This sparked memories of other TV programs of that era, like Champion the Wonder Horse (called The Adventures of Champion in America), Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Flipper, Leave it to Beaver,The Man from Uncle, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, Car 54, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Happy Days, and … the list goes on.
Well, I wasn't expecting this to happen, but these "blasts from the past" really set my mind churning away thinking about the various different types of television programs I used to watch as a kid circa the early 1960s.
One genre that immediately popped into my mind was based on the use of a form of marionette puppetry dubbed Supermarionation. The four such series I recall off the top of my head were:
Supercar: A vertical takeoff and landing craft invented by Rudolph Popkiss and Horatio Beaker, and piloted by Mike Mercury. The car used something called "Clear-Vu", which had an inside television monitor that allowed the occupants to see through fog and smoke.
Fireball XL5: This followed the missions of spaceship Fireball XL5, commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. The crew included glamorous Doctor Venus, a doctor of space medicine; middle-aged navigator and engineer Professor Matthew Matic and co-pilot Robert, a transparent anthropomorphic robot.
Stingray: A series about a futuristic submarine. Scenes featuring model submarines and marionettes underwater were actually filmed on a dry set, with the camera looking through a narrow water tank containing air bubblers and fish of different sizes to simulate perspective, thereby creating a convincing illusion that the models and puppets were underwater.
Thunderbirds: This series followed the adventures of International Rescue, a secretive organization created to help those in grave danger using technically advanced equipment and machinery launched from its hidden Tracy Island base. The "cast of thousands" included millionaire former astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons: Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon, and John. Also featured were the scientific genius and engineer "Brains", and the family's manservant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin. And who could forget International Rescue's London agent, international socialite Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, and her Cockney butler/chauffeur Aloysius "Nosey" Parker?
As a little tidbit of trivia, Stingray was the first British television program to be filmed entirely in color, and also the first in which marionettes had interchangeable heads with different facial expressions.
As another nugget of knowledge, Jeff Tracy's sons Scott (pilot of Thunderbird 1 and principal rescue coordinator), Virgil (pilot of Thunderbird 2), Alan (astronaut in Thunderbird 3), Gordon (aquanaut in Thunderbird 4), and John (principal duty astronaut on the space station Thunderbird 5) were named after real-world Mercury astronauts Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn, respectively.
Four your delectation and delight, I found the following snippets from each of these series on YouTube. Just watching these, and listening to the music and sound effects, really takes me back to a much more innocent time…
The problem is that the "old gray brain cells" are not as agile as once they were, so I'm afraid I might be forgetting some mega-cool series of this stripe that deserves better. Can you think of any more Supermarionation series of this ilk that I’ve forgotten?
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