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A&E Home Video presents
Stingray: The Complete Series (1964)

"Stand by for action!! We are about to launch....STINGRAY!!"
- opening narration

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: April 08, 2003

Stars: Don Mason, Ray Barrett
Other Stars: Lois Maxwell, Robert Easton
Director: Alan Pattillo, David Elliot, John Kelly, and Desmond Saunders

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild animated violence)
Run Time: 16h:50m:00s
Release Date: December 31, 2002
UPC: 733961705027
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B B

DVD Review

While man-of-many-trades Gerry Anderson may well go best remembered for his work on Thunderbirds, there would have been no Thunderbirds were it not for his earlier works, all of which set the stage for the process of using "Supermarionation" as a viable form of entertainment. As with many Anderson productions, we again meet a brave a team of futuristic warriors who, while defending Earth security, become wrapped up in another kind of war entirely—this one under the sea. Set in the year 2065, Stingray concerns itself with the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP), a special organization that polices the oceans of Earth, ensuring that peace reigns supreme below as it does on the surface. Headquartered in "Marineville," a giant base that can instantly transport itself underground, WASP uses powerful subs to do its work.

One of these subs is Stingray, piloted by the ever-brave and handsome Troy Tempest who, in the series' first episode, discovers that mankind has a new threat to its comfort in the form of the Aquaphibians, a malevolent race of undersea creatures who want to make trouble for surface dwellers using their sophisticated technology. The series' structure is fairly straightforward: the Aquaphibians, led by Titan, are constantly hatching schemes to strike at humans, who must then in turn carefully fight their battles with these creatures in order to ensure Earth isn't taken over by these evil beings. Titan is helped, on the surface, in the form of Agent X2-0, an Aquaphibian spy who resides in a seemingly innocent-looking island home; in reality, it's a cleverly disguised, high-tech base. This new DVD box set presents all 39 of the episodes originally produced for the show that some regard as Anderson's masterpiece, being even better than later projects like Thunderbirds and much more mature Captain Scarlet.

Stingray marks, in many ways, a total evolution of Gerry Anderson's work since his beginnings by offering not only a far more advanced and complex program, in a technical sense, but one that is also geared for an older audience. It also emerged during the glorious days when color was a new thing to British television, and it shows. While there was a technical rigidity to some of Anderson's work, fans will find themselves instantly enamored of the pure fantasy to be found here. As a battle against a sea kingdom, Stingray not only provides wonderful underwater locations, but all sorts of bizarre characters, creatures, ships, and other wondrous sights. Compared to the mechanical realm of, say, Thunderbirds, this constant touch with the organic world gives the series a certain feeling that makes it a much different show than what Anderson fans might be used to, especially since so many younger people (like me), who never experienced these shows when they aired, are discovering them in backwards order.

As usual, special effects and set design are top-notch, whether it be a large explosion (courtesy of miniatures master Derek Meddings), or the subtle details to a complex costume for one of the marionette characters. While some elements are not as technically refined as later Anderson productions, the ingenuity and creativity of the entire staff on an amazingly low-budget shines in every episode. There is genuine excitement and interest in the characters here, and it's all thanks to clever writing, which works to keep everyone's interest. Stingray is lots of fun and has a distinct tone of pure adventure, despite a few of the episodes functioning as filler (there's more of a romance angle here than Anderson's other series). While, yes, you see puppet strings and a few other hiccups, it's escapism at its best with a very compact 'good vs. evil' idea.

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

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Carlton's restoration of the show is most impressive, featuring an obvious attention to repairing weaknesses and damage. Although the color isn't as mind-blowingly restored as it is on some other Carlton releases, you still get the full impact of the original color splendor and an amazing sharpness and clarity that, arguably, was never even there when the episodes originally aired.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is two-channel mono and, despite being aged, delivers an impressive punch. From the exciting start of each episode ("Stand by for ACTION!"), the audio never lets up with the traditional, bombastic Barry Gray musical score to all the explosions and other weird noises we're used to in Anderson productions, mechanical and otherwise.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 234 cues and remote access
1 Documentaries
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1) Director/creator Gerry Anderson on episodes Stingray and Stand by for Action, 2)Co-creator/writer Sylvia Anderson, producer John Reed and puppeteer Mary Turner on episode Rapture of the Deep, 3) Effects specialists Bob Bell an
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Stills
  2. French End Credits Sequence
Extras Review: Most fans will likely head for the commentaries first and, overall, won't be disappointed. Perhaps most interesting is the presence of Sylvia Anderson on one track; she's the co-creator of these classic AP Television series, but rarely heard from on these restoration projects. Gerry Anderson's commentaries on two episodes are very much in his usual form, where he discusses motivations for the show, where he wanted to take it, and his general impression of it in the present day. They are less scene-by-scene, and more of a remembrance of what was involved in the day-to-day creation of Stingray and how the time period effected the work. The Sylvia Anderson, John Reed, and Mary Turner commentary is relaxed and very pleasant, with a lot of time spent on on-set anecdotes and discussions of the work that had to be put into each show, which was a tremendous effort. Additionally, the Bob Bell/Brian Johnson commentary highlights technical aspects of the show, and Bell's commentary is quite valuable as one of Medding's early collaborators.

The final disc in the set includes a new 20-minute documentary entitled The Thing About Stingray, which is an interesting, brief look at the history of the show. Participants in the documentary include Bob Bell, John Reed, Mary Turner, director Desmond Saunders, and a few others (not Gerry himself, however) sharing their thoughts about the series, where it led, and what it taught them as professionals. Although a bit short, it still has some great rare photos, and very solid interviews with those involved. If you're going to watch all of Stingray, this makes a nice way to close it out.

All of the discs feature photo galleries of stills from the shows, as well as a few on-set photos, as well as an extended biography of producer Gerry Anderson. One of the discs features the alternate end credits sequence as seen in France with French lyrics to the Aqua Maria song. Oddly enough, one feature not mentioned anywhere on the box or separate covers is an unusual piece entitled Mission Films. Basically, it's footage of Troy and companions watching "home movies" of their adventures and I assume this was wrap-around footage intended for some kind of "Best Of" or compilation program in which the characters would muse about past adventures and the entire episode (or movie) would be flashbacks of those episodes.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Fans of the "Supermarionation" genre owe it to themselves to check out this wonderful series, done up in great fashion by Carlton and A&E. It's high-flying (or in this case, low-swimming) adventure with loads of crazy situations, weird villains, and all the Anderson-world stuff you've come to expect. Dive right in.

 


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