“It’s the vacation you’ll never forget, no matter how hard you try.” That’s how the narration in the trailer ends, however, 30 years to the day it’s exactly what everyone did. On paper, the ensemble comedy Club Paradise sounds like an absolute slam dunk. Imagine Oscar-winner Robin Williams, Oscar-honoree Peter O’Toole, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, 1960’s supermodel Twiggy, Saturday Night Live alum Mary Gross, Robin Duke, and Brian Doyle-Murray all packed into one film directed by Harold Ramis. What could go wrong? Oh, and let not forget reggae legend Jimmy Cliff who provided the beat to Club Paradise. Let’s take a look back at the lost comedy that fell to the wayside battling the likes of Big Trouble in Little China, The Great Mouse Detective, Psycho III, Under the Cherry Moon, and The Girl in the Picture at the box office.
A tremendously funny all-star cast is assembled by director Harold Ramis (Analyze This, Caddyshack) to populate Club Paradise, a free-wheeling Club Med-style resort where a sun-filled, fun-filled time is guaranteed for all. Robin Williams (Happy Feet, Night at the Museum) runs the place (or does it run him?) playing host to the eccentric guests and the none-too-saner employees, not to mention the baffled locals. The interesting thing about this film description is that three of its major players were actually “Plan-B.”
Club Paradise was originally intended to star Bill Murray and John Cleese while being directed by John Landis. Obviously, all three of them didn’t happen. Cleese was replaced by Peter O’Toole, Murray was replaced by Robin Williams, and Landis was replaced by Harold Ramis who also wrote the screenplay alongside Brian Doyle-Murray. The latter move reunited now director / co-writer Ramis with most of his SCTV co-stars – SCTV cast members Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, and Robin Duke play supporting roles in the film. Brian Doyle-Murray was also a former SCTV staff writer.
Bill Murray turned down his role during development while Cleese immediately dropped out. With all of this shuffling around, Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) was asked to do a rewrite with Tom Leopold (Seinfeld, Cheers). Shearer did this under the pseudonym “Ed Roboto.” Only two words of what they wrote ended up in the film (the title) and Shearer was “so appalled by the movie” that he removed his name from the credits. As if the situation couldn’t worsen any more, Adolph Caesar died of a heart attack months before the film’s release. He played the role of Prime Minister Solomon Gundy and it was his last official completed role.
Reception of the film garnered mostly negative reviews and even landed Peter O’Toole a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor, but lost to Jerome Benton for Under the Cherry Moon. The PG-13 Club Paradise was made for $15 million only pulling in a domestic gross of just over $12million at the box office and only stuck around for three weeks. The film was originally slated to be released by Warner Brothers in early 1985 but it got held back.
If there is any one thing that is redeemable about this film, you can catch one of the extras towards the end wearing a Ghostbusters t-shirt. A nice easter egg from Ramis who of course played Egon Spengler in the film. With all of this said, let’s take a look back at the trailer for the forgotten comedy that was lost at sea before it even had the chance to exist on the shore in the first place. Here’s to Club Paradise.