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Thursday, December 10, 2015

'Filmed in Supermarionation' DVD: Documenting Career of 'Thunderbirds' Creator Gerry Anderson


[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region-Four DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. player; it requires a well-worth buying international player.]

Australian DVD producer/distributor god Madman Entertainment achieves the documentary ideal of being equally educational and entertaining regarding two recent DVD releases.

"Filmed in Supermarionation," which comprehensively tells the tale of '60s kids' classic "Thunderbirds" creator Gerry Anderson, is our current subject. A perfect example of the legacy of Anderson is the highly significant other of your (sometimes) humble reviewer saying "we've seen this before" on watching the first few seconds of "Filmed," and the response being "No, that was (the Trey Parker/Matt Stone comedy) "Team America World Police." The latter film itself is a perfect example of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. F**k yeah!!

A post on "Saturday Night at the Movies," which is equally comprehensive regarding the movie palaces and less grand venues in Australia, is scheduled for the week of December 20, 2015.

A related recent Madman 2-disc DVD release is "The Lost Worlds of Gerry Anderson." This one has a literal plethora of previously unseen animated and live-action productions of Anderson. These rarities include an early marionette production of Andersen and live-action films along the lines of "Space: 1999" and other Andersen sci-fi classics.

The following YouTube clip of an early "Filming" scene concisely (and humorously) summarizes the concept of the film.


Very aptly for the subject, the narrators of "Filmed" include the manufactured-English Lady Penelope and Parker from "Thunderbirds." These characters introduce each segment, which begins in the '50s with forming the team that Gerry leads for roughly 20 years. Having several members of the team reunite to reminisce puts almost a human face on our topic as Penelope and Parker.

Watching the meat puppets visit their old stomping grounds and relive their highs and lows is fascinating and provides the same sense of family as the team that Jim Henson creates to bring the puppets to life. The almost literally final insult that Team Anderson endures is almost literally heartbreaking.

Highlights from the coverage of the early days include Sylvia Anderson, whose personal relationship with and subsequent marriage to Gerry spans most of the life of the team, discussing first being hired and then pressed into service on a larger level (no pun intended). Gerry recalls the early monumental events that divert the direction of his work from live-action to animated productions. Wonderful rare clips, including footage from a hilariously odd marionette Western series, from those days awesomely further illustrate those roots. A scene in which the horse of an old-timey Western sheriff explains why he has a posh British accent is hilarious.

The segment on the '60s largely focuses on overcoming technical challenges and the leap to color and other enhancements. This portion of the film additionally provides an entertaining primer on the supermarionation form of animation that provides the title of the documentary.

Virtually each year of the '60s bringing a new marionette-driven show from Team Anderson provides a great format for this portion of the film. The gamut of these run from the early "Supercar" series and other lesser-known shows to the better-known series, such as "Thunderbirds" and "Stingray;" the color series have a particularly groovy '60s vibe. Their final (largely adult-oriented) effort "The Secret Service" is particularly special,

The scope of "Filmed" further encompasses the conflict related to the split of creative talent between live-action and animated projects. Gerry and everyone else being candid regarding this and numerous other disputes makes "FIlmed" the type of reality that the staged shows that assert to have that quality do not approach achieving.

The surprisingly numerous special features include a Sylvia BBC interview, a special effects reel, and additional rare footage. These alone make purchasing "Filmed" well worth it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Filmed" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.