• Thunderbirds Are Go/Thunderbird 6

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: May 13th, 2013.
    Director: David Lane
    Cast: Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Shane Rimmer, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham
    Year: 1966/1968
    Purchase From Screen Archives Entertainment

    The Movies:

    Spun off from the popular British television series created by Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds introduced the viewing public to a former astronaut named Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John. Together, with some help from a blonde femme fatale named Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and a science wiz named Brains, they are International Rescue. Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6 are the feature film versions of Anderson’s popular adventure series, the one infamous done pretty much entirely with puppets and miniatures. How does it hold up, more than forty years since its inception? The Thunderbirds are still weird. Very weird. They move more than most puppets and are more human looking than you might expect, but anyone with even a slight case of pupaphobia (yes, that is a real thing) will be more than a little freaked out by all of this. That said, the movies are also both ridiculously entertaining. Here’s a look…

    Thunderbirds Are Go:

    The first feature begins when a space exploration ship called the Zero-X puzzlingly crashes during its inaugural liftoff. After a long and laborious inspection, the team responsible for looking into this declares the accident the result of sabotage. No one suspects… The Hood!

    They decide to try again but this time around they bring on the expertise of International Rescue – a super-secret organization run by an independently wealthy former astronaut named Jeff Tracy and his sons - to keep an eye on things and make sure the second launch goes as smoothly as planned. And so the launch goes off without a hitch but only because International Rescue, with some help from Lady Penelope and her driver Parker, are around to stop The Hood… who shows up again to wreak havoc. Once the Zero-X has left the Earth’s orbit and the crew arrives on Mars, however, things start to go haywire when what appear to be ordinary rocks turn out to be vicious alien snake monsters. This causes the crew to beat it back to their ship and head for home but on the way the ship malfunctions and a crash seems imminent… unless the Thunderbirds can show up and save the day. While all of this is going one, one of the Thunderbirds is dreaming of Penelope in a remarkably bizarre sequence where pop group Cliff Richard And The Shadows (whose music is used twice in the movie and, yes, they appear here as puppets too!) show up and fly around space on a giant guitar.

    Thunderbirds 6:

    The second feature, made two years after the first and with a higher budget (in hopes of creating a more popular film… the first one didn’t do so well at the box office), begins when Lady Penelope, Parker, Scott Tracy and Tin-Tin accompany Brains on the maiden voyage of a craft he’s personally designed, the Skyship-1. What they don’t realize is that every member of the crew has been eliminated and replaced with a crony working for someone known only as The Black Phantom.

    Of course, the ship launches and off they go on a worldwide sightseeing expedition that will bring them to some of the most recognizable locations around the world but once that ship has been launched, the Phantom and his men put their plan to take over the ship and get rid of its inhabitants into motion. Will the rest of the Thunderbirds be able to catch up to Skyship-1 in time to save their friends?

    Both of these films are a lot of fun but, in hindsight, you can see why they maybe didn’t blow the doors off of the box office. What works on the small screen doesn’t always work on the big screen and vice versa and it would seem that maybe this was why the feature film versions of the popular TV series didn’t really fly. Upon revisiting the movies, however, they’re quite a bit of fun. Yes, there are times where the prolonged launch sequences of the various ships does feel like padding but if, like this viewer, you geek out over interesting miniature work and what are basically really cool model spaceships zipping all over the place, there’s a lot to like here.

    The puppets still seems rather soulless even if they are well animated - their eyes feel dead! But once you get used to it, Anderson’s oddball method of storytelling becomes equally interesting for just how detailed and wonderfully colorful and stylish it all was. The characters are fun, particularly Lady Penelope (who gets considerably more screen time in the second film, likely as a response to the success of the James Bond movies at the time), who is played as a surprisingly vampish sexpot, at least boy puppet standards.


    Both films are transferred in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35.1 and typically they look great. The transfers are crisp, clean and clear and show only very sporadic specks here and there, no serious print damage to note at all. Colors look fantastic and really pop, showing off the films’ sixties sensibilities rather nicely, while black levels stay solid too. You can easily make out the different textures in the backgrounds and the puppets alike and outside of some minor shimmer in a few spots, this is a nicely encoded disc of some nearly pristine source material.

    Audio options are provided for both features in DTS-HD 5.1 and Mono Master Audio tracks with optional subtitles provided in English only. Purists will understandably opt for the single channel tracks but the surround mixes actually do open up the mix nicely and do some fun things with directional effects and the score. Regardless of which options you go for, the tracks are clear, nicely balanced and demonstrate fairly good depth and range.

    Extras are plentiful, each film getting its own specific selection of supplements to dig through. Thunderbirds Are Go finds film historians Jeff Bond and Nick Redman sharing all manner of facts and insight about the history of the show with us. It’s a good, well rounded track. There’s a second commentary here too, with producer Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane in which the two share some fond memories of working on this film. Between the two tracks there’s a lot to learn about, from the use of human hands in a few sporadic scenes to the perspective photography used in certain shots to Gerry Anderson’s original intents to direct more conventional projects. Also covered are the mod fashions that you see throughout the film, the way in which Lady Penelope is depicted as the most cold-blooded character in the series, how unusual it is to see even minor bloodshed in a children’s film from this era and quite a bit more. These are both quite interesting and very nice additions to the disc – they even go into some fascinating minute details like what time zone Tracy Island could possibly be in and which celebrities the different marionettes were based on (and you can definitely see it once it’s pointed out).

    There are also a bunch of featurettes relating to Thunderbirds Are Go on the disc, starting with the twenty-two minute retrospective Excitement is Go! Making Thunderbirds piece that gives us a nice overview of the series from its TV roots through to the MGM feature films by way of a bunch of interviews, clips and a wealth of interesting archival photographs. It’s a very good companion piece to the two commentary tracks. The seventeen minutes long Cliff Richard And The Shadows Unseen Test Footage is an interesting bit of footage shot by Anderson of the very real, very human version of the band that appeared (in puppet form) in the feature during the bizarre dream sequence. This was done to make sure that the puppets looked as much like the real band members as possible, so you’ll see them posing and standing in the same sort of positions that the puppet versions do in the movie. The ten minute History And Appeal featurette contains some interview clips with Sylvia Anderson who shares some interesting memories about working on this picture with the cast and crew that Gerry Anderson assembled for it while The Factory Of Dolls And Rockets is a great nine minute piece that shows off how the different sets and puppets featured in the picture were assembled and then brought to life. Complimenting this nicely is the eight minute Epics In Miniature piece that shows off some of the other aspects of Anderson’s miniature work.

    The first feature also gets a quick thirty-second video clip called Come With Me To The Rushes which is Sylvia Anderson sharing an amusing story as well as another thirty second piece with Sylvia discussing the meaning of F.A.B.. There’s also a still gallery here with a bunch of interesting archival photographs in it worth checking out.

    The extras for Thunderbird 6 start off with another commentary from Sylvia Anderson and David Lane and like the first track, it’s a pretty interesting listen. We learn here what went into creating this sequel so quickly after the success of the first movie two years prior and about some of the different design work we see in this second film. It’s a well-paced and interesting track and offers up some welcome insight and historical context for the feature.

    From there we move on to the featurettes for the second film, starting with a ten minute piece called Lady Penelope which explores how her character was created and changed throughout the run. The eight minute Building Better Puppets shows off how some of the different puppets and marionettes were created and then animated for the film while the six minute Tiger Moth piece shows off the secrets behind bringing the movie’s infamous bi-plane sequence to life on film.

    Closing out the extras for the second film is a quick one minute bit with Sylvia Anderson called A Call From Stanley Kubrick in which she talks about deciding not to do lunch with the famous filmmaker and a thirty-second piece called A Television Tribute in which Sylvia talks about Dudley Moore and Peter Cook spoofing the Thunderbirds TV show. There’s a fairly extensive still gallery included for this second film as well.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are theatrical trailers and isolated scores for both movies in DTS-HD Mono, an MGM 90th Anniversary promo trailer, menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase we once again get a full color booklet of liner notes from Julie Kirgo who rightfully starts her essay out by discussing the creepiness of puppets in general before going on to note what makes the Thunderbirds characters different and then offering up a nice history of the movies.

    The Final Word:

    Twilight Time have done a fantastic job bringing the enjoyably strange pop culture oddity of The Thunderbirds to Blu-ray with their double feature release of Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6. Both features look excellent in high definition and are loaded with extras while the movies themselves are as ridiculously entertaining as they are unsettlingly bizarre. A really fun release overall.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Johnny Stickman's Avatar
      Johnny Stickman -
      Sweet deal, I dug the show back when reruns were on Tech TV. It was hypnotizing because it looked like nothing else on television.