The Gerry Anderson Collection
By: David Michael Brown on February 29, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 2275 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Created by: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson
Starring: Puppets and the vocal talents of Sylvia Anderson, Paul Maxwell, John Bluthal, Gerry Anderson, David Graham Music: Barry Gray
Country: UK
Year: 1961/ 1961/ 1969
There wouldn't be too many readers out there who didn't spend some part of their childhood in front of the electronic baby sitter watching the work of puppeteer extraordinaire Gerry Anderson. From the action packed heroics of Thunderbirds to the dark sinister adult world of Captain Scarlet (loved those unshaved puppets!) the shows were a massive leap of imagination beyond your usual toddler fare. His shows are the stuff of television legend: Joe 90, Terrahawks, Stingray - all hark back to an era when "Supermarionation is Go"

After a few false starts Supercar marked the beginning of a series of shows that made Anderson one of the most successful children's television producers of all time. Watching the show now, in all its monochrome glory, it's not hard to see why the show was such a success back in the Sixties. The puppets are very incredibly stylised; Anderson still wasn't at the point of attempting to create realistic puppets. None of the puppets look particularly human; their wild eyes and insane eye brows make them look more like the toys that I'm sure they inspired in the era.

Fireball XL5 was a massive success and paved the way for Anderson's later work. The show is quintessential Sixties sci-fi entertainment. From the fine line of spaceships, aliens and strange creatures to the incredibly catchy theme tune; the adventures of Steve Zodiac and the crew of Fireball XL5 became the template for children's sci-fi entertainment for years to come. It's interesting looking at the designs of the puppets and how you can see the characters from Thunderbirds gradually coming to shape. Steve Zodiac looks like any of the Tracy brothers, scientist Matt Matic is a definite forerunner of Brains and Venus could easily be mistaken for Lady Penelope or Stingray's Aqua Marina.

Whilst the previous two projects marked the beginning of an era, the rarely seen The Secret Service marked the end. Anderson was to enter the world of live action for many years to come producing such sci-fi classics as U.F.O. and Space 1999. Following in the footsteps of Captain Scarlet, the puppets are made to look as realistic as possible; in fact I'm sure he reused some of the puppets from that show. The show is a strange watch; the fusion of puppets and real people, usually restricted to hands and feet, is odd to say the least. The opening credits show British comedy legend Stanley Unwin, playing an old priest, peering out of the church window. From that point on, he is played by a puppet unless he is shown in long shot driving his vintage car. The mix between the two isn't particularly successful but adds to The Secret Service's bizarre charm. The show follows the adventures of Father Unwin and his special shrinking machine. Working for the British Government, he regularly miniaturises his sidekick and special agent Mathew Harding, puts him in his suitcase and heads out to foil the enemies dastardly plans. The show lasted for 13 episodes and remained a rarely glimpses entry in the Anderson cannon, until now.
Video
The transfers of the show are clear and sharp, so sharp that the strings holding the puppets are almost constantly visible. The black and white image of the first two shows has good contrast and looks amazingly good considering the age of them and also how well masters used to be kept by TV channels back in the day. The Secret Service looks bright, clear and vibrant.
Audio
These were recorded for television so the mono mixes are as good as can be expected, easy to listen to but hardly going to worry your surround system.
Extra Features
The Box set includes three separate sets, one for each show, that make up a whopping 13 discs. The main bulk of the special features are included on an extra disc enclosed in the six disc Fireball XL5 set. The main extra being a full length 90 minute documentary Full Boost Vertical: The Supercar Story. The doco includes interviews with many of the original cast and filmmakers and also has a CGI recreation of the AP Films studio in Slough. You also get clips and titles in French and Spanish along with a stills gallery and TV Spots. The only downer is redundant colourised footage of the black and white Supercar and Fireball XL5.

The Fireball XL5 disc also includes a separate stills gallery and Umbrella trailers.

The six disc Supercar collection includes behind the scenes image of the show as well as TV Spots and Umbrella trailers.

The Secret Service 2 disc set extras include behind the scenes images, TV Spots and the usual selection of Umbrella trailers.
The Verdict
What's not to love; these shows may not be as iconic as Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet but they are the forerunners of a series of shows that kept a generation of kids off the street. Supercar was a revolutionary show and is given the extra special treatment here but all the shows are given the reverential respect they deserve. An essential purchase for anyone with an interest in the history of children's television and a timely reminder of how far downhill the vacuous excuses for kids TV our juniors now have to watch.
Movie Score
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