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Thursday, May 7, 2015

New on Video: Post-War Puppetry in Supercar

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 11:03 AM

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Ye gods, but puppets are creepy. Some more so than others, but the work of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, most famous for Thunderbirds (which itself was a primary inspiration for Team America: World Police), and which I fully appreciate on a craft level, has always squicked me out a little. Their first experiment in the dubbed "Supermarionation" was the 1961-62 ITV series Supercar, Shout! Factory is releasing in its entirety on DVD on May 12.

Driven by the jut-jawed Mike Mercury, the Supercar can drive, fly (in space and otherwise), submerge, and do all the others things commonly associated with the "super-" prefix. Aided by the Germanic Professor Popkiss, the less-Teutonic Dr. Horatio Beaker, and spunky redheaded boy Jimmy, they battle various evildoers, particularly the Masterspy. Oh, and Jimmy has a pet monkey, obviously.

Given its time period and militaristic bent, Supercar is very much a product of the Cold War and atomic anxieties. Take this opening conversation from "Atomic Witch Hunt," originally broadcast on March 18, 1962, in which the men explain how atomic terrorists are smuggling bombs into American cities (though it's very British in provenance, the series was based in the States). Note the cheery music as they discuss atomic annihilation over a lovely breakfast, and Jimmy's concerns that the State Department isn't doing enough are quickly assuaged, because nobody's going to talk shit about the United States Government on children's television in 1962.


Supercar
was Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's first and last series set in the present, as Ms. Anderson explains in the commentary on the pilot episode, because it finally struck them that in this format, they could go anywhere and show anything without budget concerns. Though the packaging promises an interview with Gerry Anderson as well as a documentary about Derek Meddings's miniature work, the only extra to be found on any of the five discs is Ms. Anderson's commentary, but it's a damn good one. She provides some fascinating history behind this and the other shows, and also describes how she eventually brought what she calls "a female point of view" to the Supermarionation world in the form of Thunderbirds' Lady Penelope.


It's certainly a point of view that the wooden-sausage fest that is Supercar could have used.



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Sherilyn Connelly

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