation on its actual production is reported to have been destroyed during a round of housecleaning at CityTV. However, some artifacts have managed to survive the passing years, due in large part to cast and crew members who personally rescued bits and pieces of the production when the series ended.
One such item was displayed as part of an exhibit on the history of CJOH Television at Ontario’s Nepean Museum in 2001, thanks to the generosity of former STRANGE PARADISE floor director Bob Wilson. Along with a number of other unique pieces, he allowed the Nepean to exhibit the script to “The Vignettes,” a series of early related scenes shot around May of 1969 to help promote the upcoming series. Possibly more than any other document known to be in existence; this twelve-page screenplay gives STRANGE PARADISE fans a fascinating glimpse at the early stages of the production’s development.
The script itself is simply headed VIGNETTES – STRANGE PARADISE, with the alternate subtitle “Garden of Evil,” and bears a revision date of 5/2/69. Its title page contains a simple break-down of the setting for each scene and the characters featured. The point which the introductory narration opening the production makes abundantly clear is that this is not an alternate preliminary version of the series’ pilot. Rather, it represents a presentation reel designed to be viewed after the pilot, to give prospective broadcasters a taste of the various storylines which are about to unfold.
“You have just seen the first episode of STRANGE PARADISE,” the announcer proclaims, “the island domain where Jean Paul Desmond plays God – the island to which he lures people from all over the world – to find the secret of restoring his lost love. And Maljardin is an island to which others, themselves lost, run when all else fails … In the next few weeks, you will meet …”
Further narration continues over evocative music and a montage of shots picturing Holly Marshall, Reverend Matthew Dennis, Beryl Forbes, Patrick Stanley and Elizabeth Marshall. The voice-over culminates in a testimonial to “Jean Paul’s right hand man” Dan Forrest, played over a sequence of Dan signing important documents presented to him by his secretary, Ruth. This is the only sequence in The Vignettes which parallels a scene in STRANGE PARADISE’s broadcast pilot, approximating its scene which introduces Dan to the series.
Dan and Ruth’s segment dissolves to a church setting, where a congregation listens to the closing words of a sermon from its minister. In the broadcast version of STRANGE PARADISE, the man of the cloth is Matt Dawson, but in this early conception of the saga he is the Reverend Matthew Dennis. The scene quickly develops as a confrontation in the church sanctuary between the reverend and Holly Marshall. It is virtually identical to the three-minute sequence in the aired version of Episode 3 which introduces Dawson and Holly, ending just prior to Elizabeth Marshall’s entrance to the scene.
This segment fades to an exterior shot of the chateau on Maljardin, as further narration from the announcer continues. The scene then shifts to the interior of the French Leave Café, where young artist Patrick Stanley (the prototype for Tim Stanton) sketches Beryl Forbes while chatting with her about the problems in his life. Beryl managed to make a brief appearance in the pilot to STRANGE PARADISE, singing “That Old Black Magic,” but her character was immediately dropped in favor of conjure woman Vangie
Abbott. A tough-looking character interrupts the conversation between the pair, and warns Pat of dire consequences if he does not come up with the money he borrowed to cover his mother’s medical expenses. No single scene in STRANGE PARADISE corresponds directly with this one. However, it strongly echoes a string of short scenes between Tim Stanton and Alison Carr interspersed through Episode 2, in which Vangie also makes an appearance.
||Further voice-over narration segues the end of this segment into another static shot of the chateau on
Maljardin. The scene then dissolves once again to the interior of the church, where Reverend Dennis is confronted by Elizabeth Marshall. She demands to know where Holly is, and accuses the reverend of being physically attracted to her daughter.
|Pat Stanley and Beryl Forbes harassed by a hoodlum in
the only known existing still from The Vignettes.
While this scene has no direct counterpart in the broadcast version of STRANGE PARADISE, it is very reminiscent of several of Matt and Elizabeth’s early exchanges, with a strong similarity to their confrontation during the second week of the series, in Episode 7.
“Matthew Dennis and Elizabeth Marshall each depart in search of Holly, and find her …” the announcer intones, as the ominous background music builds and the scene dissolves to a shot of Jean Paul in the Great Hall on Maljardin, “But only after Jean Paul Desmond finds her first.”
The shot again dissolves to reveal the portrait of Jacques. “Or was it Jacques Elois des Mondes who transported them all to Maljardin?”
A sudden zoom terminates on the image of the conjure doll, pierced with the silver pin, resting in a coffin. “The island of STRANGE PARADISE.”
The production concludes with the familiar STRANGE PARADISE title sequence and theme music.
Viewed in conjunction with the pilot, The Vignettes were an excellent device for suggesting to potential broadcasters the path the series was preparing to take, without all the time and expense of producing further complete episodes. The pilot establishes the characters and situations on Maljardin itself, while The Vignettes introduce the outside characters who are about to be drawn into the saga of the Desmond family and its centuries old curse. It is a shame that, to date, the filmed version of The Vignettes is no longer known to exist. All that remains is a single shot of Patrick Stanley and Beryl Forbes in the pressbook compiled in 1969 to promote the series. Still, we never know what further material may surface one day. And at the very least, the surviving script to The Vignettes gives us a peek into some of the earliest days of STRANGE PARADISE.
is Strange Paradise?