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Blaise’s Bad Movie Guide

Sadly, I recently learned that Gerry Anderson passed away. He was the co-creator of the “Thunderbird” franchise, one of the more unique shows in British TV history.

For those not ancient enough to remember it, the series followed the exploits of International Rescue and its high-tech rocket ships, the Thunderbirds. But there was a twist. All the characters were puppets, and the hardware was obviously miniature models. Yet believe it or not, two feature films were created out of this.

The first of these was called “Thunderbirds Are Go.” Actually, “go” is not the operative word, because the movie starts out with the dullest scene ever put on film. The Zero X spacecraft is getting ready for lift-off, and you are there every step of the way. If we were watching a real ship it might be tolerable. But watching plastic toys “refueling” for 10 minutes is numbing. Expect your popcorn to grow stale.

Mercifully, Zero X finally does take off — but a saboteur is aboard! His foot gets caught in some hydraulics and he crawls along in his bloody Curt Schilling puppet sock before jumping out and leaving the ship to crash. Now it’s time to call International Rescue! Millionaire Jeff Tracy is in charge, with a slew of look-alike sons who obey his every order. (No sign of a mom, but a lady named Tintin apparently keeps our marionettes happy.) A second Zero X is readied for launch and — yes, you’re watching grass grow again. Might be time for a bathroom break.

Back already? Good, because now you’re going to meet Lady Penelope, a very foxy piece of plastic. A cross between Mae West and James Bond, she cruises around in a pink Cadillac driven by a chauffeur who ends every sentence with “m’ lady” (as in “Shall I blow up the helicopter now, m’ lady?”). All the members of the rescue team would give their right wooden legs for a fling with Penelope, but the closest any of them gets is a dream sequence in which younger son Alan falls out of bed and awakes just as he is about to score.

A (very) long flight to Mars follows, with the crew encountering one-eyed snakes that shoot explosives from their mouths. (Asked his opinion about them, one scientist proposes that they are “not life as we know it.” You think?)

In the climactic scene, Zero X has trouble re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and Alan is required to activate the escape pod. All he has to do is remove eight screws — but he drops the screwdriver! Can he retrieve it before the ship burns up?

I won’t tell you that, but I will tell you that Lady Penelope becomes very impressed. She goes out with Alan (for real this time) and once again it looks as though he might at least get to first. But then the rest of the I. Rescue team shows up and spoils things. Still, there’s that sequel I told you about. Maybe Alan will finally get the girl, no strings attached.

— Blaise Majkowski

Gazette page designer and

B-movie aficionado

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