THUNDERBIRDS INTERNATIONAL RESCUE EDITION ($30) is one of those really cool DVD releases that could get lost amongst a sea of blockbusters and other classic and not so classic titles coming to disc. Perhaps, if it were not for the fact that THUNDERBIRDS is seeing live-action, big screen remake, these two film versions of the popular puppet series might not be coming to DVD at all. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, THUNDERBIRDS was brought to screen through the miracle of Supermarionation, which (for the uninitiated) was actually some really terrific puppets occupying a beautifully realized high-tech scale model world.
The THUNDERBIRDS television series was coolness personified, as it combined action, adventure, science fiction and just a bit of comedy to tell the story of International Rescue, a super-secret, but benevolent organization operated by former astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons Alan, Gordon, John, Scott and Virgil. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward is an undercover agent, who puts a pretty face on International Rescue, while all of the scientific research and development for the organization is handled by a character that goes by the moniker of "Brains." In addition to saving lives with their five high-tech air, water and space crafts, the members of International Rescue team also have their share of run-ins with some rather villainous types.
THUNDERBIRDS eventually made the leap to the big screen with two motion pictures the upped the scale and ambitiousness of the stories that the films tackled. The THUNDERBIRDS INTERNATIONAL RESCUE EDITION DVD features both theatrical motion pictures- THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and THUNDERBIRD 6 in one very cool collectorís set. The plot of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO finds the members of International Rescue on hand to protect the launch of a manned space flight to Mars. It seems that after a catastrophic first attempt to launch a spacecraft call the Zero-X, it is determined that the services of International Rescue will be required to prevent a second disaster. In THUNDERBIRD 6, members of International Rescue will be the featured guests on board the maiden voyage of Skyship One, a flying cruise ship of sorts, which relies upon antigravity drive designed by none other than Brains. Although Brains was on the guest list, he finds himself stuck back at headquarters with an impossible task- with absolutely no specs, he is required to design an all new rescue ship for the Thunderbird fleet.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and THUNDERBIRD 6 available on DVD in 2.35:1 widescreen presentations, which have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Both films were produced in Techniscope (as were many Spaghetti Westerns) and while there is an inherent graininess to the process, THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and THUNDERBIRD 6 really look marvelous on DVD. Sharpness and detail are excellent for this type of production, plus one gets to appreciate all of the work that went into crafting the world the characters occupy. Colors appear quite vibrant and give one more than an inkling of what original IB Technicolor prints would have looked like. Blacks are accurate, whites are very crisp, plus the picture produces smooth contrast and a nice sense of dimensionality. The film elements from which both movies were transferred appear meticulous, with nary a sign of blemishes or scratches. Each film comes on its own disc and neither displays any noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts.
Both THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO and THUNDERBIRD 6 features remixed 5.1 channel soundtracks in the flavors of Dolby Digital and DTS. Working from original monaural materials, the folks at MGM did a surprisingly good job with these vintage 1960s era soundtracks. There are some nice channel separations across the forward soundstage, while the surround speakers augment the track with an occasional effect, a bit of rumble and musical reinforcement. Sure, no one will confuse these tracks with newer movies, but, all things considered, they are fairly impressive. Dialogue is crisp and completely understandable. The bass channel provides a decent bottom end, but nothing ground shaking. The original monaural soundtracks are also present, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some very nice extras on both discs. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO features an audio commentary with Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane. Featurettes include History And Appeal (ten minutes), which looks as the series creation; Factory Of Dolls And Rockets (eight minutes), which focuses on the fabrication of the puppets and the props; Epics In Miniature (seven minutes), looks at what it took to move the series from television to film and how special effects were accomplished. A quiz, photo gallery, theatrical trailer and bonus trailers close out this discís extras.
THUNDERBIRD 6 also features an audio commentary with Sylvia Anderson and director David Lane. Featurettes include Lady Penelope (ten minutes), which profiles the series loveliest character; Building Better Puppets (eight minutes), examines the necessities of photographing the characters for the big screen; Tiger Moth (six minutes), looks at the full size and scale model biplane used for the film. Again, a quiz, photo gallery, theatrical trailer and bonus trailers close out the discís extras. The two film set also comes in nifty looking packaging that also includes some FAB punch out refrigerator magnets and models of the movieís nifty hardware.
As I stated above, THUNDERBIRDS INTERNATIONAL RESCUE EDITION is a really cool DVD release that shouldnít be overlooked. Not only are these moves fun (especially if you are feeling nostalgic), they look great and feature some really nice extras. If you are a fan, the set is a must have. If you have never experienced the show or the movies, this two film set is an excellent way to get your feet wet.
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