Director: Stephen La Riviere
Screenplay: Stephen La Riviere, Andrew T Smith
Starring: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Jamie Anderson, David Elliot
Running Time: 112 mins
BBFC Classification: PG
The documentary Filmed in Supermarionation tells the story of the company behind such TV hits as Thunderbirds, Stingray, Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet.
Directed and co-produced by Stephen La Riviere and hosted by Thunderbird characters Lady Penelope and Parker themselves, Filmed in Supermarionation is a screen adaptation of Stephen’s book of the same name and features a wealth of previously unseen archive footage, brand new interviews with the surviving cast and crew members, all nicely illustrated with various clips from the shows themselves.
Taking us from the very early years, with shows like The Adventures of Twizzle, Torchy the Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls, we learn how the company came together, who got on with whom, all about the secrets of puppetering and why, sadly, things all ground to a halt in the 70s.
For me there was so much to love about this film – the warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia from seeing some of my favourite kids TV programmes being talked about, all the behind the scenes material showing how they would put the shows together, and the sheer scale of the detail that the filmmakers had been able to unearth, including the range of talking heads and pre-recorded interviews with many of the people who had been involved in these classic children’s TV productions.
I was impressed that Jamie and Sylvia Anderson were so revealing about head honcho Gerry Anderson, even citing his faults and why quite a few people fell out with him over the years. It was interesting to hear of how his plans for the company changed over the years and how all this screen magic was created somewhere on a trading estate in Slough. Oh, the glamour of showbiz!
The documentary is crammed with rare footage of the early shows and of behind the scenes production footage, which is fascinating for anyone, like me, who’s interested in filmmaking and the whole process behind the camera.
And there’s a real sense of family about the film as we are shown around some of the places where filming took place, alongside some of the old crew, who are escorted back to their old haunts by Jamie Anderson. The sense of friendly comradeship radiates from the screen.
Although I knew about some of the stuff that comes out in this documentary, such as Gerry Anderson’s eventual hatred of the puppets, I didn’t know that a lot of their fan mail came from the likes of physics professors who often wanted to discuss the technical aspects of some of the Thunderbirds vehicles and so on.
Surprisingly enough, puppet strings aside, many of the special effects shots used in the likes of Thunderbirds and Joe 90 still hold up pretty well today and I’m not particularly surprised that a reboot of Thunderbirds is currently in the works; and why not?
This really is a great documentary, that one minute makes you laugh out loud and the next makes you shed a tear for a more innocent time gone by, when children were enthralled by some weird-looking papier-mâché puppets bobbling around on clearly visible strings. I couldn’t help but think that when most of the elaborate sets and puppets were eventually broken up and thrown into skips, that most of the viewing public would have shed a tear too, and not just the crew who were there to watch it all happen.
Filmed in Supermarionation has recently been released on DVD/Blu-Ray and is being distributed by Network Distributing. Since I viewed it from a streamed link I’m not sure what extras you get on the DVD or Blu-Ray.