Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons Blu-ray Review
Dynamic action and mass destruction
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons Review
This is the voice of the MysteronsLew Grade, Head of ITC and financier of Gerry Anderson’s projects for years, wanted to break into the American TV market and decided that a brand new show, rather than a complete second season of Thunderbirds (there were only six episodes), despite its huge success, was the way to go. Anderson, then, went back to an old idea of a hero that was killed at the end of an episode, only to be brought back to life for the following. Coupling this with the (then current) exploration of Mars, and the name ‘Scarlet’ as the lead, with ‘Blue’ as his partner, it followed that a ‘Spectrum’ of colours would be an Earth defence unit in a planetary war between Earth and Mars.
Being Anderson, it needed an emotional hook to hold the idea, so the war was started by a misunderstanding and its hero started life as a bad guy, only to be resurrected and be ‘indestructible’. Thus the basic building blocks were in place; pulling on his successful team of model builders, writers, puppeteers and series directors the production of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons went into full production in mid-1967. The continued shrinking of technology enabled more realistic puppets, i.e. of the correct proportions, thus the figures were far more lifelike; this brought with it problems in movement, so movable floors or chairs, or tricks like filming from the waist up, were utilised. Likewise the sets, vehicles and props became far more sophisticated to keep with the realistic nature of the show.
tense chases and massive explosions
Indeed, this is perhaps the most realistic looking show Anderson produced, even though there were two subsequent Supermarionation series following it. The realistic portrayal of characters and situations, and its overarching premise, that of war, was very dark in tone, far darker than anything Anderson had produced before or since, with the seedy character of Captain Black and his evil methods drawing some criticism. Add to that an indestructible lead character and a lack of danger or drama could also be levelled. There is, however, no denying its indisputable charm. Returning to the 30 minute run time, the quickened pace allowed for very dynamic stories. The various craft, especially the Angels, are technical marvels, quickly becoming must have toys. The fact that Spectrum was made up of different races and genders was very forward thinking of Anderson, and this ‘light’ helped balance the darkness of the stories and their themes.
There were 32 episodes filmed for the series, and most are well realised. Starting off with the Mysteron threat, it is up to the agents of Spectrum to try and stop whatever destruction the Martian invaders had up their sleeve, being as they could duplicate exact replicas of anything and anyone and have them do their bidding. Throw in plenty of tense chases and massive explosions and you have the recipe for some terrific children’s entertainment. Kids love something dark to get their minds working, and, in that regard, Captain Scarlet is the perfect show. It may not have aged as well as Thunderbirds or will never be quite as well regarded, but it is, nevertheless, still great.
Captain Scarlet Blu-ray PictureThe discs present a broadcast correct full-screen 1.33:1 1080p/24 image using the MPEG-4 codec, with the note that the image has been remastered in HD from the original 35mm film elements.
Network have done an amazing job with this restoration, the picture is absolutely pristine, clean, bright and, no doubt, better looking than its original broadcast in 1968. Detail is tremendous, edges are pin sharp, from the clothing weaves, to the computer terminals on Cloudbase, to the trees, soil and tarmac on roads. This really shows the craftsmanship of the models and sets created for the series. This included the puppet sets, as well as the Angel craft, Cloudbase itself, to the many vehicles. The destruction of the sets are amazing: the debris of collapsing structures, dirt and smoke billowing around with no hint of smearing or digital issue.
Colours are bold and bright, the uniforms of the Spectrum agents goes without saying, but the garish domestic houses too are clean and bright. Greens look lush and blues grade extremely well. Brightness and contrast are set to give decent blacks, these are seldom pitch, the filming style precludes that, but there is plenty of depth given to the frame, despite the limited set depth, and it is a credit to the effects team that everything has so much pop.
Digitally there are no compression issues and the source is absolutely clean. A stunning picture whose only real issue is it can show the make up of the show, i.e. puppet strings/wires and matt paintings, but that, you can argue, is part of the charm.
Captain Scarlet Blu-ray SoundPresented is LPCM 2.0 mono, which is clear and detailed. Dialogue sounds very natural and well layered, effects, such as explosions, doors opening, weather, or aircraft has a good sense of depth and realism, helped by a decent bass layer. There are no LF effects, but the sub is used well to fill out numerous effects. The score is good in the mix, the drum heralding a scene change or ad break, coming through clear and fine. The foley effects sit integrated into the mix giving rise to seamless integration. You can’t expect any wow moments in a mono track, but this is very serviceable without distortion or hiss.
Captain Scarlet Blu-ray ExtrasThe 4 disc set has all the episodes in production order, but, unfortunately, has no extras at all. There is a 5th disc dedicated to special features available, but only from Network or the Gerry Anderson site and only in very limited quantities. For completeness (and because I have it) here is everything that set contains.
Retrometabolism: The Story of Captain Scarlet – An hour long brand-new for this release documentary that features exclusive and previously unseen footage, and unheard archive audio, that delves into the history of the show with all those that were involved with its creation and production.
Spectrum Briefing – Spend a few minutes with this ‘in-universe briefing’ concerning the readiness of the Spectrum Organisation; could serve as in intro for the show …. Or you could just watch the show.
Mysteron Briefing – Much the same as above, this time it’s Spectrum’s own briefing regarding the Mysterons.
Captain Scarlet Deconstructed – The pilot episode plays showing alternative soundtrack takes, footage, stills, scripts, drawing etc.
Ad Bumpers - The ‘end-of-part’ sequences used for the series’ original transmissions on ITV.
Adverts - Supermarionation-related adverts from the 1960s; also seen in the above documentary.
Alternate Opening Titles - Four different sets of opening narration alongside the Japanese titles.
Alternate End Titles - Includes instrumental versions of both the normal and Spectrum titles – alongside two unused themes.
Episodic and Portrait Galleries – Almost uncountable number of images, includes behind-the-scenes shots.
The Spectrum: Portobello Road - Promo film for (the then-latest single) the band who supplied the vocal end theme music for Captain Scarlet.
Joe 90: The Most Special Agent - Exclusive preview of the newly remastered pilot episode due for release late 2018.
Art Cards - 10 cards featuring Ron Embleton's memorable end credit paintings.
Comic - A brand new comic featuring new cover art from Mike Noble and Lee Sullivan
Captain Scarlet Blu-ray VerdictBased on the premise of an indestructible lead character, as part of the security force, Spectrum, charged with protecting Earth from the invading Martians, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, despite the darker tone, was still a hit, continuing in the vein of dynamic action and mass destruction, so popularised by Thunderbirds. With a far more realistic look (properly proportioned puppets) and contemporaneous ideas and themes, the far more adult orientated show remained popular with its target audience due to its immense charm and frantic pace.
As a Blu-ray set, the package from Network is mostly a winner. The picture is absolutely pristine, being remastered in HD from the original 35mm film elements, the detail is absolute, the colouring perfect and the black level terrific. The sound comes in the original mono and is clear, bright, detailed without distortion or hiss. The only issue is that there are no extras unless you buy a very limited edition ‘deluxe’ disc only available from the distributors.
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