FEATURE FILM
PRODUCTIONS

Films listed in production order


Feature Film Productions List

  1. Crossroads To Crime
  2. Thunderbirds Are Go
  3. Thunderbird 6
  4. Doppelgänger (aka Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun)


Crossroads To Crime (1960)

Screenplay by Alan Falconer
Directed by Gerry Anderson

Policeman Don Ross stumbles on a gang of hi-jackers operating at a local café run by Connie Williams. When he tells his senior officer of his suspicions, Ross is laughed off, so he decides to investigate single-handed. Ross finds himself being bribed by gang member Diamond as he gathers evidence of the gang's activities, while ringleader Miles plans and executes the robbery of a truck carrying £30,000 worth of cigarettes.

Now certain of Diamond's guilt and determined to bring down Miles, Ross joins the gang as they prepare for their final operation: the robbery of a £20,000 load of nickel alloy ingots...

Premiere: November 1960

Notes:

Crossroads To Crime was the feature film directorial debut of Gerry Anderson, although he had previously directed episodes of the Towers of London/ABC live-action television series Martin Kane, Private Investigator three years earlier. It now appears increasingly likely that the film was also Anderson's feature film directorial swansong.

Filmed in and around Slough during the summer of 1960, the film features quite a number of production personnel on the credits who would shortly after go on to work on Supercar: director of photography John Read, editor David Elliott, composer Barry Gray and continuity girl Sylvia Thamm, who became Sylvia Anderson shortly after filming was completed when Gerry Anderson divorced his first wife Betty.

In front of the camera were both David Graham, later heard as the voice of Dr. Beaker in Supercar, and the late George Murcell, Supercar's first season voice of Professor Popkiss (he was replaced by Cyril Shaps in the second season). Graham went on to voice numerous puppet characters in Stingray and Thunderbirds, most notably the latter's Parker and Brains. He and Miriam Karlin (café owner Connie Williams) were reunited some thirty years later when they appeared together in the BBC sitcom So Haunt Me.

The film's star, Welsh actor Anthony Oliver (P.C. Don Ross) was best-known as a TV storyteller although he did appear in other films productions of the period, most notably the 1954 picture The Runaway Bus, featuring the late Frankie Howerd. Oliver later achieved a measure of success as an author of murder mysteries.

Crossroads To Crime was released in the UK by Anglo Amalgamated distributors and given a 'U' Certificate (suitable for all viewers). At a mere 57 minutes duration, the film was intended as a 'B' feature, a short film shown alongside the main feature to bump up the cinema programme to nearly three hours.

Barry Gray's frantic opening titles theme later appeared in the Captain Scarlet episode Manhunt: it is heard playing on the garage mechanic's radio just before he is crushed by Captain Black.

Gerry Anderson has been quoted as dismissing Crossroads To Crime as "possibly the worst film ever made", although a surviving review of the film in 'Monthly Film Bulletin' suggests that he might have been a little hard on his own creation: "Quick off the mark," it reads, "this modest little thriller soon settles down into a routine 'cops and robbers' format, efficient if not always too convincing". The small scale of the film is perhaps best summed up by the rather quaint slogan on its poster: "£20,000 The Prize And Death The Price!"

Although never released in any home entertainment format, either in the UK or overseas, Crossroads To Crime has been shown at least once on terrestrial television in the UK. A print of the film exists in the archive of the British Film Institute and was screened for the first time in over 35 years by the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television as part of a special retrospective of Anderson's film work at the Museum's Pictureville Cinema in Bradford in 1997.


Cast:
Don Ross Anthony Oliver
Miles Ferdy Mayne
Diamond George Murcell
Connie Williams Miriam Karlin
Len Victor Maddern
Joan Ross Patricia Heneghan
Sergeant Pearson Arthur Rigby
Johnny David Graham
Paddy Harry Towb
Harry Terence Brook
Phillips J. Mark Roberts
Basher Donald Tandy
Lorry Driver Bill Sawyer
Butler Geoffrey Benton
Youths David Sale & Terry Sale
Escort Peter Diamond

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Thunderbirds Are Go (1966)

Screenplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson
Directed by David Lane

2065: The Hood sabotages the first manned space expedition to Mars causing the massive Zero X space vehicle to plummet out of control and crash into the sea. Two years later, the committee of the Martian Exploration Centre elect to invite International Rescue to organise the security arrangements at the launch of a second mission. Lady Penelope goes undercover as a reporter at Glenn Field and she and Scott successfully unmask The Hood as he attempts to stow away aboard the new Zero X.

The launch is successful and, after a six week flight, the crew of Zero X make a landing on Mars. But as they explore the planet surface in their Martian Exploration Vehicle, they come under fire from Martian Rock Snakes and barely escape with their lives. Then, on their return to Earth, Zero X's locking gear is damaged when one of the vehicle's lifting bodies goes out of control and the crew are trapped on board as Zero X heads for a crash-landing on Craigsville...

Premiere: December 12th, 1966 (London Pavilion, London)

Notes:

When the first 26-episode season of Gerry Anderson's epic Supermarionation series Thunderbirds premiered on British television in October 1965, public response was so phenomenal that a second series was immediately commissioned by financiers and distributors ITC Entertainment, in the person of its enigmatic chairman, Lew Grade. It was during discussions for shooting the second series that Anderson suggested to Grade that the logical progression would be to do a feature film based on the series which could be shot back-to-back with the new television episodes. Grade agreed and the budget was set at £250,000.

Production on both Thunderbirds Are Go and the second series of Thunderbirds began at the Century 21 Studios in Slough in February 1966. The voice cast from the first series was reassembled for recording the dialogue, with only one noticeable exception: David Holliday, who had provided the voice for Thunderbird 2 pilot Virgil Tracy in the first season, had returned to his native America and was, therefore, unable to continue his role. He was replaced by Canadian actor Jeremy Wilkin who subsequently voiced Captain Ochre in Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons and the Bishop in The Secret Service, and went on to appear in a regular role (as Lt. Gordon Maxwell) in UFO.

The cast were joined by guest vocalists Paul Maxwell (who had previously provided the voice of Colonel Steve Zodiac in Fireball XL5), Charles Tingwell (later heard as Dr. Fawn in Captain Scarlet) and Bob Monkhouse, best-known at the time as the host of Sunday Night At The London Palladium - shortly after recording his Thunderbirds role he replaced Jackie Rae on ATV's The Golden Shot, turned the failing series into a teatime hit and went on to become Britain's most popular (and highest-paid) game show host.

The most unusual additions to the cast of Thunderbirds Are Go were Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Brian Bennett, Bruce Welch and John Rostill, collectively known as Cliff Richard and The Shadows, whose puppet replicas made cameo appearances during a dream sequence. Richard was a close neighbour of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson at their holiday home in Portugal and were talking one day when the Andersons asked if Richard might be interested in making an 'appearance' in the movie. Backed by The Shadows, Richard performed a new song, "Shooting Star", for the film, and the group also performed an instrumental track, "Lady Penelope", in their unique style.

Thunderbirds Are Go was the first feature film to be shot using the Livingston Electronic Viewfinder Unit, also known as Add-a-Vision. This was basically an electronic viewfinder which could be used in conjunction with a Mitchell BNC Camera to take a television picture directly from the camera, enabling the staff of the entire unit to watch any scene being filmed on the television monitors. In this way, all members of the unit could study the set-up for any particular shot without moving the camera operator, and all the monitored pictures could be recorded on tape and played back to the director to check that a take was satisfactory.

By the time the film opened in December 1966, Anderson and his Century 21 team had moved on to production of a new Supermarionation television series, Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons - unable to sell Thunderbirds in America after a three-way bidding war between the US networks collapsed, Grade had cancelled the second season after just six episodes in favour of an all-new series. In the sole example of cross-series continuity in any of the Gerry Anderson productions, the MEV portion of Zero X from Thunderbirds Are Go made a guest appearance in The Mysterons, Captain Scarlet's pilot episode.

The feature film premiere on December 12th, 1966 at the London Pavilion was a massive success and executives at United Artists, the film's distributors, told Anderson that they anticipated that the Thunderbirds film series would soon rival James Bond. Unfortunately, the film proved to be a box office disaster, and United Artists were so surprised and confused by its failure that they put it down to a fluke and immediately commissioned a second film.

In retrospect, the film's failure can be seen as due to the unusual incidence of a variety of other feature films aimed at the same target audience which all opened at the same time over the 1966 Christmas season and proved to be greater draws to the general public: Batman (1966), Born Free (1966), The Fighting Prince Of Donegal (1966), Khartoum (1966), Press For Time (1966) and re-releases of Lady And The Tramp (1955), Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound Of Music (1965) and The Wizard Of Oz (1939).

Voice Cast:
Jeff Tracy Peter Dyneley
Scott Tracy Shane Rimmer
Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward Sylvia Anderson
Virgil Tracy Jeremy Wilkin
Alan Tracy Matt Zimmerman
Brains David Graham
Aloysius Parker David Graham
Tin-Tin Kyrano Christine Finn
Gordon Tracy David Graham
John Tracy Ray Barrett
The Hood Ray Barrett
Captain Paul Travers Paul Maxwell
Space Captain Greg Martin Alexander Davion
Space Navigator Brad Newman Bob Monkhouse
Dr. Ray Pierce Neil McCallum
Dr. Tony Grant Charles Tingwell
Controller - Glenn Field Ray Barrett
S.E.C. President Jeremy Wilkin
Public Relations Officer Charles Tingwell
Messenger Matt Zimmerman
Angry Young Man Charles Tingwell
Swinging Star Compére Bob Monkhouse
Cliff Richard Jr. Cliff Richard

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Thunderbird 6 (1967)

Screenplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson
Directed by David Lane

2068: Brains has designed a revolutionary new automated airship, Skyship One, and Penelope, Alan and Tin-Tin will be aboard the craft on its maiden voyage around the world. Alan and Tin-Tin travel by Tiger Moth bi-plane to rendezvous with Lady Penelope and Parker in England and the quartet board the airship, unaware that the entire crew has been gunned down and replaced by imposters.

The bogus crew are in league with The Hood and have bugged every part of the ship that will be used by Penelope in order to record her voice. They plan to rearrange her words to create a false message which will lure Scott and Virgil in Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a trap at a disused airfield...

Premiere: July 29th, 1968 (Odeon Cinema, London)

On Location:
M40, Lane End, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Notes:

Perplexed by the commercial failure of the first Thunderbirds film, Thunderbirds Are Go, United Artists commissioned a second film from Gerry Anderson's Century 21 Productions, so convinced were they that the concept had the potential for a lucrative long-running series of blockbusters along the lines of their immensely popular James Bond film series. The budget for the new movie, Thunderbird 6, was set at £300,000 with filming to take place alongside Anderson's new Supermarionation series Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons.

After five months of pre-production work, principal photography on Captain Scarlet began early in 1967, and twelve episodes were in the can before pre-production work on Thunderbird 6 was completed. Since the start of filming on Fireball XL5, the Anderson productions had employed two self-contained camera and puppet crews working simultaneously on separate episodes with duplicated sets and marionettes. In this way, it was possible for principal photography on two half-hour television episodes to be completed in ten days - the equivalent of one episode per week. Captain Scarlet was also filmed in this way until April 1967 when one of the crews was reassigned to Thunderbird 6 - the remaining 20 episodes of the television series were then shot back-to-back with the film over the next five months.

During the preceding year, technical advances in the puppet workshops at the Century 21 Studios in Slough had enabled the further miniaturisation of the circuitry that was installed in the heads of the marionettes to coordinate lip movement with dialogue. As a result, it was now possible to reduce the size of the puppets' heads to more correct human proportions, so a new style of puppets had been developed for Captain Scarlet, creating a greater effect of 'realism' in this and the productions that followed, Joe 90 and The Secret Service. Faced with the choice of retaining the original proportions of the Thunderbirds characters for the feature film, or substituting the 'anatomically correct' style puppets, Anderson's team reached a compromise and new puppets were created for Thunderbird 6 that featured 'halfway house' proportions - the heads and hands were still disproportionate to the dimensions of the bodies, but less so than in the Thunderbirds television series and Thunderbirds Are Go.

The original Thunderbirds voice cast was reassembled one last time for a marathon six day recording session. David Holliday, the original voice of Virgil Tracy in the first season of the television series, was now permanently residing in the United States and so, once again, Jeremy Wilkin took the role, just as he had on Thunderbirds Are Go and the six second season television episodes. Unfortunately, there was another casualty in the form of Ray Barrett, who had voiced John Tracy and The Hood for the previous Thunderbirds productions, but had since returned to his native Australia. His roles were taken in Thunderbird 6 by a newcomer, Keith Alexander, who was best-known at the time as the voice of the puppet mouse Topo Gigio. Alexander went on to provide the voice for W.I.N. agent Sam Loover in Joe 90 and B.I.S.H.O.P. agent Blake in The Secret Service. He also appeared in Anderson's Doppelgänger film and had a regular role as Lt. Keith Ford in UFO.

Location shooting for the film landed the production crew in court when a sequence involving daredevil stunt flying by ace bi-plane pilot Joan Hughes contravened the instructions of on official from the Ministry of Transport. The scene called for Alan Tracy's Tiger Moth bi-plane to fly under a motorway bridge between junctions 3 and 5 of the M40 (which had just been completed and was not yet open to traffic) near High Wycombe. The Ministry of Transport official insisted that the bi-plane could only pass under the bridge if the wheels were in contact with the road surface, a stipulation that made the stunt significantly more difficult for Joan. Ultimately, a sudden crosswind prevented her from landing the plane and she was forced to fly under the bridge without touching down, or risk losing control of the plane. The Department of Transport prosecuted the crew but the case was thrown out of court. The team was subsequently refused permission to film any more scenes on the M40, so the special effects crew built an entire section of the motorway in miniature on the effects stage to complete the necessary shots. In the finished film, the miniature work was indistinguishable from the material shot on location.

Oddly, although Thunderbird 6 was completed by January 1968 (the date of its British Film Catalogue classification), the film was shelved for six months and eventually received its premiere on the afternoon of July 29th, 1968 at the Odeon Cinema, London. This was, perhaps, indicative of United Artists' loss of faith in Thunderbirds following the termination of the television series and resulting drop in popularity. Like its predecessor, box office returns on Thunderbird 6 were disappointing.

In the intervening years, however, both films have established themselves as cult favourites with repeated cinema screenings showing healthy returns.

Voice Cast:
Jeff Tracy Peter Dyneley
Scott Tracy Shane Rimmer
Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward Sylvia Anderson
Virgil Tracy Jeremy Wilkin
Alan Tracy Matt Zimmerman
Brains David Graham
Aloysius Parker David Graham
Tin-Tin Kyrano Christine Finn
Gordon Tracy David Graham
John Tracy Keith Alexander
The Hood/Black Phantom Gary Files
Captain Foster/White Ghost John Carson
N.W.A. President James Glenn Geoffrey Keen
Captain Foster Gary Files
Hogarth Jeremy Wilkin
Lane Gary Files
Carter Matt Zimmerman
Indian Fortune Teller Christine Finn
Narrator Keith Alexander

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Doppelgänger


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