Category Archives: toho

The Magic of Gerry Anderson

Yesterday while I was writing about the deaths and lives of Jack Klugman and Charles Durning, we lost someone who was definitely lesser known, but also much closer to my heart – producer Gerry Anderson. They say these things happen in threes. Let’s hope this is the cycle and we don’t lose anyone else.

Many of you probably don’t recognize the name Gerry Anderson and there are some of you who are mourning the loss of this great talent in genre television. He was a writer, director, producer, publisher, futurist, a television pioneer, the developer of Supermarionation, and a master of storytelling. However, all that said, you might just know him better by three specific words – “Thunderbirds are go!”

I first encountered Gerry Anderson, and his then wife and partner Sylvia, as a child of the 1970s. I have a very distinct memory of hearing about a new show coming on weekday afternoons on UHF channel 17, the TV announcer had said it was ‘cooler than “Ultra Man,”‘ so you know darned well I was glued in front of the folks’ black and white television when “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” premiered.

“Captain Scarlet” was a program created completely using marionettes and models, and it wasn’t stop motion or animation, it was film, and the puppets and machines were actually moving. To add to the fascination was the stunningly adult, startling violent story that went along with it. It was a spy drama with the earth defending itself against an evil alien race, the Mysterons, who had infiltrated mankind, and the hero who would save the day, Captain Scarlet, who had become indestructible.

It was awesome, and I was hooked. The only things that “Captain Scarlet” had going against it were my low tech TV (all the characters were color codenamed) and my own as yet non-mastery of spelling (I kept waiting for Mogera from the Toho film The Mysterians to show up). This was also around the time “Space: 1999” was hitting it big on prime time television, also, although unknown to me at the time, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, but in live action.

Anderson’s most famous creations are perhaps only peripherally known here in the United States, but in his native UK, everyone knows “The Thunderbirds.” Among his other work, both in live-action and in Supermarionation, include “Stingray,” “Supercar,” “UFO,” “Terrahawks,” “Space Precinct,” “Fireball XL5,” and “The Protectors,” among others. He and his wife also produced two “Thunderbirds” movies at the height of their popularity.

In recent years, Anderson produced a fully computer animated version of “Captain Scarlet” and consulted on the big budget live-action motion picture version of The Thunderbirds. The former did quite well in the UK, but the latter was pretty much a flop here. The beloved producer’s reputation was still untarnished.

Gerry Anderson passed away yesterday after a long battle with dementia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. We have lost a creative star in the field of television, he will be missed.

Monsters

Monsters ~ When I saw this line of hype in the description of this flick OnDemand, I was intrigued. It read, “Best giant monster movie I’ve seen in years.” I was sold. It’s written and directed by Gareth Edwards, who has been chosen to helm the new American Godzilla movie – so I definitely had to see it.

The story – six years ago a space probe sent to search for alien life crash lands over Mexico. It brought ‘creatures’ and the area was walled off as the “Infected Zone.” Expecting District 9 meets Cloverfield meets Toho’s Monster Island, I happily order it, no matter how high the price.

A magazine photographer is sent to collect the boss’ daughter from Mexico in the Infected Zone. After losing their passports, they have to walk. Yeah, what’s that writing rule about what’s the worst that can happen? Yeah, that’s what happens. They walk home through the Infected Zone.

The two main characters are thankfully not typical horror movie stereotypes, but we get to know them as well as we would such characters – very peripherally. They are still placeholders in the storytelling process, but just different ones. The male lead reminds a lot of a young Adam Baldwin, but that’s neither here nor there. Some of the dialogue is painful, especially most of it falls into the “What are you doing?” and “Where are all the people?” territory.

The cardboardness and predictability of the two leads is what makes the ending so unfulfilling when it comes. I wanted a monster movie with a human story as a backdrop like most traditional kaiju eiga and got was a bad human story with monsters as the backdrop. At least the monsters got one pretty intense love scene. And no, I’m not kidding.

The monsters are rarely seen clearly early on, just in fuzzy pictures and staticky news footage, and later we hear them, but when they do finally show up… hello, pretty scary. They are sorta giant squid meets preying mantis meets Martian war machine with just a bit of Cthulhu thrown into the mix for good measure. The wreckage and destroyed buildings are stunning, as they are not CGI in the traditional sense, but greenscreened in – they are real destroyed buildings from earthquakes, fires, etc., so it looks, and is, very real.

There is not as much commentary on the current US/Mexico immigration problem as one might think from the summary of this flick, but it’s in there. There’s not much, but then again, no one ever says the word ‘apartheid’ in District 9 either and that’s like a brick to the head.

This was a fairly entertaining movie though, for what it is, a little long and I would have loved more monster stuff – but all in all, Monsters did not live up to the hype. Regarding Gareth Edwards’ future with the American Godzilla franchise, I really am at a loss as to what to think. It may well be visually stunning, but I worry about the story… and the love scenes…

Bookmark and Share