Thunderbirds-Volume 2 (1964)

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Released 14-Mar-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-The Secrets (15:19 mins)
Notes-Thunderbird Facts
Notes-The Machines
Gallery-Photo-(10)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 193:24 (Case: 200)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Lane
Desmond Saunders
David Eliot
Studio
Distributor
Carlton Entertainmnt
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case C-Button-Version 1
RPI $34.95 Music Barry Gray


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I wonder - do I have to tell you what the Thunderbirds are all about? Surely you watched it as children? I conducted an informal poll, and discovered that not everybody did watch Thunderbirds as a child - some people grew up in non-English speaking countries. So for those people, here is a brief explanation of what the Thunderbirds is all about:

    Thunderbirds was a popular TV series in the 60s which has been re-run ever since. Of all the Gerry Anderson efforts it is probably the best-known and most popular. Gerry Anderson invented a technique called Supermarionation, which he used to make a number of science fiction programmes, including Stingray (about an advanced submarine), Captain Scarlet (about a man rendered indestructible by the Mysterons), Joe 90 (about a boy genius), and, of course, Thunderbirds. Supermarionation uses puppets (technically, they are marionettes, hence Supermarionation) for the actors, and models for everything else. See the featurette for more details. Eventually Gerry Anderson went on to produce TV series using humans; the first was UFO, while the second was Space: 1999.

    Thunderbirds is about an organization called International Rescue. This organization is not government-based - it is run by a man and his five sons (all of whom are named after US astronauts), with help from a number of colourful minor characters, perhaps the most famous being Brains, credited as their engineer (more like a not-quite-mad scientist), although Lady Penelope, with her pink Rolls Royce, is difficult to displace. International Rescue help when no one else can; they have a range of large specialized machines intended for rescuing people from a range of disasters. Some of these machines are called Thunderbirds, and some aren't - the Mole, for example, is not a Thunderbird. There are five Thunderbirds:

    International Rescue is secret for some reason I have never discovered - the best suggestion I've heard is that they don't want their technology used for evil purposes. The Thunderbirds (except TB5) are housed underground, and launch in interesting ways - the swimming pool slides aside when TB1 takes off, TB2 slides out from a cliff (and the palm trees tilt aside to let it pass), while TB3 launches through a circular lounge area.

    32 episodes of Thunderbirds were made, and all of them are being transferred to DVD. That works out very nicely at eight discs, each holding four episodes. Four episodes per disc is better value than another science fiction show, where you only get two episodes per disc.

    Enough of the background. What about this disc? The four episodes on this disc are:

    The Uninvited: Thunderbird 1 is shot down by three mysterious jet fighters, and crash lands in a desert. Scott is rescued by a pair of archaeologists, who later get into trouble with the same people who shot down TB1. The people are never identified in the episode, but they are apparently the Zombites.

    The Mighty Atom: Trouble starts in an Australian atomic plant which is processing seawater into pure water for irrigation. An unnamed bad guy (not identified in the episode, but apparently known as The Hood) is intent on stealing the secrets of the plant, and, when he gets the chance, of International Rescue, too. Oh, how badly the British do Australian accents - I had to see a sign to realize that the accent was meant to be Australian. There is a demonstration, too, of how badly they know our geography - a radioactive dust cloud comes from a reactor that is on an unspecified coast, but next to a desert, and it is blowing towards Melbourne (interesting), but we are saved by a change of wind which blows the cloud away to the south-south-east (very interesting...). I had my disbelief in strong suspenders for that bit. They also showed tumbleweeds in the Australian outback. Oh, and the fish swimming around Thunderbird 4 are, I think, white clouds - small (3 or 4 cm) freshwater fish (yeah, yeah, I'm getting really picky).

    The Vault of Death: an episode highlighting Lady Penelope and her butler Parker. We learn quite a bit about Parker's past as a safe-cracker. It must be remembered, while watching this episode, that in 1964 smoking was quite acceptable, and jokes about women drivers were much more common than in our enlightened times.

    Operation Crash Dive: a new aircraft, called the Fireflash, crashes under mysterious circumstances. International Rescue personnel get involved in finding out why, after rescuing the crew of one crashed aircraft from their submerged craft.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    OK, we're talking about a TV series made in 1964. Prior to this, the only 1964 TV series I had seen on DVD was The Avengers, and the video quality of that was not good. I did not have high expectations. In fact, I expected to be writing something along the lines of "considering that this was made in 1964...".

    I was stunned.

    A lot of the video, particularly any shots with the puppets, has very high image quality. The picture is sharp, clear, and detailed. There is no trace of edge enhancement, nor grain. No low level noise. Few, if any, artefacts. This is a fantastic transfer, from source material which has been well preserved. I would be delighted to get this good a transfer of a current programme.

    A few times I thought I caught sight of a hair on the film, but in each case it proved to be a puppet string. The strings are often visible, but this is part of the charm of this genre, together with the horrible walk, and the close ups of hands doing things.

    Not all of the video is as good, though. Many of the shots involving models, especially stock shots (Thunderbirds in flight, the island home) are softer and grainier, and show rather more flecks, spots, and dirt. I have marked down the transfer for this, but bear in mind that most of the video is very good.

    In The Uninvited, the only notable film artefact was dirt and flecks on the stock shot of the island, at 14:40. There is some aliasing on the external banister immediately afterwards, and a touch of wobble, as well. Interestingly, in another episode the same shot has no aliasing, and no wobble. There's a nice opportunity for the "spot-the-slip" crowd at 15:53 - the string pulling the model jeep along isn't visible, but the sand it moves certainly is; they get another chance at 29:10, when the ground shakes.

    In The Mighty Atom, there are some serious film artefacts in the explosion at 10:15, and some minor aliasing on the Press badge at 11:20.

    In The Vault of Death, there's a single frame with a large white blot over a character's mouth - looks like a piece of tape. The character is unaware of the trouble he's in at the time, so I doubt the tape was intended to keep him quiet.

    In Operation Crash Dive, we see a bit of wobble on a few of the shots, and a bit more in the way of flecks and dirt. Perhaps this episode wasn't stored quite as carefully as the others?

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    OK, I was expecting a basic video transfer, and I got much more. What about the sound? I was originally expecting a mono soundtrack, with limited dynamics. The amazing video quality ratcheted my expectations up more than a little, though, and the cover promised a 5.1 soundtrack...

    Unfortunately, my original expectations were more accurate in this case.

    The soundtrack is mostly mono during dialogue scenes, with the occasional burst of stereo, but that was rare. Despite being mono, the dialogue was always clear and intelligible. Audio sync was never a visible problem, but it is much harder to spot with a puppet's lip movements.

    The signature tune comes through loud and clear - we get the full 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and theme/credits music for every episode. It's bold, brassy, and completely in keeping with the show. The music is reinforced by the subwoofer, and shows good dynamics.

    The surround speakers can be heard whenever there is music, but they appear to be playing the same material as the front channels - sort of a deep stereo, rather than a true surround sound. I wondered if this was one of my amplifiers' pseudo-surround modes, but I checked, and they were all disengaged. The soundtrack truly launched into stereo, with some surround activity, and lots of subwoofer, whenever there were explosions, and there are lots of explosions in Thunderbirds; we get explosions whenever a Thunderbird is launched, but the really big explosions happen at the rescue sites. On a couple of the explosions there is noticeable distortion - I suspect this is present in the source material, because it can still be heard at reduced volume.

    In Operation Crash Dive there is a nice stereo fly-by, which unfortunately emphasized how little other stereo content there was in the soundtrack.

    As previously mentioned, the subwoofer got a major workout doing explosions, to a somewhat exaggerated extent. Still, this is Thunderbirds, so a bit of extra oomph is OK.

    One thing was noticeably absent, though - there was very little noise in the soundtrack - no pops, clicks, or hiss. Quite impressive, really, for a programme that's 36 years old.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A nice selection of extras, particularly for a TV programme of this age.

Menu

    The menu appears with the familiar Thunderbirds countdown. Once it appears, it is static, but it is easy to use, which is something I value more highly than fancy animation.

    When you select an episode it takes you straight to the scene selection for that episode - there is no "play episode" button. This surprised me a little, but all you need to do is hit Play.

Featurette: The Secrets (15:19)

    This featurette includes interviews with a couple of the people involved in the crew. Brains introduces some archival footage, which looks like it comes from a current affairs programme, made in 1965. It is black and white, and has a good look at how Thunderbirds was made - it shows how the marionettes are made, and how some of the special effects were done. Quite an interesting piece, and far superior to many of the Making Of features we see today.

Thunderbird Facts

    This is comprised of 11 screens of "fact sheets" containing some interesting details on the series. Perhaps the most interesting is that "FAB" (the International Rescue way of saying "OK") doesn't stand for anything.

The Machines

    7 more screens, one for each of the Thunderbirds, plus the Mole, and FAB1 - Lady Penelope's car.

Stills Gallery

    This has 10 stills from the show, in no particular order.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc has yet to be released, and it is unclear whether it will have more content, but I doubt it. This disc has the same content as the Region 2 version, which is unsurprising. Right now, I'd call our Region 4 disc the equal of any other. The one difference I have noticed is that there is a box set available in Region 2, containing all eight episode discs, plus a bonus disc of supplements. I don't know if the box set will be released here, but true fans of the show might want to check this.

Summary

    I was impressed. I remember watching Thunderbirds as a child, but I never saw it looking this good. The plots are a little contrived, but they are good wholesome fun - superior to a lot of the TV produced for children today. If you have children (or remember Thunderbirds fondly from your own childhood) then I'd encourage you to get this disc. If you are a real fan, then check whether the box set will be coming out.

    The video quality is very good; what flaws there are are minor, and transitory.

    The audio quality is a little disappointing, but only because the video is so good.

    The extras are quite good for a TV programme of this age.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, March 09, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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