It's quite tricky to review a film that has been significantly altered from its original appearance - from black-and-white to colour - as you are constantly thinking that it looks good for something that has been converted. Even bearing this in mind, the 'Fireball XL5' episode does look very good in full colour with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer that's framed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
Normally if a film is shot in monochrome, it is lit in a different way to something shot in colour. The addition of colour to the original footage here is extremely successful.
The skin tones of the puppets look authentic to the way they look on 'Thunderbirds' (which was shot in colour) and Steve Zodiac's tunic top is how I'd always imagined it in a bright red that seems as if it has been worn. Fireball itself looks amazing with the 'dirtied down' grey fuselage and red and yellow standing out on the wings. The shadow areas of the picture look quite natural with colour present in these areas. On previous colourisations it looked as if there wasn't much they could do with blacks and dark areas, but this is not the case with 'Fireball XL5'. The planet to which Steve delivers Jock is colourful and verdant. Contrast is quite good throughout and the critical eye of the HD transfer shows up the fact that Lieutenant Ninety's stubble is painted on. The puppet strings are sharp but not too intrusive. Oh come on, we only do it for the strings. It's great to see a childhood favourite come alive with colour and with the added attraction of a High Def transfer.
The audio on 'Fireball XL5' comes in an LPCM Stereo track which is basically the original mono soundtrack duplicated on the left and right tracks. It's faithful to the original, but some clean up must have taken place as there's no hiss to offend the ears and it's fairly distortion free. It's a functional track livened up by Barry Gray's music and Don Spencer's rendition of 'I wish I was a Spaceman', which reached number 32 in the UK singles charts, over the end titles.
- Four Feather Falls (HD, 13 mins)
Here we have an episode entitled 'Gunfight on Main Street' from the earlier Gerry Anderson series. It's in black-and-white and is another 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It features Tex Tucker, a singing cowboy whose hat contains four feathers that allow him to fire his guns without touching them and also endows his dog and his horse with the gift of speech. Tex's singing voice was provided by 60's singing star Michael Holliday. The transfer is clean and crisp, while the whole episode has a certain entertaining charm.
- A Wonderland of Stardust (HD, 80 mins)
This really chunky documentary is gold dust for Gerry Anderson fans. Narrated by Shane Rimmer, the voice of Virgil Tracy from 'Thunderbirds', it traces the progress of AP Films from its beginnings on the Bath Road Trading Estate in Slough in an industrial unit now inhabited by Protyre tyre fitters.
We hear from Gerry Anderson himself, who although being a very creative man is somewhat soporific after a while. We also hear from other Century 21 stalwarts including Special Effects man Brian Johnston and Puppeteer Mary Turner. They explain how certain shots were achieved and how difficult the puppets were to operate. Sylvia Anderson makes her contribution too - and you can now see who the inspiration for Zelda was in 'Terrahawks'. Well worth the price of the Blu-ray alone.
The only colourised episode of Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5' comes to UK Region free Blu-ray with a good 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the old TV shaped 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The result is impressive with a good looking image that feels as if it was originally made in colour.
The audio is an LPCM 2.0 rendering of the original mono sound which is free from hiss and distortion.
Also contained on the disc is a black-and-white episode from Gerry's earlier 'Four Feather Falls' series and a stonking extended documentary about the development of the Supermarionation films from their humble beginnings on the Slough Trading Estate. A must for every serious Gerry Anderson Fan.
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