Thunderbirds - The Complete Series (Blu-Ray)
Oh dear! This review is something of a schizophrenic experience. I'm a huge Thunderbirds fan. I was five years old when it hit the screens in '66 and had already been 'conditioned' by Fireball XL5 and Stingray. After years of relying on either distant memories of the show, or occasional 'cult cinema' showings of the movies, I was first in line for the VHS releases when they revived interest in the series in the early eighties. Then there was that 'deal' with Carlton that brought it back on to our screens in the late eighties / early nineties when a whole new generation of fans emerged. Then came the Carlton DVD's - decent transfers but with frustratingly 'reworked' soundtracks with extra effects that drowned out dialogue on occasion. And that's been it …until now!
Unlike much period TV, 'Thunderbirds' was produced on 35MM so always had the lovely saturated look of Technicolor movies. So it's one of the few cult / vintage TV series that is worth upgrading to Blu-Ray. I requested a sample disc, and got a single disc on the understanding that I returned it pronto. Apparently there's a queue of salivating middle-aged journalists desperate to get their hands on this much anticipated release.
So is it worth getting excited about - or spending circa £100 on for the 6 disc set? Well, yes - and no.
The picture quality is, frankly, stunning. It's a beautiful, deep and detailed transfer where, given the quality, displays all the strings in a way that you will never have seen them before. The richness of the colour and detail is amongst the best high definition TV pieces I've seen. BUT …(and it's a big but) …in a misguided effort to pander to a supposed new audience, the image has been cropped to be displayed as 16:9. There may well have been some judicious panning and scanning but the net result is a general loss of headroom which, once noticed, cannot be ignored. What an opportunity lost! All the effort to get such a fine transfer brutalised by a misguided marketing team. Sadly, this will badly affect sales and will be a decision that ITV DVD will inevitably regret.
It's also something of a disappointment that the soundtrack seems to be the Carlton DVD re-work which added 'louder explosions' to the original, spoiling to an extent the already fine soundtrack.
There's a chance that Gerry Anderson was party to this. In the interview I did with him a couple of years back he revealed a misguided dislike for his previous work and likes to grab the opportunity to 'update' where he can. As a result we've seen release of 'Captain Scarlet' with added 80's laser gun effects, a whole new soundtrack on 'Dick Spanner' and a number of re-workings to original soundtracks, like this 'Thunderbirds' one.
Overall - 'Thunderbirds' as a series, in my view, cannot be faulted. Perhaps a little slow moving for today's viewers, it nonetheless stands for repeated viewings and seems to still capture the attention in hour long episodes; quite a feat for a puppet show!. This release shows just how wonderful the original 35mm material was, and when ITV DVD realise that cropping is tantamount to butchery, and release the discs properly, it will be well worth picking up. But until that time, I'd give this a miss.