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With: (voices) Sylvia Anderson, Ray Barrett, Alexander Davion, Peter Dyneley, Christine Finn
Written by: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson
Directed by: David Lane
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: -99
Date: 03/18/2013

Thunderbirds International Rescue Edition 2-Pack Gift Set (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pokey Little Puppets

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmed in "Supermarionation," Gerry Anderson's television marionettesmade the leap to the big screen in style with two full-color Cinemascopeproductions, Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968).

Producer Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane spared no expense in making the productions look spectacular, with all kinds of minute detail and expensive-looking sets and props. But the films have a static, inert quality, mostly due to the fact that, other than simple motions or gestures, the marionettes can't move.

The films follow the adventures of The International Rescue team, which is based on an island paradise and consists of millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons, as well as the scientist Brains, the beautiful Lady Penelope and the loyal Tin Tin.

Even though we're dealing with two full-length films, the stories are more like loosely connected episodes, structured around a lot of expositional dialogue, which in this case is necessary to make up for the lack of movement onscreen. When hijackers strike in the first part of Thunderbirds Are Go, we learn more about it through dialogue than we do action. Nevertheless, the film winds up with a very exciting scene involving a Rescue team member hanging from the bottom of airborne craft, attempting to disable a bunch of wires. Another scene on Mars has an effective monster attack complete with laser-beam fire!

A dream sequence inserted rather awkwardly into the middle of the first film has the youngest Thunderbird fantasizing about going to a fancy club and seeing Cliff Richard and the Shadows perform "Shooting Star." It's a very cool scene, and one of the strangest rock videos ever filmed.

The oddly titled Thunderbird 6 is not the sixth film in the series, it's merely the name of the newest gizmo in the team's arsenal of spaceships and rockets. Again, the film is made up of almost unconnected episodes with a lot of expository dialogue. This time, the nerdy, bespectacled scientist Brains deals with his feelings of being left out.

The voiceover acting is only questionable; it's hard to tell any of the men apart, and Lady Penelope's chauffeur has perhaps the worst English accent ever recorded on film (Kevin Costner aside).

Even if young children will find their static, talky nature a little dull, the sheer scope and imagination involved in thinking up these stories makes these films worth seeing, and has kept them in the hearts and minds of fans for decades.

This new box set comes with lots of extras that fans will gobble up. Each film comes with a commentary track by Sylvia Anderson and David Lane, as well as new featurettes, photo galleries, trailers and quizzes. I wish the featurettes had involved more behind-the-scenes footage of the puppeteers at work. Instead it's all sit-down interviews and footage from the finished films with a scant few old photographs showing the proportions of the models. Best of all, the box comes with a set of refrigerator magnets and cut out spaceships as well as an ad for the soundtrack CD by Barry Gray.

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