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Thunderbirds: International Rescue Edition

David Lane

Thunderbirds: International Rescue Edition
Based on the British TV series Thunderbirds (1964-'66), these two feature films (1966, 1968) hit stores on July 20, coinciding with the release of a live action Thunderbirds film directed by Jonathan Frakes (aka Ryker from Star Trek: The Next Generation). Live action? Sounds like a cheap attempt to ride the back of a name show using an existing script, because Hollywood can't squeeze out an original idea these days. Relieving Thunderbirds of "super-marionation" defeats the purpose of the concept, which is as follows: millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, his five sons (a multi-hero premise inspired by Bonanza!) and secret agent Lady Penelope are International Rescue, an Earth-based team that coordinates missions throughout the galaxy in Thunderbird ships. And, apart from the occasional seamless live action inserts, everything is handmade. In the wake of major developments in SFX and CGI, not to mention the acceleration of editing, Thunderbirds may look quaint to today's audience, but the achievements of its creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were absolutely amazing at the time. Sure, the marionettes are slightly disturbing - their shifty eyes, their inability to walk (hence the "futuristic" transport), their frozen faces (each doll had several heads to change expression) and their generally awkward appearance (posing rather than moving). Despite this, the marionettes and their costumes are beautifully crafted and the tech is brilliant. Considering the gruelling work that went into every detail, it's no wonder the camera lingers so lovingly (even perversely) on each spacecraft, launch, landing, gunfight, fire fight and explosion, which are plentiful in these stories of rampaging aliens, hijacked ships and Bond-style international intrigue, complete with comedic tangents. The films will reward your patience, and the DVDs' excellent bonuses - commentary by David Lane and Sylvia Anderson, fascinating featurettes, photo galleries, quizzes and trailers - are worth the price alone. (MGM)
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