Thunderbirds Are Go
followed the remarkable success of the Thunderbirds
television series, bringing the three-dimensional puppet animation adventures of International Rescue to the big screen. Set in the 21st century, there is no attempt to explain the background story: as in the TV show International Rescue is a private family organisation who use hi-tech craft to rescue anyone in peril. Here it is the first manned flight to Mars which is in danger, as International Rescue foils a sabotage attempt at the launch, then race to avert disaster when the spaceship returns to earth. What could have made a 50-minute TV episode is expanded to feature length with Martian "rock monsters" and a surreal dream-sequence involving Alan Tracy, Lady Penelope and "Cliff Richard Jnr" & the Shadows, with a new song performed by the real Cliff and the Shadows. In the cinemas this was competing against another British children's TV SF spin-off, the equally colourful Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150AD
, and would be followed by Thunderbird 6
(1968). Yet apart from more complex model work, a bigger orchestra and even bigger explosions, on TV this plays like a widescreen double-length episode.
On the DVD: The mono sound is powerful, with Barry Gray's stirring music suffering intermittent distortion. Presented in anamorphic widescreen the picture is very good, with strong colours and only minimal grain, though the print does show occasional damage. Unfortunately the original extremely wide 2.74:1 Techniscope image is cropped to more conventional 2.35:1, to the extent that the careful compositions are noticeably damaged, which director David Lane refers to in his joint commentary with producer Sylvia Anderson (who also played Lady Penelope). 35 years after the event their commentary is packed with details of the filming process and full of information about the many problems of and solutions to making an animated feature. Both Anderson fans and budding animators will find this a real education. The original, rather battered, trailer is included, as are galleries of behind the scenes photos, promotional artwork and posters. Altogether it's rather FABulous. --Gary S Dalkin