Thunderbirds Are GO (1966)
Directed by David Lane

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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When the Zero-X, the first manned rocket meant to travel to Mars, is sabotaged by a despicable villain known as the Hood, International Rescue, a team of adventurous altruists composed of millionaire Jeff Tracey and his sons, is called in to protect the launch of its replacement.

David Lane's Thunderbirds Are GO, which was written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, is a wonderfully fun, consistently unique movie.

Like the television program upon which it is based, the film is performed exclusively by puppets. While these may not be the most inspired creations I have encountered, their carefully sculpted but stiff faces, their oversized heads, and their inability to walk make them so amusing to watch that they suffuse the whole movie with a quirky enjoyableness. There is not a moment when one of these puppets is on screen that will not make the viewer smile.

Entertaining as Anderson's marionettes are, the story that revolves around them is far less enthralling. A large part of it is, in fact, very slow moving. Having spent the first ten minutes of Thunderbirds Are GO showing nothing but the emergence of the original Zero-X from its hanger and its subsequent blast off, the director later spends nearly as much time depicting the second Zero-X emerging from its hanger and blasting off. Sadly, there are even more sequences like these in the film. In some, the director allows the camera to pan across the Traceys' luxurious island base. In others, he depicts toy rockets hurtling across the sky, and, in still others, he shows the astronauts' Martian lander driving around on the surface of that planet. While the models used to create these places and vehicles are pleasant to look at, some of the scenes in which they are featured are a little tedious.

Fortunately, Thunderbirds Are GO does include a few exciting incidents. During the launch of the second Zero-X, for instance, the Traceys' ally, Lady Penelope, chases the Hood in her hot pink Rolls-Royce, which, with the push of a button, she transforms into a boat, so allowing her to follow him over the sea. She is even able to shoot down the helicopter in which the scoundrel is trying to flee with a gun that emerges from her vehicle's front grill. In another sequence, the astronauts aboard the Zero-X, having landed on Mars, battle a nest of one-eyed stone snakes that spit fireballs at them, and in a third sequence, the Traceys attempt to prevent that spaceship from crashing into a small town.

The movie even has a few lighter moments that are every bit as quirky and fun as are its depictions of adventure. The best of these is that showing the youngest of the Tracey brothers dreaming of visiting a nightclub with Lady Penelope, at which he and his companion watch a band of puppets performing a song while standing on a model of guitar. The scene, and others like it, are so deliciously odd that they really do add to the film's appeal.

Thanks to such virtues, Thunderbirds are GO, while unlikely to awe the viewer, is genuinely fun to watch.

Review by Keith Allen

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