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THUNDERBIRDS (VOLUMES 5 & 6)

    

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creator:  Gerry Anderson
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  See Review
Length:  Set 5 260 Minutes, Set 6 220 Minutes
Release Date:  April 30, 2002

“Thunderbird One approaching the danger zone!”

Film ***1/2

All good things eventually come to an end, and for Gerry Anderson’s legendary cult TV series Thunderbirds, the untimely demise came after 32 episodes.  Much like Star Trek would later do, Thunderbirds struggled to find a base audience because of studio mishandling and bad judgment, but time would prove it to be no flop as more and more fans would flock to the show over the years.

A&E’s presentation of Sets 5 and 6 mark the completion of International Rescue’s television run, and the studio has taken them out in style by including some good extras on Set 6 along with the last three episodes…more on that further down.

In the year 2065 (or 1965 if you’re on this side of the TV screen), International Rescue first broke on the scene as the philanthropic efforts of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott, Virgil, John, Gordon and Alan.  Along with the help of their engineer friend Brains, their London agent Lady Penelope, and their faithful compatriot Tin-Tin, the team set up base on a remote Pacific island and responded to the emergencies no ordinary crews could take care of.

With an array of fabulous ships and technology at their fingertips, the Tracy boys proved time and time again to be equal to any rescue challenge, be it in the air, on the ground, under the sea or even in outer space.  They saved many lives, averted many a disaster, and still managed to keep their identities a secret from the world!

Gerry Anderson’s vision included a new form of puppetry called Supermarionation, in which standard marionettes were equipped with mouths that electronically moved in time with the words spoken by their actors.  In addition to his cast of characters was an imaginative arsenal that caught the attention of kids and adults alike…how cool it must have been to be a member of International Rescue!

These final sets count down the last eight episodes, and there are some good ones just waiting to join your collection.  “Atlantic Inferno” is one of the team’s best adventures, as Scott has to take the reins of IR in the absence of his vacationing father when an oil rig crisis comes about!  Also included are a couple more of Lady Penelope’s standout shows, including “Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday” and “Alias Mr. Hackenbacker”, where our favorite lady agent gets to do some runway modeling!

Sadly, the next chapter for the Thunderbirds is still waiting to be written.  Gerry Anderson has always been keen on bringing his characters back, but nothing solid has come to pass…the closest was a live action project greenlighted in 1994 with Renny Harlin as director, but it never came to fruition.  As a longtime fan of these marvelous marionettes, I can only hope this won’t be the last we see of International Rescue!

But in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my now complete collection from A&E.

Video ***

A&E finishes this series exactly the way they started it; with quality.  For programs as old as these, they’ve held up well and look good on DVD.  Apart from the occasional bit of aging artifact (a speck here, a flicker there), these shows are well presented.  Coloring is particularly good, with schemes just as vibrant as fans remember.  Images are sharp and clear and no undue grain is apparent.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 remixes for these programs continue to be extraordinary…whoever handled the sound for these discs on behalf of A&E was not timid, and fans can be thankful for that!  The action sequences make the most of the multi-stage capabilities, and the explosiveness of certain scenes give the dynamic range startling depth…if you want a good example, watch “Atlantic Inferno” from Set 5, where fires and explosions crop up all over the place!  The .1 channel gets almost constant use, too, from the aforementioned effects to the sounds of the Thunderbird ships as they take off and soar to the rescue.  F.A.B.!

Features ***

Set 5, like most previous sets, has only a short stills gallery.

Set 6, however, rounds out the Thunderbirds collection nicely with a few extra goodies.  There is an hour long special from 1995, “The Brains Behind Thunderbirds”, featuring Brains as your host for a look back at some of the series’ memorable moments.  “The Making of The Thunderbirds” is an 11 minute behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Supermarionation, as well as some of the shots in progress for the show.  You can also listen as Gerry Anderson talks about his seven favorite shows from the series.

There are also a history of Thunderbirds, a Gerry Anderson biography and filmography, a stills gallery, and character bios, which are kind of interesting.  I learned, for example, that Brains was orphaned as a child when a hurricane struck his hometown in Michigan. 

A hurricane in Michigan??  Now THAT’S a storm with some legs!  ;-)

Summary:

Thunderbirds had to come to an end, but at least for DVD fans, the ending comes with style.  The final two box sets not only complete your collection of the cult favorite TV show, but give you some fun extras to boot.  Enjoy.

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