And so I stumble upon the conundrum - how to review a disc very similar to one I looked at just last weekend?
As I like to credit the audience with some intelligence I won't dive headlong into another 1000 word synopsis of what the Thunderbirds is/was. Basically the need to know stuff is that it was a '60s TV series featuring a process dubbed 'Supermarionation' by its creator Gerry Anderson - which is essentially a fancy way of saying they used puppets rather than human actors. It involves a fictional private organisation called International Rescue, who live up to their name by popping up wherever in the world a crisis may develop that needs their expertise/funky machinery. If you would like more information try popping by the first review first, if not then read on.
This, the second in what will eventually be a set of eight DVDs, features four more episodes completely out of sequence from their original production order. Here's what's in store this time...
The Uninvited (Episode 10):
Oh no! Thunderbird 1 is fired upon and shot down by three Zombite fighter craft, crashing into the Sahara Desert. Losing radio contact, Thunderbird 2 is despatched to find the stricken craft, whilst closer to the scene, pilot Scott is rescued by two explorers. Using their radio, Scott is saved, however later the explorers find themselves in trouble as their supplies are lost in an explosion. Cue International Rescue again, bring on the search and eventual discovery of a mythical, treasure-laden pyramid, yet more Thunderbird launches and a greed-motivated gun battle for one of the more action packed episodes on offer here.
The Mighty Atom (Episode 14):
Uh-oh! Thanks to recurring baddie The Hood, our very own Melbourne is under threat from a nuclear cloud after an atomic power station blows sky high. Mercifully our beloved city is saved by the weather, which blows the cloud somewhere else... A year later another such station is built in the seemingly omnipresent Sahara. However The Hood also has plans for this one, after pilfering a new spying device known as the 'mighty atom' (in actual fact a mouse with a camera built-in). The Hood blows up this new reactor, leaving one hour until meltdown, in hopes that International Rescue will be summoned. They duly are, but what will be the consequences?
The Vault of Death (Episode 13):
What's this? Lady Penelope and Parker breaking into a bank? Has my heroine gone over to the dark side?! Mercifully not - it's all just a test of the safe to enable new security measures to be put into place. These are duly installed and everybody leaves the bank for the day, however they are unaware that one employee remains in the vault - which is rapidly having every skerrick of air sucked from it. Thunderbird 2 is eventually summoned, with the Mole on board, aaah, but London's underground wiring is so complex that the Mole cannot be used. While attempts are made to cut through the door, Lady Penelope (displaying some masterful anti-driving) and Parker speed towards the scene, in the hope that Parker can repeat his previous day's safe-cracking feat - but why is he less than keen to do so?
Operation Crash Dive (Episode 12):
Yay! The vibrator-with-wings that is the atomic-powered Fireflash airliner makes a welcome return here, however it is soon to disappear somewhere over the Atlantic. Our heroes track it down and rescue the crew from the seabed, thanks to the little yellow submarine thingy Thunderbird 4. However, questions remain - what happened to cause the crash, and why was Fireflash in a completely different position to what its instruments said?
Once again I have to bring up the fact that what we have to play with here is something like 36 years old. Armed with this knowledge surely anybody could not fail to be at least a little impressed with what is in store here.
Like the first disc there are many artefacts on display, generally more so in shots of the Thunderbirds craft in action than in the puppet scenes. You'll also come across a bit of light and dark variation in many scenes. However none of this should be cause for great amounts of angst to even the most finicky fan, as after all who could have ever have expected to see the show looking so glorious?
What more can I say? Considering the circumstances visually this is most impressive.
MMMmmm, Dolby 5.1 Surround! So how is it to hear the Thunderbirds in such glory? Pretty darned wonderful, actually.
Having but a mono soundtrack to play with from the original series, the sound boffins have done an F.A.B. job here. Whilst it is no super spectacular stereo workout, having the likes of the chubby green Thunderbird 2 whooshing over your couch is simply glorious. My only real sonic gripe is as with the first disc, I found the actual score a bit harsh at times, without resorting to a fiddle with the settings on my amplifier.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record (a note for any kiddies reading this, a record contained music just like a compact disc does, only it was bigger, generally blacker, double sided and incredibly less destruction-proof) if you're a fan of this show it's a no-brainer - you'll be adding this to your collection as soon as you possibly can.
However, if you, or indeed any munchkins you may have been blessed with, remain uninitiated to the world of the Thunderbirds I can highly recommend checking at least one of these discs out. With over three hours of entertainment plus the "super features" to play with, they offer exceptional value for money. Perhaps even a quick rental could be advised?
There's plenty of good, fun often almost Get Smartish action to behold. Sure some of the stories may be wafer thin, but this is often more than made up for by the remarkable effects work (much by Derek Meddings, who later went on to work on Bond films and even the Superman movie) and incredible attention to detail. I challenge any of the two frames a second we've-got-a-new-toy-to-flog-so-let's-come-up-with-a-cartoon-based-around-it type children's series' of today (of course there are a few exceptions to that) to ever display a modicum of the care and attention that so obviously went into the making of the Thunderbirds.
It looks like being an expensive year for Thunderbirds fans. If my dreams of leading a life like Lady Penelope's had come true I wouldn’t need worry, however as I type my credit card is giving me VERY dirty looks at the thought of it all...