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A&E Home Video presents
Thunderbirds #4 (1965)

- Gordon Tracy (Peter Dynley)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: January 03, 2002

Stars: Ray Barrett, Peter Dynley, Sylvia Anderson, David Holliday
Other Stars: Matt Zimmerman, Christine Finn, David Grahm
Director: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson

Manufacturer: DVXX
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild puppet violence, depictions of disasters)
Run Time: 06h:00m:00s
Release Date: October 20, 2001
UPC: 733961703320
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+A- C-

DVD Review

Thunderbirds: Volume #4 sees yet more of the adventures of InternationalRescue, the mysterious but efficient group that offer the last resort when conventional authorities can't handle a disaster. Jumping right in, we begin Volume 4 with:
Episode 19: The Impostors
"There's probably nothing to worry about." -Tin Tin
Trouble is definitely afoot when a daring rescue is made in the ocean. Except the rescue was not made by International Rescue, but rather a strange group of people pretending to be International Rescue. As it turns out, the operation was only a rescue on the surface; in reality, it was designed to steal top secret information from the government. As a result, International Rescue becomes the target of a worldwide manhunt designed to expose them as nothing but thieves. Obivously distressed, the Tracy family decides to halt all operations and cover-up their activities until the frauds can be exposed, but this will take some time. Lady Penelope decides to go to the U.S. to keep her ears open for possible information that would help I.R. In the process, the Tracy's unwittingly manage to stumble across information coming out of Arizona that may be an important clue to who and where the impostors are. The elaborate plot, especially one that threatens the very existence of I.R. (when has the world governments ever hated I.R. before?) is an interesting idea to spice up the show. It makes a nice change of pace from the usual building collapses and such, and gives a chance for the Tracy's to do something without being able to use all of their wealth and technology. There's also a strange amount of humor present in the episode, but it doesn't overtake everything else.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Thunderbirds.

Episode 20: The Man From M.I. 5
"A toast to one of England's fairest roses, Lady Penelope!" -Parker The Butler
When some British Secret Service agents are murdered and then have importantinformation stolen, the Brits decide to enlist the aid of International Rescue to catch the thieves. Lady Penelope heads the investigation, but she gets in over her head uncovering a larger conspiracy then she expected, having to impersonate several people and pretend to be after the stolen information. The plot, while complex, is too much on the contrived side. The villains turn out to be hatching a plan that makes The Hood look like an underachiever. There's also a predominance in the episode of underwater sequences and submarines, almost obsessively so. I once heard the phrase "underwater sequences are like the drum solos of movies," and it seems to apply to this episode, which is relatively weak on the Thunderbirds' scale, primarily in being so boring; relying on said sequences.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Thunderbirds

Episode 21: Cry Wolf
"Come in International Rescue! I need..help!" -Tony
A creative and cute spin on the usual Thunderbirds' formula is found in this episode where two Australian children accidentally call out I.R. while playing around. Tony and Bob love to pretend they're members of International Rescue, often with one playing victim and one playing Alan Tracy or one of the other Tracys. As they play, they use a real radio to contact each other and Scott Tracy actually picks up the transmission one day. He springs into action only to discover it's just kids goofing off. He isn't mad, though, but rather decides to teach the kids a lesson by taking them to Tracy Island and showing them that their work is serious; calling them out could be dangerous unless they really mean it. Unfortunately, Tony and Bob's father is working on important satellite photos and thinks the attention he's getting might be for the worst. He's proved right when the Hood gets involved, monitoring his work until he can figure out a way to trick I.R. into coming back so he can get a grasp of their technology. Overall, this is a good episode, but the inclusion of The Hood as a villain was unnecessary. It seems in the last handful of episodes he pops up way too often. Another plot hole, though forgivable, is Scott taking the kids to the island and violating Tracy Island security in a way that usually makes them freak out and cover everything up.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Thunderbirds

Episode 22: Danger At Ocean Deep
"Reactors are overcompensating! We must engage manual control!" -Collins
This episode begins with an ambitious ocean craft called the Pioneer 1 traveling in theMediterranean, intended as the first vessel only requiring a crew of three. Unfortunately, it explodes the minute it heads into a fog bank ending it's short career. Not to be deterred, Pioneer 2 is launched a few weeks later and International Rescue think there may be another problem. While there are no signs of sabotage, Brains and some of the other Tracys suspect there may be another answer. When they figure out what's causing the explosion, it's almost too late with Pioneer 2 heading down the same path. I.R. must quickly warn them and stop the craft. A good episode with plenty of excitement and good miniatures work, but my one complaint would be the giant sidetrack the episode takes early on with Lady Penelope examining Pioneer 2 and a sub-plot involving her butler. She's used much to often lately for a character that seemed to be intended as a special occasion type.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Thunderbirds

Episode 23: The Duchess Assignment
"I may have a solution!" -Lady Penelope
Taking a different route, this episodes focuses more on Lady Penelope than International Rescue. Penelope decides to help the Duchess of Royston regain some of her fortune (lost in a rigged casino) by negotiating a deal for one of her valuable paintings. In the process, though, the corrupt casino owners decide to try and kill off the Duchess, Penelope, and the butler Parker. Once they're stopped, the danger still continues though when successive attempts at the Duchess lead to even more problems. International Rescue has to step in when they get in over their heads with these casino folks and the Duchess gets kidnapped. While entertaining, this episode felt too much like an attempt to insert yet more of Lady Penelope into the show, making it more of a spy/crimefighting program rather than the disaster rescue format. As a result, it might not be to the taste of all Thunderbirds fans unless in the right mood.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Thunderbirds.

Episode 24: Attack of The Alligators!
"You might stir yourself up a whole heap o' trouble." -Culp
To convey the complex story of this episode simply, it revolves around the invention of a liquid that grows animals to gigantic proportions. While it is developed by scientists for good purposes, a certain evil fellow (Culp) thinks it can be worth more to other evildoers. As he attempts to get his hands on the formula, some of it accidentally gets into the water in a swamp where the lab is located. It grows 3 alligators into enormous proportions, who then attack the lab. They call International Rescue, but this foe is far beyond anything they've ever dealt with. In an interesting spin, the alligators are actually for real. While puppets are used for certain scenes, most of it is for real, leading to an interesting effect. The science-gone-wrong plot is more dark, British sci-fi than anything else really done on the show, and adds a good atmosphere. Arguably, this is the first horror Thunderbirds episode.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Thunderbirds

While a good package, a few of these episodes are weaker than expected. Obviously, later in the series, the writers were trying to push the envelope, but in the process they went too far. There's a lack of the traditional rescue action that defines the heart of the show, not that that's automatically a bad thing, but it does seem desperate at times (case in point, Danger At Ocean Deep). Even in the weaker moments, though, there's still a lot to appreciate and see. Only two more sets and Thunderbirds on DVD will be complete.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Looking sharp and clean, the series keeps up its reputation so far for clarity. While not perfect, it's definitely impressive in terms of source quality and digital compression. Print flaws like scratches and tears are minimized and the only signs of pixelation or shimmering are only in the murkiest of background textures. Black level is nicely balanced, and this is especially obvious in some of the darker episodes here. The bright color scheme leaps off the screen as well. There's some grain, but it's minor and detracts very little from the overall experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix (newly created) provides plenty of booming bass anddirectional effects without being too much. Episodes sound natural, but expansive and extremely clear. A few times the center channel dialogue track will sound a little flat compared to the expanded sound effects and musical score, but it's nothing major. If the expansion of the original audio bothers you, a slightly more subtle 2.0 Surround track is also provided. You can't change the audio on-the-fly, turning on the 5.1 must be done in the "special features" menu.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The only supplemental features on each disc are brief photo galleries mixing stills andbehind-the-scenes photos. The box presentation is similar to previous volumes, nearly identical in style and design using a different color palette.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Despite some weak moments, Thunderbirds is still an impressive batch of fun. Easily worth the attention of the fan or the newcomer. F.A.B.!


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