Prisoner of Paradise (1980)

Ironically, I happened to catch this campy, Nazi-flavored fornication fest at the old ABC theater in Brussels, still standing proudly in the face of video, DVD and what not in late 2012, in its all too fitting German-dubbed version once upon a long ago distributed by Krautcore giant Beate Uhse, proclaiming it had finally been allowed for that country’s belated release ! Now I realize that Germany’s still reeling from its gruesome war history and have only relatively recently acquired the rights to Brit sitcom Allo! Allo! for instance, but considering how Prisoner of Paradise pretty much takes the Hogan’s Heroes approach to its SS shenanigans, this can’t help but strike me as a tad preposterous. If credits are to be taken at face value, it was jointly directed by former Playboy Playmate Gail Palmer and the ever reliable Bob Chinn, godfather of the long-running Johnny Wadd dirty detective series. In reality, Palmer’s centerfold notoriety was rarely more than a marketing gimmick, her “creative input” largely limited to – as a Hustler critic fearlessly fessed up several years ago – exchanging physical favors for good reviews ! Considering her signposted involvement in movies such as The Erotic Adventures of CandyHot Legs and the title under review here, she need not have bothered as any of these would have garnered kudos regardless.

In a bizarre sort of prequel to his already well-established incarnation as super sleuth Johnny Wadd, the late John Holmes plays US Marine Joe Murray, stranded on an apparently deserted island – actually Hawaii – following an air raid (footage “borrowed” from Tora! Tora! Tora!) with only memories of his lost love, prostitute Mai Lin, for company. Unbeknownst to him, crazed Nazi colonel Hans Von Schlemel (Elmer Fox, billed as “Heinz Mueller“) has set up camp with a pair of strapping female sidekicks, snarling Ilsa (superstar Seka) and the marginally more mild-mannered Greta (Sue Carol), for the sole purpose of extracting strategic information from captured American army nurses through torture which incidentally is more threatened than actually delivered upon. Throwing Holmes in with the girls (always a good idea !), the Nazis sign their own death warrant as the loyalty of Japanese guard Jade Wong (the heartbreaker from Chris Warfield’s wonderful Purely Physical) takes a 180 degree turn upon sight of the King’s mighty member !

The screenplay supposedly penned by Palmer (okay, I’ll buy it…NOT !) and future filmmaker Jeff Fairbanks (American PieExposed and the unjustly overlooked Wild Dallas Honey) flat out refuses to take itself seriously once the going gets rough, yet something of a breach in tone as the ultimately tragic Holmes/Lin romance is treated with surprising delicacy. Their passionate tryst also provides the film’s hottest sex by far. The movie opens up quite literally once Holmes hits the island and cinematographer Ken Gibb who shot several of Bill Milling’s All American Girls entries including the awesome 1982 original has a field day with the stunning vistas as well as the foxy female flesh on display. Seka and Sue (whose only other recorded appearance was in a non-sex bit in the obscure Goodbye Girls) make for an appealing double act that will delight fetishists, strutting around in khaki shirts ‘n shorts with black leather boots.  Growl ! Acting-wise, they’re all over the place though, the platinum princess making a valiant if less than valid attempt to keep up with the scenery-chomping Fox, a solid character actor best remembered for playing studio boss Harvey Cox – teaming up with legendary Dave Friedman as Bernie Kuntz – in Ron Sullivan’s delightful Matinee Idol. Perky Nikki Anderson, who plays brunette nurse Carol (her blond counterpart Gloria being one shot wonder Brenda Vargo), went on to appear in decidedly minor Lewis Bros flicks 11 (a limp take-off on Blake Edwards’ 10, geddit ?) and The Blonde and performs adroitly in her submissive oral number on His Hugeness here, along with Sue’s guns are for loving auto-abuse as close to anything even remotely nasty this soft-centered “roughie” ever gets.

Directed by Bob Chinn & Gail Palmer. Written by Jeffrey Fairbanks & Palmer. Produced by Palmer for Caribbean Films. Photographed by Ken Gibb. Edited by Christine & Pearl Diamond. Starring Seka (Ilsa), John C. Holmes (Joe Murray), Sue Carol (Greta), Jade Wong (Suke), Nikki Anderson (Carol), Brenda Vargo (Gloria), Mai Lin (as Miko Moto) (Sue Lee) & Elmer Fox (as Heinz Mueller) (Hans Von Schlemel). Running time : 75 minutes.

Sensational Seka can’t help but cause a stir, even when playing a snarling She-Wolf of the SS !

By Dries Vermeulen

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