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Thunderbirds are GO/Thunderbird 6 (Double Feature)

In film history, the Kuleshov Experiment is famous because it proved the power of editing. It consisted of an actor — photographed with a blank expression — and then the film cutting way to things like a bowl of soup, a beautiful woman, or a crying baby. These things then influenced how the audience interpreted the man's frame-of-mind. If it was food, he was hungry; if it was a woman, he was leering. Consider this before watching Thunderbirds are GO and Thunderbird 6 (1966/1968) — Thunderbirds illustrates the limitations of editing, and much of the drama in the Gerry Anderson-created movies is about cutting between puppets reacting to miniatures. In the Kuleshov Experiment, what makes it work is that it's easy to infer human emotion. It's much more difficult to personify a puppet that's emotions are glued on to its face. Or at least, once you're older than 12. The appeal of Anderson's "Supermarionation" (using marionettes, Anderson's technique was to have the characters walk as little as possible, therefore never showing the strings, while using human models for any hand activity) has always been kids-centric, but for those looking for a taste of nostalgia may find themselves easily bored. Similar to the "Bonanza" family template, the all-male Tracys run the Thunderbird International Rescue organization. Headed up by father Jeff, his five sons Alan, Gordon, John, Scott, and Virgil each have their own neat-o craft (three flying ships, an underwater craft, and a space station) to help people in trouble, while the team is complemented by designer Brains, and by female spy Lady Penelope and her driver Parker. Often fighting the evil mastermind known only as "The Hood," the series was popular in England, where they created 32 episodes from 1964-66, which eventually were imported stateside. Thunderbirds are GO was the first Thunderbirds movie, and it follows the Tracy family as it tries to help shepherd the Zero-X spaceship on its flight to Mars. The first Zero-X crashed because The Hood (in a cameo appearance) was trying to learn its secrets, and while a second one is built the Tracy family is there to make sure it succeeds. But there is turmoil in the Tracy family as Alan wishes to be included in more of the action (he gets a fabulous dream sequence where he goes out clubbing with Lady Penelope and gets sung to by a puppet version of British pop idol Cliff Richard). Thunderbird 6 follows Brains as he designs the flying airship Skyship One, to which Lady Penelope, Alan, and Tracy family friend Tin-Tin are on for its maiden voyage. But what they don't know is that the crew has been replaced by terrorists who plan to get Lady Penelope to say the words they need to get Jeff to send two of the Thunderbird ships to locations where the terrorist might be able to steal them. But Penelope and Alan quickly become wise to the charade and hope to thwart the terrorists before anyone gets hurt, while Brains deals with how to add a new ship (the titular "Thunderbird 6") to the Tracy rescue fleet.

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One's enjoyment of the Thunderbirds will probably be determined by how much pleasure one can get from model work. Though both films have involving enough plots and some intrigue, there are many sequences where one can do little but appreciate the minutiae. For instance, in GO it takes over nine minutes of screen time to watch the Zero X assemble itself, load its pilots, and take off — which may be fascinating to watch because of the intricacies of the model work, but is not exactly great drama. This could be said for both films' plots as well. One is never all that thrilled by the action, but mostly just impressed by the craftsmanship. The films' (and show's) most interesting character is Lady Penelope (voiced by producer/writer/co-creator Sylvia Anderson), who is the ultimate elegant master female spy. As children's entertainment, the material never talks down to its audience, while also keeping the semblance of being children's entertainment by never engaging in the more risqué James Bond elements — that is to say, it's never overtly sexual or violent — though there are numerous explosions. Released in tandem with the 2004 live-action update, MGM has put both films in a DVD package called the International Rescue Edition that presents both on separate platters in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS audio. The original mono soundtracks are also included. Both titles come with a wealth of supplements; on both discs are audio commentaries by Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane, animated photo galleries, the theatrical trailers, and quizzes that lead to bonus interview footage of Sylvia Anderson. With GO are the self-explanatory featurettes "History and Appeal" (10 min.), "Factory of Dolls and Rockets" (8 min.), and "Epics in Miniature" (8 min.), while T6 features the featurettes "Lady Penelope" (10 min.), "Building Better Puppets" (8 min.), and "Tiger Moth" (6 min.). Also included are paper-doll versions of the ships and a set of collector's magnets. Two keep-cases in cardboard slipcase.
—DSH



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