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Thunderbird 6

MGM/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 85 mins . G . PAL


After their first Thunderbirds feature film Thunderbirds are Go! flopped at the box office, Gerry Anderson and Co. threw even more money into the production of a second epic. Released in 1968, ‘Thunderbird 6’ heralded the return of supermarionation to the silver screen.

Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, International Rescue’s British super-agent, embarks on the maiden voyage of Skyship 1 - a new type of airship designed by none other than International Rescue’s engineer Brains. In addition to her loyal manservant Parker, she is joined by Scott Tracy, and his “friend” the beautiful and exotic Tin Tin.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, the entire crew have been killed and replaced by a group of men plotting the downfall of International Rescue. Their leader, known only by his code name ‘Black Phantom’, looks suspiciously like their arch-enemy ‘The Hood’. While Penelope and her friends indulge themselves in their round the world trip, little do they, or the rest of International Rescue, realise the danger they are in..

"well m’lady, I prefer miniskirts m’self…"

Like no other Thunderbirds episode or movie that came before, ‘Thunderbird 6’ is Lady Penelope’s film – a decision made by the writers in direct response to the huge success of 007. This is a great move. Penelope and Parker are easily the most entertaining of the Thunderbirds characters; their British capering being in direct contrast to the stoic seriousness of the all-American Tracy family. As a result, ‘Thunderbird 6’ is one of the most original and entertaining of the Thunderbirds stories. Many of the sets have a very ‘Bond’ feel to them, as does the plot – much more so than in any of the episodes. Indeed, Lady Penelope is depicted very much as Bond’s female equivalent in this film. Surprisingly, we even see the odd person get shot, not just ‘stunned’ as happened so many times in the series. We even get a protracted gunfight in and around the complex machinery of the skyship’s anti-gravity control.

The production values on the movie are even more elaborate than the original film and greatly exceed those of the series itself. As usual, the models and set design are intricate and look authentic, providing an amazing level of detail. Additionally, the makers have gone all out to re-create huge locations from the pyramids in Egypt to the grand canyon.

As a film, ‘Thunderbird 6’ shares some of the faults of the original. The movie makes for a great ‘extended episode’ of the series, but again it doesn’t have epic feel required for the silver screen. Having said this, it does come closer than its predecessor – an indication of the money poured into the production. But ultimately, it’s the straightforward plot that lets it down.

All in all, I enjoyed ‘Thunderbird 6’ much more than its predecessor. It is a much more light-hearted film; self deprecating and funny. Despite other reviews to the contrary, I also found this film substantially more dramatic than the original; the finale displaying that real edge-of-your-seat excitement that is indicative of the series. It's just surprising that the film was made at all. The producers were so surprised at the failure of ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ that they thought it must have been a fluke. With a larger budget, ‘Thunderbird 6’ was completed just as the show's popularity was tailing off. Disappointingly, it faired no better. This is a shame, because it really is an entertaining film.


As with the release of ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’, MGM have provided an anamorphic transfer of ‘Thunderbird 6’ (despite sleeve notes to the contrary) in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image displays vivid colours are deep blacks and, even more so than ‘Thunderbirds are Go’, the film is a real feast for the eyes. The image is always very sharp, causing some of the exterior model shots to exhibit slight aliasing.

With the film being produced in 1968, the print is definitely feeling its age. Early on in the film, the print is very dirty and a large number of film artefacts sully the image – much worse than with ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ (an older film). Thankfully, around the 10 minute mark the volume of film artefacts tail off and remain at a small, constant level. Like the previous film, after settling down these film artefacts are largely unnoticeable - being but small flecks and distracting only in the lighter outdoor shots. Indeed after the 10 minute mark, even though I wouldn't characterise the transfer as clean, it still looks quite nice indeed.

In one or two places, the image does suffer from grain, typically in the sky of darker exterior shots. This is not that as prolific as in ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ and seems to be a product of film speed rather than MPEG compression. At all other times, the image exhibits an impressive amount of detail - showcasing the film’s elaborate model and set design.

The disc is dual layered but the layer change was imperceptible through my player.

Overall, for a film that is older than I am, this transfer of ‘Thunderbird 6’ is pretty good; a little dirtier, but less grainy than the transfer of ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’. This is no reference disc, and the print does have its limitations, but these are minor in the most part and in no way spoil the enjoyment of this richly coloured, detailed and highly visual film.


The soundtrack provided by MGM is equivalent to that supplied with ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’, with only an English stereo presentation. The dialogue is always very clear and nicely integrated, and lip sync is not an issue. Of course, the stereo soundstage is confined to the forward speakers.

Like ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’, the mix is very poor when played through a prologic decoder. All dialogue and music is routed through the centre speaker. Although the dialogue remains clear at all times, the soundstage produced by the decoder is very, very narrow (seeming almost centre-mono), and the surrounds are not utilised. Despite there being many explosions throughout, the decoder routes nothing to the subwoofer.

As with ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’, my advice is to stick with stereo output only.


The menus are 16x9 enhanced, and the main menu is animated with a few sound effects thrown in for good measure. The extras included here are of a similar nature to those included with the ‘Thunderbirds are Go!’ and provide an interesting accompaniment to the film.

Commentary: By far the best addition to the disc is a full-length commentary by producer Sylvia Anderson (also the voice of Lady Penelope) and director David Lane. The commentary is fantastic, revealing all sorts of creative and technical facts about the making of the movie and the series. The two reminisce, and talk continuously throughout the length of the movie. Their affection for the material, and satisfaction in the results is obvious.

Theatrical Trailer: as usual, the trailer has limited re-watch potential, but given its 60s retro appeal it’s interesting nonetheless.

Promotional Stills: also provide some retro appeal, and are interesting in that they seem to be composed of stills of the film, but have been recoloured quite badly.

Behind the Scenes Stills: mildly interesting, giving some idea as to the actual size of the marionettes and the models compared with their operators. Also pictured are some of the scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

‘Thunderbird 6’ is not yet released in R1, and in terms of features and transfer we seem to have the exact same disc as offered in R2.


‘Thunderbird 6’ is an enjoyable film with plenty charm and plenty of 60s nostalgia. It’s a great addition to the Thunderbirds canon, providing one of the most original of all Thunderbirds stories. It is a light, funny film with all the ingredients of a classic Thunderbirds adventure. If it’s a reference quality disc you are after (and by some chance you’ve actually read this far), then believe me this is definitely not the disc for you. But if you love the Thunderbirds, or want to introduce someone else to the Thunderbirds, then they just don’t get any better than this.

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      And I quote...
    "…the Thunderbirds just don’t get any better than this."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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