Directors: Bob Chinn, Gail Palmer
Vinegar Syndrome

TROPIC OF DESIRE's Bob Chinn and Gail Palmer return to the islands once again for PRISONER OF PARADISE, a fleshy World War II drama starring John Holmes.

When his ship is blown to smithereens, sailor Joe Murrey (Holmes) washes up on the beach of a seemingly deserted island. After a montage in which Joe proves his subsistence ability (mostly consisting of Holmes unveiling his endowment as he strips off and puts back on his ragged uniform in between bathing, building shelter, and foraging coconuts), Joe explores the island in search of food only to come across bathing beauties Ilsa (Seka, DESPERATELY SEEKING SEKA) and Greta (Sue Carol, THE GOODBYE GIRLS). Following them from a safe distance, he discovers the camp of Wagner-loving Nazi officer Hans (Heinz Muller, SADIE) where the he and his female guards – including Japanese mute Suke (Jade Wong, PURELY PHYSICAL) – torture female American prisoners Carol (Nikki Anderson, THE EROTIC WORLD OF SEKA) and Gloria (Brenda Vargo, '11') in between monitoring American radio broadcasts. When Joe's attempt to rescue the two girls fails, he becomes the PRISONER OF PARADISE and the hypnotic power of his third leg may be his only hope of escaping.

Described as "Bob Chinn's big budget mix of X-rated war epic and Nazisploitation", PRISONER OF PARADISE never lives up to its tagline "Kidnapped for bizarre sex rites... on a sun-drenched island of sin!" but gives the audience what it wants in its "all-star cast" (to quote the trailer) of Holmes, "The Fabulous Seka" and "Mai Lin, Star of the Orient." The latter only appears in a flashback as Murrey's sweetheart killed in an air raid – after sex, naturally – but it comprises about fifteen minutes of a seventy-eight minute film. It really is not that more ambitious in terms of story or visuals than Chinn's other "Caribbean Films" titles (including the period pics SADIE and TROPIC OF DESIRE). A mix of stock footage, a couple economical sets, and some pyrotechnics give some sense of production value while the period storyline is rather intimate in scope. Despite the naming of Seka's character as Ilsa, the film's Nazisploitation angle is not really played up – Seka flinches every time Hans brings down the whip on one of the girls (even though the whip strikes out of frame with exaggerated sound effects) – with Muller and Seka seeming like extras from an episode of HOGAN'S HEROES (Ilsa's "You American zwine!" and Greta's "He has a veapon!" while frisking Holmes' crotch), but the sex scenes are well-filmed and the film briskly paced with a minimum of filler between them (Holmes has his work cut out for him as thankfully the only male cast "member" in the sex scenes). Mai Lin and Jade Wong would appear together again in Carlos Tobalina's MAI LIN VS SERENA and ORIENTAL HAWAII (a double bill out this month from Vinegar Syndrome). Co-writer Gail Palmer has a cameo as a "Lady of the Night" during the flashback scenes, and we also get a nicely sappy seventies theme song over the end credits (as well as earlier while Holmes is mooning over his lost love).

Previously released by Something Weird Video under the title NAZI LOVE ISLAND on VHS – in a double bill with HITLER'S HARLOTS – and then on DVD by VCX, Vinegar Syndrome's DVD of PRISONER OF PARADISE takes is progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1, not 1.85:1 as stated on the box) transfer from a new 2K scan. The cover labels the release as a "New and Restored Version". I'm not sure what if anything was missing from the VCX release (the SWV edition was reportedly twenty minutes shorter), but VCX might have snipped out some mild although possibly contentious material as they had with their Henry Paris DVDs. The end credits are followed by a logo for now-defunct West German distributor Beate Uhse Filmverleih suggesting that the source materials may be a partial composite or they may have had to seek German materials for the entire uncut feature although the opening and closing credits are in English. The presentation is variable (as is the film's combination of color and black and white stock footage and a couple underexposed shots that seem to have been brightened in post with resulting heavier grain) with edge enhancement cropping up in some shots but not actually blanketing the presentation; I have no doubt, however, that this is best the film has looked on home video. The Dolby Digital 1.0 track has some hiss but it stops being distracting once the "action" starts. The only extras are the film's theatrical trailer (3:50) and a "Caribbean Films Promo" reel (6:30) that includes shortened trailers for CALIFORNIA GIGOLO, HOT LEGS, and PRISONER OF PARADISE (the redundancy suggests that the promo was an assemblage Vinegar Syndrome recovered from the vaults rather than something they put together, as a new creation would surely have included all footage from all of the Caribbean Films titles). (Eric Cotenas)