Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cult-TV Blogging: The Immortal: "Paradise Bay" (December 10, 1970)

Ben Richards (Christopher George) visits a strange coastal ghost town called Paradise Bay, where his brother -- or a man with his brother’s name -- Jason Richards, was last seen.

Once in the ghost town, however, Ben encounters a group of strange, secretive and unfriendly individuals, including Arthur Cameron (Howard Duff): an industrialist who claims to own the town. Cameron claims that Jason Richards died in a scuba diving accident. And Cameron also controls the local sheriff, who takes an instant dislike to Ben.

Ben also meets beautiful twins Nancy and Julie Dudley (Tisha Sterling) in Paradise Bay.  Nancy owns a local motel, and seems stable, but Julie is a free-spirited, slightly unstable sort, one who was in love with Jason.

Ben digs to discover the truth about Paradise Bay, wondering if Jason, working for Amity Development, learned that the bay had been contaminated by Cameron’s chemical factories. 

When Ben finally learns the truth about Jason’s fate, however, it is somewhat different than what he expected.

“Paradise Bay” opens with a surfeit of atmosphere or mood. Ben Richards arrives alone in a scene ghost town (motto: “A Happy Place to Live”), and it quickly proves far from welcoming. The local sheriff is threatening, and Ben even finds his (apparent) brother’s tombstone in the local cemetery.  

Soon, the audience meets twins, and a gang of violent surfers, who want to do Ben harm.  The near empty nature of the town makes for a creepy and effective backdrop to the narrative.

Overall,”Paradise Bay’s” opening act is weird and unusual, and therefore promising, in terms of The Immortal’s repetitive nature. For a while, it looks like the series is actually going to address the mystery of Ben’s brother, and more.

But it’s all a (not-so-clever) misdirect, and a lead-up to disappointment. 

This Jason Richards is not Ben’s long-lost brother, rather but an “only child.” And the mystery behind Paradise Bay is a lot less interesting than the ghost town environs first suggest. 

Without giving too much away, all the material about Cameron dumping chemicals in the bay and poisoning it is but a red-herring.  The solution to the week’s mystery is grounded in the twins, and a very 1970’s interpretation of mental illness.

The remaining townspeople, including Nancy, you see, are protecting Julie. Apparently, she did love Jason, but she also killed Jason. The schizophrenic Julie hit him on the head with a rock during a game of hide and seek on the beach. Ben susses this information out of her by pretending to be Jason in the final act, and the whole reveal is largely underwhelming, even though set against the picturesque beach.

By being loose and free spirited, apparently, Julie is actually expressing some serious type of mental illness. She doesn’t seem sick or disturbed, actually just, well, young, uninhibited and a bit naïve.  The townspeople are aware of Julie’s crime, and are protecting her. That is the grand conspiracy of Paradise Bay. Rather than give up the money they would receive by selling the town, they decide to keep Julie’s condition (and murderous behavior) a secret.  As Ben points out, she badly needs “professional help.”

Then, out of the blue, “Paradise Bay” ends with Ben Richards bedding Nancy at her motel. Literally a girl in every port! Every single week! 

I suppose it could have been worse. He could have bedded Julie, the free-wheeling, free-spirited schizophrenic.

So, “Paradise Bay” opens in high style, and feels unlike any other The Immortal episode thus far.  It closes, however, in un-inventive and familiar fashion.

Next week: Ben Richards goes home in “The Return.”

1 comment:

  1. John,

    I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I didn't see the big reveal coming, but I may have been beguiled by the pretty beach scenery. "A Happy Place to Live" made me think of the town of Darien, Illinois, where I grew up. The sign at our city's borders proclaimed Darien "A Nice Place to Live," and there are rumors that Robert Zemeckis, a native of Chicago, saw the sign and put it into his Back To the Future movies (since Hill Valley is also "A Nice Place to Live" according to its border signage).

    It's become pretty much de rigueur for The Immortal to have Ben sleep with a girl a week. The moment you see a woman in the episode, it becomes not a question of if, but when. At least they gave us two for the price of one this time, casting the same actress to play twins. I thought Trisha Sterling did a nice job playing two disparate personalities.

    This series has such high production values, it's a shame the stories always make me feel as though The Fugitive did it first. Every week, whenever Ben is threatened with death, I'm always rooting for death! How I would love it if they'd actually show us that Ben Richards is truly immortal!

    And since I'm wishing for things that will probably never happen, I'd also like peace on Earth and a pet unicorn. Or at least a girl in every port.



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