Star Fleet X Bomber - The Complete Series (aka Ekkusu
Bonba/1980/Umbrella Entertainment/Region Four/4/PAL)
Sound: C Extras: C+ Episodes: C+
PLEASE NOTE: This DVD can only be operated on
machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region 4 PAL format
software and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the
website address provided at the end of the review.
The team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson produced an amazing
cycle of TV shows featuring two levels of advanced puppets know as
SuperMarionation. The commercial peak of
the original shows with more obvious puppets was the amazingly successful Thunderbirds, but soon, Captain Scarlet introduced even more
advanced variants that looked more like humans and what we now think of as
action figures. It was all downhill for
me after Scarlet and the Andersons
stopped making the shows. Then two shows
we might consider the “next stage” arrived in the early 1980s.
One was the Anderson’s collaboration with Jim Henson known
as Terrahawks and the other is the
less-known-in-the-U.S. hit Star Fleet X
Bomber from 1980. This was not made
by The Andersons, but by a Japanese company who were convinced that with Scarlet-like puppets, a Star Wars-like TV show could be made
for a relatively reasonable budget and the greenlight produced 24 half-hours
and the show was a hit. If the sets and
most of the puppets had not burned down in a fire, there would have been more
Combining elements of Star
Wars, Flash Gordon, SuperMarionation series, Ultraman, Shogun
Warriors, Japanese Animé, Japanese Manga and the original Speed Racer, the show played like a Saturday Morning movie serial
and pits the evil Doctor Benn against the loyal fighting members of Earth
Defense Force led by Shiro Hagen. From
there, it is comedy scene, followed by a battle, followed by another scene and
another battle. Though not as good as
what it imitates, it does it with such energy and amusement that it is a
one-of-a-kind show that was ahead of the 1980s curve and seems like a newer
show based on the content.
TV producer Michael Sloan wrote the English-language script that set up the
show and the series was additionally lucky to land some great character actors
to do the new voices including Peter Marinker, Garrick Hagon, Kevin Brennan,
Jay Benedict, Constantine Gregory, Liza Ross, Mark Rolston, Denise Bryer, John
Baddeley, Jacob Witkin and Sean Barrett.
They were having fun making this show over in English and the work shows
of the effects look dated, but I liked the model work and though their version
of SuperMarionation is not as good as Captain Scarlet, a few ways they make up for it is in the visual
character they get into some of puppets, many of which will remind you of the
darker side of Speed Racer in the
best possible way. I also thought it
nostalgic for a time when everyone wanted to imitate Star Wars, a Star Wars
that is lost to its various digitally overloaded makeovers and sequels. The effects might remind one more of Galaxina or Laser Blast, but this shows’ ambitions are the number one thing
that hold it together on what is coming up on its 30th
Anniversary. If you have never seen the
show and especially like these kinds of productions, Star Fleet X Bomber is required viewing and this set is loaded with
extras to boot.
x 1 image is soft throughout the set, likely older transfers of the original
film material. Though watchable, it
reminded me of the older transfers on the now out-of-print BCI Eclipse editions
of Ultraman. When this happens in a pre-digital visual
effects outer space production like this, it makes the models and other things
look phonier than they were intended to be.
The case states that these are restored, but they need more work. The Dolby Digital 2.0 English Mono is also a
generation down and some harmonic distortion can be heard, but the original
Japanese audio is not in this set.
Extras include a full color 56-page comic book in the
case, plus all four DVD have extras.
Text synopsis are included on all shows, DVD 1 adds an overall series
synopsis, background and English dubbing cast list, DVD 2 adds character and
machine profiles, DVD 3 has a really good making of featurette where even Gerry
Anderson himself is interviewed and we get the Music Video for Brian May of
Queen’s solo vocal theme song to the show, then DVD 4 adds several still
galleries, my favorite of which is of tie-in memorabilia.
For more on the SuperMarionation shows, try these links:
As noted above, you can order this PAL DVD import
exclusively from Umbrella at:
- Nicholas Sheffo