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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Spy > SuperMarionation > Thunderbirds: International Rescue Edition (1966 - 68/MGM DVDs)

Thunderbirds - International Rescue Edition (MGM DVDs/theatrical films double feature: Thunderbirds Are Go! (1966)/Thunderbirds 6 (1968))

Picture: B- Sound: B- Extras: B- Films:

Thunderbirds Are Go! (1966) B/Thunderbirds 6 (1968) C

PLEASE NOTE: This double feature has been issued in a limited edition Blu-ray edition from Twilight Time and you can read more about at this link:


The hit TV series Thunderbirds could have run even longer than it did, but ITC owner Lord Lew Grade wanted a new show. However, it was still enough of a hit that a deal was struck with United Artists to do two theatrical feature films. They would be big, widescreen productions, and allow for the only time in the history of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's entire SuperMarionation series to be presented in something more than 1.33 X 1 narrow vision framing.

Thunderbirds Are Go! is a gem of a film, with the biggest budget the franchise ever had, the already great model work (with some strings literally attached) got a full exercise the TV show could have never offered. The film is done like a James Bond epic, as well as a serious thriller, which makes for a very entertaining and hilarious viewing. Especially in an age of too many digital effects, the work done here is incredible and endures strongly nearly 40 years later. It finishes what the series started in so many ways and would be the most impressive model work in a feature film until Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey arrived two years later. Most feature films even today do not look this good in that department.

It also helps that this offers a really good story about a special space ship called the Zero-X (did anyone say Xerox?) being sabotaged by a terrorist attack, but it turns out to be old enemies of International Rescue and the Tracy Family after all. They are the ones who own the Thunderbird technology via their billionaire father. Unlike the recent live-action feature that did not involve any of the original minds here, this takes itself much more seriously and does not break the Anderson's cardinal role of treating the younger audience childishly. The later live-action film that bombed played like a retread of the already tired Spy Kids franchise.

Even the much inferior Thunderbirds 6, which is not written as well, has less money up on the screen and makes to many jokes out of the material never gets as lame. It still has its issues, including a sudden turn-about in which British Spy Lady Penelope (voiced by Sylvia Anderson) treats her ethnic assistant and driver Parker like an idiot. It is like bad racist humor from old Hollywood films et al, but never is any of this funny. As a matter of fact, it is degrading in a way none of Anderson's shows ever were. Even the title refers to something that should be exciting and also is made into a big, dumb joke. It was a mistake and if you see it, you'll know why this did not develop into the film series it could have, and all this despite the same creative people. What were they thinking, or did Captain Scarlet (also reviewed elsewhere on this site) make them lose interest in this franchise?

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 Techniscope frames for both are an improvement over the previous letterboxed 12-inch LaserDiscs MGM issued as a double feature years ago. It cannot be said that the color is the best example of the three-strip Technicolor the original film prints were issued in, but it has its moments. As noted in other reviews, Techniscope was a forerunner of Super 35mm to show a scope frame without using actual scope lenses. It makes sense to shoot all these puppets in an optical version of scope, with all the strings and all, but it also allows more light into the camera and all these puppet shows took so much lighting to begin with.

The theatrical sound was originally optical mono and MGM's old 12-inch LaserDisc sets only offered PCM CD-type 2.0 Mono, but the new DVD set offers 5.1 remixes in Dolby & even DTS (a rarity for MGM). Though not always as articulately remixed as the episodes A&E issued on their now out-of-print DVDs, the fullness of the PCM from the LaserDiscs is more than retained by the DTS, but both 5.1 mixes sound more like a spreading out of the mono than a multi-channel rethink of the sound. Car chases and ship launching are enough of the exception that the DTS is the best way to go, but it makes the viewings better than ever. Barry Gray's approximation of some of John Barry's James Bond scores is impressive, but most of the music is more typical of his great work for the series. The mix of the two is very balanced and effective.

There are a bunch of extras on the DVDs, as well as in the case. As a matter of fact, the case is one of the extras, as you can punch out all five vehicles with a foldout on the back of the foil box. There are also 20 punch-out magnets inside each case, so this offers more than you will find for kids and collector's in just about any other DVD release to date in that respect. Both have animated photo galleries, quizzes, their original theatrical trailers, and full-length audio commentaries by Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane, a veteran director of many of the SuperMarionation TV series, including Thunderbirds. He directed both feature films.

Each DVD also offers three featurettes. The first film offers History & Appeal, Factory Of Dolls & Rockets, and Epics In Miniature, while the second offers Lady Penelope, Building Better Puppets and Tiger Moth. As has been the case in all of the TV series on DVD from A&E, the extras have been fun and are very informative and rich in information. Sylvia Anderson's commentaries continue to be some the best you will ever hear and with all that, this will go down as one of the best DVD double sets anyone ever issued. Get it for the fun of it!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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