a brief guide to Centaur Distribution’s VHS releases of STRANGE PARADISE
by Curt Ladnier
In the early 1990s, New York-based Centaur Distribution licensed the rights to release STRANGE PARADISE on home video. The result was a proposed series of 39 video
cassettes, each featuring 5 installments, a single week’s worth of the program. Unfortunately, Centaur only managed to release 21 volumes of their set before folding up
shop, leaving fans stranded roughly halfway through the series. However, for many enthusiasts these video tapes were the only access available to this elusive show, and
Centaur’s efforts went a long way in keeping the fandom alive. The following is a brief guide to Centaur Distribution’s packaging of the series, covering the highlights of each
Volume 1 - “Island of Evil”
Looking for a means of resurrecting his beloved wife Erica in the wake of her recent demise, millionaire Jean Paul Desmond hears a strange voice which leads him to a
voodoo doll hidden within the crypts below his mansion. Removing the silver pin from the effigy, he releases the spirit of his evil ancestor Jacques Eloi des Mondes, who
promises him supernatural assistance in reviving Erica. Possessing Jean Paul’s body, Jacques thwarts servants Raxl and Quito’s efforts to recover the doll and return him
to his imprisonment. Destitute artist Tim Stanton attempts to avoid the henchman of a loan shark to whom he owes money. Reverend Matthew Dawson attempts to mediate
between young heiress Holly Marshall and her controlling mother Elizabeth, but meets with little success as Holly runs away from home. In the meantime, scientists arrive
at Jean Paul’s island estate to preserve Erica’s body via the process of cryonics. Jean Paul invites his sister-in-law, Dr. Alison Carr, to the island, and informs her of Erica’s
death. Desmond family physician Dr. Menkin dies from a mysterious fall while trying to leave the island against Jean Paul’s wishes. (NOTE: For reasons unknown,
Centaur Distribution used a severely incomplete print of Episode Three when compiling this volume. As such, the third installment is missing roughly its first seven minutes
of footage, completely omitting the first appearances of Reverend Dawson, Holly, and Elizabeth.)
Volume 2 - “Captives of an Evil Force”
Jean Paul receives news of Dr. Menkin’s death. To no avail, Raxl and Quito continue their search for the conjure doll. Jacques develops an attraction to Alison, and causes
her to dream of him when he was master of Maljardin in the late 1600s. Reverend Dawson gets a lead on Holly’s whereabouts from her former roommate, but refuses to
share his information with Elizabeth. Holly arrives on the mainland, and encounters Tim Stanton at the French Leave Café, confiding in him that she has run away. Dawson
catches up with Holly, but she rejects his offers of help, blaming him for her confinement at Wesley House. Vangie Abbott reveals to Jean Paul that her father was the
conjure man who originally passed sentence on Jacques for his crimes. Jean Paul offers Tim a commission to paint a portrait of Erica, enabling the young artist to repay his
debt to the loan shark. Holly stows away on Jean Paul’s boat when the millionaire transports Tim to his island estate.
Volume 3 - “The Ancient Spell”
Quito discovers Holly hidden in the boat. Holly tells Jean Paul that she is fleeing from her mother, as she suspects Elizabeth wants to gain control of the inheritance which
will rightfully be Holly’s on her twenty-first birthday. Tim and Holly learn of Erica’s frozen state. Alison composes a letter to attorney Dan Forrest seeking his help, and
ponders how to get the message off the island. Jacques tells Jean Paul that if Erica is to be revived, no one my leave the island alive. Raxl and Quito perform a ceremony
imploring the help of the Conjure Man in fighting the evil which has arisen on Maljardin. Jacques meets Elizabeth Marshall, and invites her to join the guests on the island.
Vangie finds the remains of Alison’s letter, which Jacques has tried to destroy, and places a call to Dan Forrest. Elizabeth tries, unsuccessfully, to charm Jean Paul. Holly
is upset to find that her mother is a guest on Maljardin. Alison convinces Jean Paul that Erica deserves a funeral service. Jean Paul informs his guests that Erica’s death
must be kept a secret, and that no one may leave the island. Desperately ailing, the Conjure Man tells Vangie that upon his death the responsibility of fighting the evil on
Maljardin will fall to her. Jean Paul asks Reverend Dawson to come to the island to perform Erica’s funeral service.
Volume 4 - “The Devil is Eternal”
Reverend Dawson expresses misgivings about performing the funeral service unless Jean Paul is willing to accept Erica’s death and put aside ideas of resurrection. The
Conjure Man dies, leaving his daughter Vangie the role of Conjure Woman. Jacques visits the mainland, and invites Dan Forrest to join his guests on Maljardin. Despite his
reservations, Dawson proceeds with the funeral. Alison becomes troubled over her feelings for Jean Paul. Dan is infuriated to learn he is forbidden to leave the island, and
begins searching for a means of escape.
Volume 5 - “Bride of Death”
Jean Paul offers Alison the use of Dr. Menkin’s old laboratory. Elizabeth makes a none-too-subtle pass at Tim, much to Holly’s annoyance. Alison sees a disturbing vision
of Jacques in her bedroom’s looking-glass. Tim expresses frustration over his lack of progress with the portrait of Erica. Raxl reveals her sanctuary, the Temple of the
Serpents, to Reverend Dawson. Contemplating suicide, Jean Paul steals a bottle of cyanide from Alison’s lab. Elizabeth continues her efforts to ensnare Jean Paul, but
meets with no success. Vangie performs a Tarot reading which suggests that Dawson and Dan Forrest are protective influences, but symbolizes Elizabeth as a witch.
Volume 6 - “Curse of Centuries”
Alison confronts Jean Paul about the cyanide missing from her lab, and later questions him regarding Dr. Menkin’s files and their lack of any medical records on Erica. Dan
speculates that Erica may have been murdered. Holly accuses Elizabeth of trying to sink her claws into Jean Paul. Vangie hesitates to go to the island, revealing that she is prophesied to die on Maljardin. Tim confesses to Holly that he harbors a romantic interest in her, but she rejects him. Reverend Dawson wonders if the cyanide might be hidden in the Temple of the Serpents. An unseen assailant pushes Holly down the main staircase.
Volume 7 - “Scroll of the Demon”
While Dan clandestinely searches the crypt for the missing cyanide, the cryonics equipment malfunctions. Alison unexpectedly discovers a batch of Dr. Menkin’s notes, the contents of which indicate he was exploring cellular regeneration. Raxl recounts the dark history of Maljardin to Reverend Dawson. Dan and Alison find Quito unconscious in the Great Hall, and are shocked to discover upon an examination that he exists in a zombie-like state. Someone in the house slashes Tim’s unfinished portrait of Erica, leaving it in ruins. Vangie makes preparations for the séance which Jean Paul wants her to lead, but receives a premonition that the ceremony will bring sorrow and Death to Maljardin.
Volume 8 - “Cold Fingers of Evil”
The séance is held, but at a crucial moment the ceremony is violently disrupted as the chandelier crashes down upon the gathering. Vangie is trapped in her medium’s trance, alive but non-responsive. Jean Paul declares that no one may enter the crypt, and commands Quito to stand guard. Jacques leaves more of Dr. Menkin’s notes in the lab for Alison to discover. Quito concocts a potion which returns Vangie to normal. Jean Paul informs his guests that he believes malevolent forces are conspiring to prevent the resurrection of Erica, and that each of them is under suspicion of being a party to the conspiracy.
Volume 9 - “The Hidden Light”
Jean Paul vows to help Alison locate the remainder of Dr. Menkin’s missing notes. Quito finds a black rabbit, and gives it to Holly as a pet. Raxl declares that the animal is a creature of the Devil which must be destroyed. Reverend Dawson says it was his destiny that led him to Maljardin. A bloodstained locket is found around the rabbit’s neck, a piece of jewelry which Jean Paul swears was sealed into the cryonics capsule with Erica. Vangie performs a second séance, but channels an enraged and disruptive spirit. Holly collapses after drinking from a glass of wine poured by her mother and given to her by Dan Forrest. Everyone fears that the wine may have been tainted with the missing cyanide. Jean Paul contemplates opening the cryonics capsule.
Volume 10 - “The Fading Star”
Alison determines that the poison effecting Holly is not cyanide, but a distillation from toxic plants growing on the island, and says she should recover. Raxl attempts to take the black rabbit out of Holly’s room, but it escapes. Alison tells the group that the blood on the locket is the same rare type as both hers and Erica’s. Quito discovers the skull of a tortured man hanging in a secret recess hidden behind one of the portraits in the Great Hall. Dan and Tim plot to steal the boat and leave the island during the confusion of the next séance, but Jean Paul anticipates their scheme and forces them to attend the ceremony so he may keep an eye on them. During the ceremony, a spirit possesses Holly and implores Jean Paul to open the cryonics capsule. While acting as medium for the proceedings, Vangie suddenly cries out in distress and dies.
Volume 11 - “Powers of Evil”
Jean Paul resolves to open the cryonics capsule, finding not the body of Erica, but the conjure doll and the silver pin. Holly has nightmares about Erica. A distraught Jean Paul declares he would sell his soul to bring Erica back. Erica’s spirit speaks to him, saying that she will return tomorrow. A demonic force offers to make a pact with Jean Paul in exchange for Erica’s return. To close the bargain, he must drink a poisonous elixir brewed from the island’s toxic vegetation. Raxl and Quito attempt to sacrifice the black rabbit on the altar of the Temple of the Serpents, but it mysteriously vanishes before their eyes. At the conclusion of the ceremony sealing Jean Paul’s pact, the Mark of Death appears briefly upon his hand and then vanishes. Inexplicably, Erica appears at the door, weakened but alive. Alison becomes concerned when her sister seems to have confused memories of their childhood. Dan steals the boat and heads for the mainland, but the craft sinks, drowning him. Raxl discovers Erica performing a ritual with a paper boat and a basin of water.
Volume 12 - “The Painting”
Raxl accuses Erica of being responsible for Dan’s death. By way of response, Erica has Jean Paul promise that the servants will no longer be allowed to speak to her. Reverend Dawson expresses concerns over Erica’s unnatural resurrection, and she perceives him as a threat. Tim is disturbed by his efforts to paint the long-delayed portrait of Erica, all of which find their way to his canvas distorted and sinister. Erica has a confrontation with Reverend Dawson atop one of the great chateau’s towers, and she pushes him to his death. Later she tells the others that he was severely depressed over questions of his faith, and leapt in an act of suicide. Raxl discovers the Temple of the Serpents in ruins, and her powers lost as her connection to her gods has been severed. Jean Paul attempts to banish Jacques by driving the silver pin back into
the conjure doll, but his ancestor stops him by taking possession of Jean Paul’s body once again. While under Jacques’ sway, the possessed Jean Paul menacingly enters the room in which Erica has imprisoned Tim. Upon regaining his senses later, Jean Paul is horrified to find Tim strangled to death, and finally realizes that his resurrection of Erica has unleashed a force of tremendous evil on Maljardin.
Volume 13 - “The Storm”
Jean Paul attempts to banish Jacques by once again piercing the conjure doll with the silver pin, but inexplicably, Jacques is unaffected. Alison confronts Erica about the recent deaths on the island, and her sister all but claims responsibility. Jean Paul insists that Alison, Elizabeth and Holly must leave the island for their own safety. Erica offers a farewell toast, secretly poisoning the glass meant for Holly. Alison anticipates her sister’s evil intention and, in an act of sacrifice, intercepts and consumes the drink herself, saving Holly at the cost of her own life. In the face of the disaster descending around them, Elizabeth and Holly finally reconcile, and stand together as mother and daughter. Jacques tells Erica if her plans are to succeed, Holly must die. Jean Paul learns of Holly’s impending doom, and tries once again to get her off the island, but discovers that the boat has vanished. Erica attempts to take Holly’s life by stabbing her with the silver pin, but Elizabeth intercedes, and dies rescuing her daughter. Raxl and Quito take Holly in search of the missing boat. In a final desperate attempt to purge the evil from Maljardin, Jean Paul sets fire to the portrait, as well as the rest of the great chateau, while Jacques’ spirit laughs mockingly at him.
Volume 14 - “The Pulsating Star”
Jean Paul awakens at Desmond Hall, the family’s ancestral estate in North America. Raxl informs him that after he lost consciousness on Maljardin, she and Quito got him away from the island, along with Holly. Jean Paul is excited at the prospect of seeing his brother Philip, the master of Desmond Hall, but is surprised to learn that Philip is missing. During his absence, the estate is under the control of Laslo Thaxton, their cousin Ada’s new husband. Laslo informs Jean Paul that Philip merely left on a trip unexpectedly, and that there is no cause for concern, but the rest of the household seems dubious of this explanation. Irene Hatter, an old family friend, drops by to see the returned Jean Paul. Privately, she and Laslo discuss their plans to gain control of the Desmond fortune via their machinations as leaders of a local witches’ coven. Emily Blair, a historical scholar, arrives at Desmond Hall with an invitation extended by Philip to conduct research in their family library. A disembodied Philip attempts to communicate with Jean Paul. Raxl points out a star in the night sky, and tells Jean Paul that its appearance is a sign of danger for those at Desmond Hall. Irene and Laslo hypnotize Holly, and make preparations to forcibly indoctrinate her into their coven. Annie Harrigan, an inhabitant of nearby Desmondton, comes to Desmond Hall after her car breaks down during a storm. Jean Paul offers to help her, but the Mark of Death appears on his hand, and he attacks the young woman.
Volume 15 - “Mark of Death”
Raxl attempts to comfort Jean Paul, after his murderous curse subsides, and has Quito bury the body of Annie Harrigan. Jean Paul contemplates suicide, but Raxl dissuades him, telling him that even his destruction will not end the curse. He then resolves to return to Maljardin, but abandons this idea when he receives a ghostly cry for help which he believes to be from Philip. Laslo presents Jean Paul with a telegram purporting to be from Philip, but he dismisses it as a fraud. During a heated exchange, Laslo displays his true nature, striking the defenseless Ada. Cort tells Jean Paul that he is angry with Philip for disappearing after promising to take him away on a trip to France. In Philip’s secret study, Jean Paul discovers his brother’s journal, which contains references to a coven and witchcraft being performed in Desmondton. Irene continues to play up to Holly, planning a party in her honor. Fearing another onset of the curse, Jean Paul locks himself in his room and instructs Raxl to shoot him if he attempts to leave. The Mark of Death appears on his hand again, but recedes when clouds obscure the stars in the night sky. The police visit Desmond Hall, investigating the disappearance of Annie Harrigan. At the party, Irene introduces Holly to a group of friends, actually the members of her coven. They drug Holly and commence a ritual to further prepare her for initiation into their number.
Volume 16 - “Witches’ Rituals”
Curse-afflicted Jean Paul roams the streets of Desmondton while, at the party, Laslo joins the members of the coven in their ceremony. Irene gives Holly hypnotically induced instructions to kill Jean Paul when the time comes. Possessed by the Mark, Jean Paul strangles a young woman named Crystal Snowden near the docks, disposing of her body in the river. After being awakened by Irene, Holly has no conscious memory of the coven. Cort warns Jean Paul that the townsfolk blame Quito for the recent disappearances of the two young women. Jean Paul tries to hide Quito, but he flees in fear and takes refuge in the river caves beneath the estate. Holly is confused by vague recollections of the coven telling her she must kill Jean Paul. The spirit of Philip appears to Holly, telling her that Irene is not to be trusted. Emily suggests to Jean Paul that Quito may be hiding in the caves. Irene tries to give Holly hypnotic commands again, but Philip’s spirit intervenes and protects her. He warns Holly that Irene is a witch, and requests her aid in contacting Jean Paul. Later, Holly discovers a hidden passage beneath the staircase, and a spectral voice beckons her to follow.
Volume 17 - “The Secret of the Caves”
Fearing for her sanity, Holly refuses to follow the voice beneath the stairwell. She details her encounters with Philip’s spirit to Jean Paul, and he fears that his brother has been murdered. Quito unexpectedly emerges from the passage beneath the stairs, and Raxl hides him within the house. Irene eavesdrops on Jean Paul, and overhears him telling Raxl about Crystal Snowden’s murder. Jean Paul finds Irene in Holly’s room and asks her to leave the estate, little suspecting she has once again hypnotized the girl and given her instructions to stab Jean Paul. Raxl prevents Quito from strangling Laslo. Cort interrupts Holly in her attempt to carry out Irene’s orders, preventing her from completing her deadly errand. Jean Paul instructs Holly not to associate with Irene any longer. Unexpectedly afflicted by the Mark of Death again, Jean Paul upsets Emily into fleeing Desmond Hall, and once again prowls the countryside in search of a victim. Outside the mansion, Holly loses her way in the fog and finds herself blindly wandering dangerously near the edge of the cliffs. In the secret room, Cort attempts to contact the spirit of his father. Philip’s spirit appears to Holly, and leads her back to safety. Still possessed of the Mark, Jean Paul encounters Agatha Pruitt, a suicidal young woman on the verge of drowning herself in the river. Fighting his curse, Jean Paul rescues the girl, but nearly strangles her in the process. He flees as Agatha threatens to go to the police.
Volume 18 - “Hissing of the Serpent”
Agatha Pruitt arrives at Desmond Hall, mystifying the household with her casual statement that Jean Paul tried to kill her. Alone in the library, Agatha produces a snake from her bag, speaking to it as if it were human. Cort argues with Laslo, promising to kill his stepfather if he strikes Ada again. Agatha reveals to Emily that she left home because her parents are witches. Jean Paul placates Agatha by allowing her to stay on at Desmond Hall. Learning of Agatha’s pet snake, Raxl interrogates the girl, and warns Jean Paul she believes that Agatha is devoted to the Serpent God. Holly tells Jean Paul about her conversations with the spirit of Philip, deepening his concern that she is falling in love with the ghost of his brother. Laslo tells Agatha that he knows about her parents. Raxl says if Philip’s studies into the occult were sufficiently advanced, his spirit could appear to others even if he were still alive. Jean Paul asks Raxl to attempt to contact Philip, but her efforts are thwarted when she is attacked by a phantom emissary of the Serpent God. Surviving the attack, Raxl warns that Agatha’s death is the only thing which will ensure safety at Desmond Hall. Laslo and Irene plot to bring Agatha into their coven, but Philip’s spirit taunts them, destroying their pagan altar. The phantom serpent attacks Emily, leaving her lifeless body to be discovered by Jean Paul. Despite her lack of pulse and heartbeat, Emily regains consciousness. Irene believes that Emily’s state was the result of the paralyzing venom of the Serpent God, and that the deity has chosen Emily as its victim. In the secret room, Cort tries to invoke the Serpent God, but Philip’s spirit intervenes, warning Cort that he is inviting evil. Pursued by the townspeople, Quito takes refuge at Irene’s cottage. Frightened, Cort bludgeons Agatha’s snake, mysteriously causing Emily to clutch her head and scream in pain.
Volume 19 - “Spell of the Serpent God”
Jean Paul confides to Laslo that he has fallen in love with Emily. Irene works to turn Quito against Jean Paul. Heartbroken that Jean Paul has declared his love for Emily, Agatha resolves to leave Desmond Hall, promising that Jean Paul will suffer. Irene tells Laslo that she is frightened about Agatha, as the Serpent God is more powerful than the Master whom they serve. Laslo brings Agatha to Irene’s cottage, where they accuse her of being a priestess of the Serpent God. Agatha reluctantly agrees to cooperate with their plans, after Irene threatens to kill her otherwise. Jean Paul expresses his love to Emily, but she is suddenly overcome by the spirit of the Serpent God, declaring herself his slave. Raxl reveals that there are ways to release a victim of the Serpent God, but only at a price that no human wishes to pay. Jean Paul finds the crushed remains of Agatha’s pet snake Peter. Upon seeing the dead reptile, an enraged Emily curses Jean Paul for the creature’s death. At a gathering of the coven, Laslo and Irene further demoralize Agatha by showing her Peter’s battered remains. Raxl tells Emily that the Serpent may be worshipped for either good or evil, but she has fallen to the darker power. Agatha curses her pet’s killer, and Cort is stricken with a strange attack. Realizing that Agatha will never submit to them, the coven votes to release the girl. But Irene and Laslo fear she has seen too much, and conclude that Agatha must die. Erica comes to Jean Paul in a dream, urging him to return to her. Irene orders Quito to kill Agatha, but the girl manages to win him over, and they escape the cottage together. Again afflicted with the Mark of Death, Jean Paul flees the mansion. At the local train station, he encounters Agatha, and asks her to return to Desmond Hall. A traveler approaches Jean Paul, and as he turns to look at her, he stares into the face of his dead wife Erica.
Volume 20 - “Four Ladies on the Gallows”
Jean Paul discovers that the woman is actually Helena Raleigh, a traveling actress bearing a stunning resemblance to Erica, and invites her to stay at Desmond Hall. Agatha returns to the mansion with Quito, and Cort asks for her help in avoiding the wrath of the Serpent God. Jean Paul asks Holly how she will fulfill her love for Philip if he is dead. Quito tries to warn Jean Paul of the witches’ coven. The spirit of Philip tells Holly that he cannot allow her to love him, and fades from her sight. Helena muses to herself about becoming a Desmond, and comforts the heartsick Holly, telling her she will help find Philip. Emily dreams that Jean Paul rejects her, leaving her to her fate with the Serpent God. Helena, Agatha, Holly, and Emily discuss their lives at Desmond Hall together. Emily discovers an aging photograph depicting four women on the gallows, each resembling one of the women of Desmond Hall. Agatha feels as if she has been strangled by a hangman’s noose, and the mark of a rope burn appears upon her neck. She tries to tell both Jean Paul and Holly about the coven and its plots, but is unable to make them listen. Jean Paul tells Helena of the events on Maljardin, concluding that the thing masquerading as Erica was a demon sent after her death. Laslo locks Agatha in the secret room, leaving her to be destroyed by the Serpent God. Jean Paul comes to her rescue, but Raxl warns him that the girl is possessed of the Serpent God’s influence. Irene prays to the powers she serves to have Agatha restored to the coven. Agatha fears that the dark forces will work through her to harm Jean Paul, and she flees Desmond Hall. Returning to the spot on the docks where she first contemplated suicide, Agatha is suddenly attacked by a murderous assailant.
Volume 21 - “Erica Returns?”
Retrieving her corpse from the river, Jean Paul insists Agatha be laid in state at Desmond Hall. The ethereal Philip agonizes over his efforts to stay away from Holly. Grieving, Jean Paul vows to destroy the Serpent God. Raxl and Quito threaten Cort over his possible connection with the Serpent, but Philip’s spirit intervenes. Agatha’s parents leave Jean Paul the girl’s cremated remains, and a curse upon his soul. Raxl resolves to make use of the Crown of Iron, a torturous device which allows her to read memories directly from Quito’s mind. While reciting a scene from MACBETH, Helena ‘accidentally’ smashes the urn containing Agatha’s ashes, angering Jean Paul. The spirit of Philip appears to his brother, telling Jean Paul that he is not dead, and begging for rescue. Helena reconciles with Jean Paul by lying to him. Emily and Helena square off with each other over their relationships with Jean Paul, spurring Emily to pray to the Serpent, offering the rest of the family as sacrifices if she may just have him. After witnessing Helena ward off the spirit of the Serpent, Jean Paul believes that she has knowledge of the Serpent God, but she insists she was only drawing on her acting experience. Emily tells the Serpent that if he commands it, Jean Paul shall die. During a ceremony confronting the Serpent, Jean Paul is stricken with the Mark of Death, and attempts to strangle Emily. Raxl interrupts the attack, giving Emily the opportunity to flee. Influenced by the evil of the Serpent, Emily forms an alliance with Laslo and Irene, telling Jean Paul she has decided to leave Desmond Hall temporarily for a rest at Irene’s cottage. Again possessed by the Mark, Jean Paul stalks Holly.
NOTE: With the notable exception of Episode 3, Centaur Distribution managed to present substantially complete versions of each episode they released on video cassette. However, one minor piece of footage was excised from every episode they presented - the show’s closing logo labeling it a production of KFI - Krantz Films Inc. Rather than simply trimming this footage though, Centaur faded each episode to black while continuing to run the closing theme music. As a result, the Centaur version of each episode closes with a brief musical interlude of five to ten seconds over a black screen.
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