Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thunderbirds Are Go - Trailer (1966)

Thunderbirds Are Go is a 1966 British science-fiction film based on Thunderbirds, a 1960s television series starring marionette puppets and featuring scale model effects in a filming process dubbed "Supermarionation". Written by Thunderbirds creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, directed by David Lane and produced by AP Films, Thunderbirds Are Go develops the franchise with a plot focusing on the futuristic spacecraft Zero-X and its manned mission to Mars. When Zero-X suffers a mechanical failure during re-entry, it is up to International Rescue, with the aid of the Thunderbird machines, to save the astronauts onboard before the spacecraft is obliterated in a crash landing. Filmed from March to June 1966 and premiering in December,Thunderbirds Are Go includes, in a first for an AP Films production, cameo appearances from puppets of real-life celebrities Cliff Richard and The Shadows, who also contributed to the musical score. It is also the first motion picture to have been filmed with an early form of video assist technology known as "Add-a-Vision", and incorporated landscape footage that was shot on location in Portugal. Special effects pieces, produced under the supervision of Derek Meddings and including rocket launch sequences, space shots and a miniature representation of the Martian surface, required six months to complete. Despite positive initial reviews, which praised the film as a well-made cinematic transfer of the Thunderbirds television series, Thunderbirds Are Go soon proved to be a box office failure for the Andersons. The disappointment of this outcome was intensified by the knowledge that Series Two of Thunderbirds would be cut down to six episodes and that AP Films' upcoming television project would be a brand-new series, which would later be titled Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and screened from 1967. To add to the lukewarm public response, negative critical reception of Thunderbirds Are Go has targeted, besides other aspects, the characterisation of the puppet cast, the running time dedicated to model and effects shots, and the fantasy dream sequence starring Cliff Richard and The Shadows, which has been described as a poor scriptwriting idea on the part of the Andersons. Surprised by the underperformance of Thunderbirds Are Go, the United Artists distributors authorised the production of a sequel. However, Thunderbird 6 received a similarly unenthusiastic response on its release in 1968, and the Thunderbirds franchise was abandoned until the appearance of a reboot, starring live actors, in 2004. Meanwhile, the Zero-X astronauts featured in their own strip in the Anderson-related TV Century 21 comic until 1969.

In 2065, the Zero-X spacecraft launches from Glenn Field as the first attempt at a manned mission to Mars. Unknown to Captain Paul Travers and his crew of two astronauts and two scientists, criminal mastermind The Hood has infiltrated the ship to photograph Zero-X's wing mechanism. When his foot becomes trapped in the hydraulics, The Hood causes a systems failure and Zero-X loses control. While the villain manages to extract his bloodied foot and parachute from the undercarriage, Travers and his crew eject in an escape pod and Zero-X crashes into the ocean before leaving Earth's atmosphere. In 2067, at the conclusion of an investigation into the loss of Zero-X, the Inquiry Board of the Space Exploration Center reaches a verdict of sabotage. In the meantime, a second Mars mission has been planned. Days before the launch of the new Zero-X, International Rescue agrees to a request to organise security in view of the possibility of another sabotage threat. Jeff Tracy dispatches Scott to Glenn Field in Thunderbird 1, while Virgil in Thunderbird 2 and Alan in Thunderbird 3 are assigned to escort Zero-X as it leaves the atmosphere. Posing as a reporter at the pre-launch press conference, Lady Penelope ensures that Travers and the other four crewmembers are delivered St. Christopher brooches. Ostensibly for luck, these are in fact homing devices. The next day, a search for Dr Grant's brooch checks negative. Scott unmasks the man waiting for lift-off onboard Zero-X as The Hood in another of his disguises. The saboteur flees Glenn Field in a car, which Penelope and Parker pursue in FAB1. Transferring to a speedboat, and then a helicopter piloted by an accomplice, The Hood is apparently killed when Parker shoots the aircraft down with the Rolls-Royce's built-in machine gun. Meanwhile, the real Grant is returned to Zero-X and the spacecraft launches without further incident. Mission accomplished, Penelope invites Scott and Virgil to join her at "The Swinging Star", a fashionable nightclub. Landing back on Tracy Island after escorting Zero-X, Alan feels unappreciated when Jeff insists that he remain on standby at base while his brothers spend the night partying. In bed, Alan experiences a surreal dream in which Parker "flies" him and Penelope in FAB1 to a version of The Swinging Star located in space. Present at the interstellar nightclub are "Cliff Richard Jr" and The Shadows, who perform a song titled "Shooting Star" and an instrumental, "Lady Penelope". The dream sequence ends abruptly when Alan plummets from The Swinging Star back to Earth and awakes to discover he has fallen out of bed.

After a six-week flight, the Zero-X Martian Exploration Vehicle lands on Mars on July 22. While investigating the barren surface, the crew are puzzled to encounter strange rock formations arranged into coils. Space Captain Greg Martin blasts one of the structures with the MEV gun and Dr Pierce prepares to leave the vehicle to collect samples. However, the other formations stir into motion and reveal themselves to be one-eyed "Rock Snakes". Under attack from the extraterrestrials, which are able to shoot fireballs from their "mouths", the Zero-X explorers are forced to effect a premature departure from the Martian surface. Docking with the orbiting command module piloted by Space Navigator Brad Newman, the astronauts start the flight back to Earth. As Zero-X re-enters Earth's atmosphere on September 2, a lifting body launched to assist the controlled descent fails to interface, damaging the escape pod circuit. With Zero-X locked in descent and set to impact Craigsville, Florida,[n 3] Jeff sends out Scott and Brains in Thunderbird 1 and Virgil, Alan and Gordon in Thunderbird 2. Winched into Zero-X's undercarriage, Alan must risk being trapped onboard the spacecraft as Brains advises him on re-routing the damaged escape circuit. With Craigsville evacuated, Alan is left seconds to detach his cable, and Travers and the others eject just in time, before Zero-X crashes spectacularly into Craigsville. Collected by Penelope and Parker in FAB1, Alan is driven to the real Swinging Star and Penelope, joined by the Tracy family, Brains and Tin-Tin, all disguised to conceal their identities, propose a toast to Alan as the "hero of the day".



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