On Wednesday 7th October, a small number of International Rescue agents gathered at a (now not so) secret location for the very first screening of Thunderbirds 1965, The Abominable Snowman. Retro-TV critic Steve Berry was there and has sent back this report to GAHQ…
“Deep in the bowels of London’s Mondrian Hotel, cast and crew of Thunderbirds 1965 assemble. Along with specially invited guests and the commissioning team of ITV, they are here to watch a test screening of The Abominable Snowman, the first of three Kickstarter-funded episodes to be completed and due for release later in 2015.
The room is decked with vintage Space Invaders games, sci-fi b-movie posters and a replica Apollo astronaut, all of which very much adds to the retro-futuristic atmosphere and sense of anticipation. As does late news that a catastrophic hard drive crash earlier in the day has required the episode’s soundtrack to be rebuilt from scratch. It seems fitting, therefore, given Gerry Anderson’s own mixed feelings about the quality of his 1960s Thunderbirds episodes, that this brand new one is introduced apologetically.
Audio issues aside, the big question on everyone’s solenoid-powered lips has to be, “Does it still look the same?” And, as the familiar opening sequence gives way to newly-shot footage, it’s no understatement to say it is utterly impossible to spot the join. This is a CGI-free zone, full of backdrop paintings, heavy-looking model spacecraft and polystyrene snowscapes. The effects are practical, the fire is real and – yes – the strings are very much attached. Stephen La Riviere and his Slough-based band of perfectionists have recreated the spirit of AP Films with the very finest attention to detail.
Of course, it’s not just the working processes that are rooted in the 1960s. One or two antediluvian anachronisms in the original script have been also defrosted for this cinematic presentation. Lady Penelope’s line, “I may be a mere woman,” will raise a frosty smile from 21st century feminists, for one. However, gaining the permission of celebrity fan Sanjeev Bhaskar to use his likeness for a new, Delhi-based associate might help skate over the awful pun in his name: Gallup Din.
At the same time, finally filming the episode has the advantage of being able to add visuals to some of the more obscure in-jokes of the original soundtrack. Parker’s throwaway explanation for being able to easily escape icy incarceration is delivered with a lovely additional punchline. And, for those who might have questioned The Hood’s limited presence or impact in the 1966 mini-LP version of the story, we are certainly treated to the beady-eyed one’s talents in full flow here.
Watch out for a new sub-plot, which helps explain why the villain has established a slave-powered mining base in the Himalayas in the first place, plus some extra action for Virgil Tracy and Thunderbird 2.
These new-old episodes run slightly longer than their vinyl counterparts and, while the workprint screened showed signs of needing tightening up in terms of pace and editing, there is no doubt that the transformation to the big screen is nothing short of miraculous”.
Steve Berry is an author and a freelance writer for TV, magazines, newspapers and the internet.
He occasionally appears on radio and TV shows talking about his specialist retro subjects (television, toys, sweets and snacks) so you might have seen him on Channel Five’s Greatest Moments series, UK Gold’s Porridge and Doctor Who weekends, BBC Four’s The Hard Sell or C4’s Top Ten TV and 100 Greatest Toys.
He lives in Hertfordshire with a wife (his own), a daughter (also his own) and some cats (their own).
Thunderbirds 1965/Thunderbirds 1965 premiere photos courtesy of Thunderbirds 1965/Steven La Riviere, James Fielding Photography and Jamie Anderson.