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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Thunderbirds - Set 1
Thunderbirds - Set 1
A&E Video
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 18, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Before popping the first in a series of "Thunderbirds" sets from A&E in my player, my sole experience with the series was its brief run on Fox Kids a few years back. The series, which is enjoying a revival in Britain and inspired a handful of SNL spoofs called "The Go-Lords", takes place in the disaster-prone future. Jeff Tracy, a former astronaut and quadraseptazillionaire, has created an emergency response group known as International Rescue to give back in some small way to world that has provided him with so much. International Rescue, manned by his sons, a brilliant engineer nicknamed Brains, and field agent Lady Penelope, are equipped to handle any sort of problem that might arise anywhere in the world, and they're frequently put to the test. "Thunderbirds" uses Supermarionation instead of actors or traditional cel animation -- all of the characters are puppets on very detailed miniature sets. The show itself is pretty good, but it's the Supermarionation (as opposed to Subparmarionation, I guess) that has, I think, led to its cult status. In this, the first set of "Thunderbirds" episodes being released to DVD by A&E Video, International Rescue has to handle six catastrophes, each wrapping up nicely in the space of 52 minutes:
  • Trapped In The Sky: In the Thunderbirds' first adventure, an experimental atomic-powered plane carrying the daughter of International Rescue ally Kyrano has some unexpected cargo on-board -- a bomb that will detonate when the plane attempts to land. The radiation levels are increasing, and time is running out...
  • Pit Of Peril: A top-secret defense project of the U.S. Army which is, for some unexplained reason, in the jungles of Africa, falls into a 300 foot deep mine shaft, surrounded by a towering inferno (clever disaster reference intended). The Army, far from civilization, doesn't have the heavy lifting equipment necessary to drag the 500 ton machine from the crater. Enter International Rescue.
  • City Of Fire: Maybe I should've saved the "Towering Inferno" reference for this episode, which takes place in a skyscraper so massive that it can house an entire city. You should be able to guess what happens from the title.
  • Sun Probe: A scientific mission studying the sun goes awry and the crew is on a crash course towards that mass of incandescent gas.
  • The Uninvited: Scott ends up with some treasure-hungry archaelogists who stumble upon a pyramid full of...well, not the uninvited. I guess technically that Scott and company are the uninvited and that the Zombites are They Who Don't Invite. Regardless, the services of the remainder of Internation Rescue are required.
  • The Mighty Atom: As the title indicates, there's another atomic disaster, apparently quite a frequent problem in the future. The Hood, whose voice I'm certain inspired Dr. Klahn's from "Fistful of Yen", is up to his usual mischief. Instead of attempting to uncover the secrets of International Rescue's technology, the Hood has set his sights on nuclear power plants, with disastrous results.

Video: The full-frame image is decent, considering that the series is well on its way to it 40th birthday. There is occassional grain as well as a number of specks on the prints used. Some episodes appear to have been compiled from a couple of different sources, with some shots looking far worse than those preceding them. By and large, though, these 6 episodes of "Thunderbirds" look sharp, faring even better than A&E's releases of "The Prisoner", which I didn't have too many quibbles about in the first place. This is probably the best "Thunderbirds" has or ever will look.

Audio: Although I believe the option to watch these episodes in Dolby Digital 5.1 could've been located in a slightly more obvious place (I ended up just using the button on my remote), it's well-worth the extra second and a half required to track it down. Directional effects are frequent and consistently well-done, and the bass range is jaw-dropping. The power of the explosions, rocket launches, and thunder throughout these episodes is second-to-none, outclassing some of the feature films I've heard remixed from mono to 5.1. A very expansive, aggressive mix that's first-rate in every way.

Supplements: A 3 minute featurette, with half focusing on "Stingrays" and the other half plugging "Thunderbirds", making extensive use of clips from the first episode, is the most notable extra. It's not particularly informative, but there is some brief behind-the-scenes footage that I found interesting. The featurette was apparently shown as part of some sort of a theatrical package, and it's even mentioned that "Thunderbirds" would be aired in black-and-white. Interesting. Other than that, the only other extra is a series of stills. More supplements would have been appreciated, but given the running time of the episodes included on these two discs, I don't feel shortchanged in any way.

Conclusion: Sitting through the six episodes in the first set of "Thunderbirds" is the some of the most fun I've had in recent memory with my DVD player. The $40 price tag is nothing to scoff at, especially after factoring in the cost of the currently available set two and the 4 additional sets to come. New etailer Deepdiscountdvd.com has both "Thunderbirds" sets in-stock for $19.19 each with free shipping, and at that price, for days worth of nostalgic action packed onto a couple of discs with such great quality, I can't rate this set as being anything less than highly recommended. F.A.B.
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