Saturday, February 15, 2020

The original Fantasy Island's most disturbing stories

Writing for Mel Magazine, Noel Murray selects nine episodes:

“THE VICTIM” (SEASON 3, EPISODE 11; DECEMBER 1, 1979)
Julie Brett (played by Joan Prather of Eight Is Enough) demands to be paired up with her dream man, only to find out he’s the kingpin of a sex-trafficking ring — and that she’s going to be the latest addition to his roster of prostitutes.

Another story from the darker side of Fantasy Island, “The Victim” (like “The Nightmare” before it) proceeds like a bad dream. This is one of the rare scenarios where Mr. Roarke tries to warn his client away from her fantasy — although he stops just short of telling Julie that the guy she wants so badly to date is a merciless pimp and kidnapper, saying only that he’s “dangerous.” She gets abducted early in the episode, and suffers degradation after degradation before leading her fellow sex slaves in a revolt. The final moment of vengeance is sweet, but doesn’t quite compensate for the preceding hour of sour.

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“THE DEVIL AND MANDY BREEM” (SEASON 4, EPISODE 1; OCTOBER 25, 1980)
Roddy McDowall plays the literal devil, who tussles with Mr. Roarke when Roarke fights for the soul of a young woman (played by Carol Lynley) who made a pact with Satan to revive her dying husband (played by Adam West).

The Fantasy Island writers avoided saying too much about exactly who Mr. Roarke is or what he can do, but they did occasionally suggest that he was an immortal being, well-known among other supernatural superstars, like, y’know, the devil. McDowall guested more than once on this show in the role of Satan, but he was at his best in his first appearance, where he torments his debtor Mandy with potential soul-saving tasks she can’t complete, before finally getting tricked by Mr. Roarke into breaking his contract with her. It’s all very spooky and surreal, with a pervasive sense of hopelessness barely alleviated at the end.