'Thunderbirds' ran on UK TV for 32 episodes between 1964-1966. This was the first of two films made to cash in on its extraordinary success. Written by Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia, it is essentially an extended episode, only bigger, weirder and with more Cliff Richard.
All the regular characters are here with Brains, Lady Penelope and Parker, Asian babe agent Tin-Tin and the Tracy clan clocking in to help International Rescue save the day. This time, their task is to provide security for 'the most expensive project in human history', a manned mission to Mars. NASA's previous attempt had been nobbled by rotten egg-head The Hood, and chances are he'll try again. That's more than enough reason for billionaire do-gooder Jeff Tracy and his sons to roll out the heavy machinery.
But while Scott, Virgil, Gordon and John are outmanoeuvring The Hood in Thunderbirds 1, 2, 3 and 5, and battling fire-spitting one-eyed rock snakes on Mars, brother Alan (operator of submarine Thunderbird 4) is left at home to man the fort. It could be worse. Tracy Island, International Rescue's secret HQ, is one of the coolest hideaways in film history with its PanAm era airport chic. But poor Alan craves the glamour and glory enjoyed by his brothers. He was born to save lives and his lack of involvement in the operation leads to dark thoughts of inadequacy, represented here by a truly bizarre musical dream sequence set in a galactic nightclub, complete with a performance from marionette versions of Cliff Richard and The Shadows.
Alan's subplot lends the film psychedelic colour and a welcome dose of human drama, but mostly, Thunderbirds Are Go is about the hardware. Made at the height of the space race, the TV series' initial popularity stemmed as much from its love affair with futuristic technology as the clunky charm of its puppet characters. Anderson and sfx designer Derek Meddings make the most of this cinema version's extra scope, filling the screen with bigger, shinier craft, while director Lane has more time to linger on the intricate detailing of the phallic models before they're blown to smithereens in the film's explosive action sequences. For the techno-fetishist, it's positively hardcore.