• Thunderbirds: The Complete Series

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: June 9th, 2015.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Various
    Year: 1965 - 1966
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    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. Done pretty much entirely with puppets and miniatures, that series remains a strange show to be sure, but that strange factor has no doubt played a big part in keeping it alive. There’s a pretty big cult following out there for the show, and members of said cult can now enjoy each and every episode of the series in beautiful high definition.

    The series lasted from September 30th, 1965 until December 25th, 1966 and was followed by two feature films. Each episode would see the Tracy family needed to zip in and save someone from something using their high tech ships, the Thunderbirds (numbered 1 through 5, though five was really a space station not a ship). As such, yeah, there’s very much a formula at work here but that formula can be comforting in a way. This was a series aimed at children and so of course the Tracy’s will and do save the day before the end credits hit the screen, but it’s interesting to see how they do it.

    The design work on display here is just flat out strange. The marionettes used in the series move and talk but appear cold and soulless, which makes the whole thing feel completely alien and unlike pretty much anything else on TV (save for Anderson’s other puppet shows). At the same time, it’s fascinating to watch. The amount of work and detail that goes into the miniature sets and even some of the puppets themselves is often times very impressive not to mention how much work had to go into creating all of the weird little costumes worn by the weird little puppets that populate this weird little universe.

    A lot of the stories in the show find International Rescue and their allies, often undercover agents lorded over by the mysterious Lady Penelope, having to thwart a sinister organization led by a criminal mastermind known only as Hood. From his jungle base he uses telepathy and hypnosis to manipulate various characters into doing his bidding, most of the time this involves getting his hands on the Thunderbirds or their schematics so that he can steal the Tracy’s technology out from under them. Everybody needs a hobby.

    It’s all in good fun. Think of it as a sci-fi version of Bonanza or The Waltons, in that there are strong family ties here, but with a lot more action and adventure – so maybe some elements of Sealab or Johnny Quest sort of tie in here too, though they came after Thunderbirds. It at least makes for a point of reference for the unfamiliar! The voice work is cool, the sound effects are great and if the stories are a bit repetitive the originality and imagination that goes into the visuals and the design work here more than makes up for it.

    Spread across the six discs in the set are these episodes in the following order:

    Trapped In The Sky / Pit Of Peril / The Perils Of Penelope / Terror In New York City / Edge Of Impact / Day Of Disaster / 30 Minutes After Noon / Desperate Intruder / End Of The Road / The Uninvited / Sun Probe / Operation Crash-Drive / Vault Of Death / The Mighty Atom / City Of Fire / The Imposters / The Man From MI5 / Cry Wolf / Danger At Ocean Deep / Move And You're Dead / The Duchess Assignment / Brink Of Disaster / Attack Of The Alligators / Martian Invasion / The Cham-Cham / Security Hazard / Atlantic Inferno / Path Of Destruction / Alias Mr. Hackenbacker / Lord Parker's 'Oliday / Ricochet / Give Or Take A Million


    The series looks really good in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.33.1. Typically the transfers are great. The image is crisp, clean and clear and shows only very sporadic specks here and there, no serious print damage to note at all. Colors look fantastic and really pop, showing off the show’s 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 the show 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. Optional English subtitles are included.

    The main extra for this release is an interesting forty-five minute long documentary on the history of the series entitled Launching Thunderbirds. Made up of some great archival clips and interviews with Gerry Anderson and his team this serves as a pretty nice look back at the making of the show that does a fine job of detailing the series’ origin and cultural importance. Outside of that we get menus and episode/chapter selection and for the Blu-ray drive equipped, if you pop the last disc into your computer you can access a PDF of a vintage Thunderbirds publicity brochure.

    The Final Word:

    Thunderbirds is a bizarrely compelling show. It’s as entertaining as it is weird but there’s a very definite and obvious sense of wild creativity at play here that’s hard not to get caught up in. nostalgia will probably play a factor in anyone’s appreciation of this series but even if you don’t remember it fondly (or terrifyingly) from your childhood the fun factor here is through the roof. Shout Factory’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and if it’s a bit light on extras the included documentary is a good one.

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

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I'd love to see a total Gerry Anderson collection that included Fireball XL5 as well.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Timless/Shout put Fireball XL out on DVD, but not on Blu. A total GA collection would be bad ass though.