Book review – Filmed in Supermarionation

I’ll be honest here, whatever I’ve written below, it’s totally biased. If I wasn’t biased, I wouldn’t have bought the book.

I’m biased because I believe that Gerry Anderson is the greatest film/TV producer you’ve never heard of. If you really haven’t heard of him (what are you even doing here?), he’s the chap responsible for those glorious 1960’s sci-fi marionette shows; Stingray, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, etc.

DSC00644He also dabbled in many other forms of TV/film entertainment, including live-action, hand-puppetry, stop-motion animation, Japanese animation, and CGI animation. As my description of him suggests, he’s a man whose achievements are often overlooked in the media world, so perhaps even before you’ve read it, it’s already a marvellous thing that some 40-plus years after his shows were first broadcast, there now exists an authoritative history on the making of Gerry’s marionette works.

Stephen La Riviere’s ‘Filmed in Supermarionation’ is not as complete as its name implies. It doesn’t cover every single production Gerry ever did, but does cover his marionette shows, from The Adventures of Twizzle (1957) to The Secret Service (1969).

As this is really the first book of it’s kind (aside from Chris Bentley’s individual works on Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and UFO), there have been countless tales of these shows that have passed down into legendary folklore, so it’s nice to finally set the record straight. And the book does more than that.

It both mixes and digs into the history of A.P. Films/Century 21 Productions, fusing archive interviews and freshly conducted correspondence/examinations – the old and the new, much like Gerry’s shows themselves, into one thoroughly enjoyable history lesson. A lesson that mirrors the surface nature of what Gerry’s shows always entailed: a potent cocktail of drama, excitement, adventure, comedy, and lots and lots and lots and lots of explosions.

Its beautifully presented as well, divided into chapters that cover each production and mixing in photographs and drawings, some already known to the die-hard Anderfan (such as promotional images for Captain Scarlet), but they gain a sweeter resonance when included in such a definitive, historical account as this.

La Riviere’s style of writing is engaging as well, never reading as too stuffy or pretentious, and its clear he’s as much a fan of Gerry’s work as the fan whose writing this review (possibly even more.). His writing bubbles with the enthusiasm you’d expect in an Anderfan (we’re a hardcore bunch; you can’t just be a casual fan of Gerry’s. It’s like being a Kamikaze pilot – all or nothing.).

Overall, it automatically wins as the best historical account of Supermarionation, because it’s really the only one! But fortunately, its more than a history lesson, it’s really comes across as a thank you to those who created these wonderful shows. So pick up a copy, sit back, and as that old saying goes, ‘Standby for action!’

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