The Film: 4/5
If it's vintage adult films you're after, there are really only two names in the home video biz worth following. DistribPix, who've been in the business for 40 years, and 2 year old upstart Vinegar Syndrome, who are proving themselves to be quite a player in the cult home entertainment marketplace. Vinegar Syndrome has the unique position in the market of being able to focus on restoration and curation of an amazing number of previously unavailable films due to their extensive ties to video restoration outfit OCN Labs. Without a sister organization, these films, especially the adult titles, would likely be left to rot and disappear forever, however, with a little help from our friends and VS, they live on.
Bob Chinn's Prisoner of Paradise is a stunner. This is a film that I'd never heard of before VS posted their own trailer on Facebook and my immediate reaction was, “I don't know what this is, but I must have it”. This was even before I knew it was an adult film, I just saw a raggedy WW2 prison camp in what looked like the Phillipines, a bunch of 'splosions, and Nazi ladies in hot pants. What could possibly go wrong?
Nothing. That's what.
John Holmes plays Joe Murray, an American soldier stationed in Japan who has found the woman of his dreams and is ready to settle down when he's called back out on duty in the Pacific. After romantically boning his lady love as a farewell, he ships off to sea only to become the (only surviving) victim of a shipwreck that leaves him stranded on an island and left to live off the land. Which he does. For about the first 20 minutes of the film. Alone. It gets a bit tedious, I can only watch Holmes bath naked under a waterfall so many times. However, what is even more insane is that it takes him what seems like several months to realize that he's not the only one on this island, it is also the home to a bizarrely isolated Nazi POW camp that houses more Nazis that POWs.
The camp is run by the sadistic (natch) voyeur Hans, played by a portly Elmo Lavino who sports the least convincing German accent I've ever heard. Hans and his two commandants, Ilsa (played by a young Seka) and Greta (Sue Carol) torture the only two prisoners they've managed to come across, a pair of American army nurses. Or course, the woman are tortured and sexually abused, but not by Hans, and when Holmes discovers the scheme he takes it upon himself to bust them out, but only manages to get caught himself. Then everyone fucks everyone else against everyone's will and there are plenty of boners to go around.
Honestly, the actual sex is probably the least interesting part of the film for me. Watching Bob Chinn and Gail Palmer's story unfold, it's almost as if they gave a shit what happened between the money shots, an idea which has lost its place in today's adult film industry. Now, no one is going to confuse Prisoner of Paradise with The Great Escape (in spite of some pretty decent explosions, and sex-plosions), but the thing moves along at a pretty decent clip. In fact, the only real issue I had with the film was the fact that many, MANY of the interiors in this little thatched hut that housed all of the sex scenes were obviously pickups shot long after principal shooting was completed. Holmes' hair gets lighter and darker almost every other scene, along with changing length frequently. It's the most distracting part of the film.
Apart from that admittedly minor issue, Prisoner of Paradise is the rare golden age porn that earns its 77 minute runtime. In most case, and in many of the previous Vinegar Syndrome adult releases, the films had long worn out their welcome before their own 63 minute runtime was up, however, Prisoner of Paradise manages to give its characters a little bit of background, some motivation, maybe even some arc if I'm being generous, but certainly it gives the viewer more to cheer for than simply a shot in the eye.
As we've come to expect from Vinegar Syndrome, the image transfer on this disc is sparkling. It may not be perfect, but it probably looks better on my TV that it ever did running through those jizz soaked reels on 42nd street back in the day. The 1.78:1 AR is probably a wee bit off, but I'm not complaining. The audio is equally decent, considering that we're likely hearing only the ADR track, as was so often the case back in the day. No subs, no crazy 5.1 remixes, just a solid release that gives me the movie I wanted to see.
There are no Prisoner of Paradise specific extras on the disc, however VS have included the trailer and a few extra trailers, totaling about 6:30 for other Caribbean Films releases. Overall, a it's a disc I'm glad to have in my collection. Vinegar Syndrome has yet to let me down!