KLAATU YOU (22)

By: Mark Kingwell
May 27, 2020

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.

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THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | d. DAVID LANE | 1966

The opening sequence of the 1965–1966 TV series Thunderbirds (created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, who also wrote the feature movie) was a thrilling countdown that synced up with the various vessels of International Rescue. This futuristic outfit was staffed by the Tracy brothers, their father, a genius called Brains, and Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, together with her Cockney chauffeur Aloysius ‘Nosey’ Parker driving a six-wheeled, canopied pink limo called “FAB 1.” Yes!

The greatest thing about the Thunderbirds franchise, which would also include a 1968 sequel film – apart from the awesome Gerry Anderson “Supermarionation” (also to be seen in the equally excellent Captain Scarlet franchise) – was the absurd complexity of the staging sequences.

International Rescue was headquartered on a remote Pacific island. The Hi-Mod house featured a sunken living room, with wet bar and big-screen monitor, where the Tracy boys hung out until called into action. When summoned, the outdoor kidney-shaped swimming pool pulled back to release one aircraft. Another emerged from underwater. Getting the smart-casual boys, in Sixties desert boots, polo necks, and suede vests, into their ships and sashed blue uniforms, with matching wedge hats, took forever. Is it an emergency or not?

Every kid I knew had a favourite Thunderbird. Mine was T2, the green combination hovercraft and airplane, piloted by Virgil Tracy – named after Virgil ‘Gus’ Grissom of Project Mercury fame, dead in the command module of Apollo 1 at just 40 years of age in 1967. Supermarionette Virgil Tracy, huge eyebrows and all, is shunted by ramp and spinning false doors right into the cockpit of T2, but there’s no real explanation for how he gets into his uniform (maybe a Wallace-and-Gromit style total-pullover move?). The green beast could lift four different payloads carrying 14 different vehicles, including T4, a yellow undersea mini-sub. I have a Corgi diecast model of this last configuration in my office, if you can believe that of a grown man.

But models were the thing here. I carried a Captain Scarlet transitional-object doll (‘action figure’ we’d now say) during one long 1960s Christmas season, when my parents visited both sets of their parents, in Toronto and Quebec City. That’s eight-plus hours of phone-free backseat boredom. I looked out the window and dreamt of the Captain battling the Mysterons from Mars, and the IR boys averting peril at airports, space stations, and army posts. Also of Lady Penelope’s flawless puppet profile.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were master modelers, and their work in this film is impeccable. Later, when I was a nerdy teenager, it inspired me to fashion aircraft and land vehicles out of injection-moulded plastic and smelly glue. I was not the only one. When Trey Parker and Matt Stone made Team America: World Peace, their hilarious and profane 2004 animated satire used the same Anderson techniques. The film’s sex scenes, montages, songs, and Matt Damon and Kim Jong Il disses, are all worth the watch.

The International Rescue version of “roger,” “wilco,”and “10-4” was – of course – “Eff Ay Bee.” Fab styling, fab models, fab memories. Just fab.

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KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

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Enthusiasms, Movies, Sci-Fi

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