Supercar (TV series)

Last updated

Supercar
Supercar TV series titlecard.jpg
Genre
Created by
Written by
Directed by
Voices of
Composer Barry Gray
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series2
No. of episodes39 (list of episodes)
Production
ProducerGerry Anderson
Cinematography John Read
EditorGordon Davie
Camera setup Single
Running time25 mins approx.
Production company AP Films
Distributor ITC Entertainment
Release
Original network ATV
Picture format
Audio format Mono
Original release28 January 1961 (1961-01-28) 
29 April 1962 (1962-04-29)
Chronology
Preceded by Four Feather Falls
Followed by Fireball XL5

Supercar is a British children's TV show produced by Gerry Anderson and Arthur Provis' AP Films for ATV and ITC Entertainment. Thirty-nine episodes were produced between 1961 and 1962, [1] and it was Anderson's first half-hour series. In the UK it was seen on ITV, in Canada on the CBC, and in the US in syndication (the first Anderson series to be shown overseas) debuting in January 1962. The series uses Supermarionation, based on the complex and difficult Czech style of marionette puppetry. The creation of the show was credited to Gerry Anderson and Reg Hill, but it incorporates elements of Beaker's Bureau, a series proposed to the BBC by Hugh Woodhouse that was never produced. Anderson would later claim that the whole point of having a series based on a vehicle was to minimize having to show the marionettes walking, an action which he felt never looked convincing.

Contents

The plot of the show centred around Supercar, a vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft invented by Prof. Rudolph Popkiss and Dr. Horatio Beaker, and piloted by Mike Mercury. On land it rode on a cushion of air rather than wheels. Jets in the rear allowed it to fly like a jet and retractable wings were incorporated in the back of the car. Retrorockets on the side of the car slowed the vehicle. The car used "Clear-Vu", which included an inside television monitor allowing the occupant to see through fog and smoke. The vehicle was housed in a laboratory and living facility at Black Rock, Nevada, U.S.A. In the show's first episode, "Rescue", the Supercar crew's first mission is to save the passengers of a downed private plane. Two of the rescued, young Jimmy Gibson and his pet monkey, Mitch, are invited to live at the facility and share in the adventures.

The series inaugurated what became an Anderson trademark: the launch sequence. With the exception of The Secret Service , all of his series until Terrahawks included these – in Supercar's case, the charging and firing of port and starboard engines, the activation of an interlock, the opening of (overhead) hangar doors, and finally the vertical take-off.

Episodes

Series history and production

After Granada Television failed to renew Four Feather Falls , its creator Gerry Anderson approached Lew Grade of ATV. He asked Anderson to reduce the budget by half. After working through the night, Anderson returned the next morning, with the budget reduced only by a third. Grade commissioned the series immediately.

The music for the series was composed and conducted by Barry Gray. The opening and closing theme song vocalist for the first season was Mike Sammes; for the second season Sammes's vocal group The Mike Sammes Singers re-recorded the theme.

There were several working models of Supercar, which was designed by art director Reg Hill. The larger hero model was made of lightweight wood and Plexiglass (Perspex), and measured about seven feet (2 m) in length. It was built by Laurie Barr of Aeronautical and General Modelmakers Ltd. (now Mastermodels). A mid sized model (around 1 m in length), sculpted by Slough craftsman Bill James, and another smaller model (approximately 0.5 m) were used for the titles. One of the smaller models, used in distance shots, was about nine inches (23 cm) in length and was also sculpted by Bill James. Fans such as Austin Tate have speculated that Hill was inspired by U.S. concept cars such as the 1954 Ford FX-Atmos concept car. [2]

As photography on the series was getting under way, creator Gerry Anderson wed production assistant and voice actress Sylvia Thamm. After a brief mid-day ceremony the couple returned to the studio to help complete the opening title sequence.

Many of the first 26 scripts for Supercar were written by brothers Hugh and Martin Woodhouse, at the rate of one complete "shooting (camera-ready) script" per week; this was done by the brothers to fit Anderson's (and Grade's) cost, and production schedule.

Anderson always claimed that he invented a futuristic vehicle as an excuse to reduce the amount of walking the marionette puppets had to do, which could never be made to look realistic. This was taken to its conclusion in Captain Scarlet , in which the marionette puppets are almost never seen walking.

The complete series is available on DVD in the United Kingdom, Australia, and North America, where it has been issued twice. The series was released on Blu-ray in the 60th Anniversary year on 20th September 2021. [3]

Cast and characters

Mike Mercury flying Supercar in the opening title sequence. Supercar titlescreen.jpg
Mike Mercury flying Supercar in the opening title sequence.

Cast of characters

Supercar Team

  • Michael "Mike" Mercury: test pilot of Supercar (voiced by Graydon Gould).
  • Professor Rudolph Popkiss: co-inventor of Supercar with Dr. Beaker (voiced by George Murcell in season 1 and by Cyril Shaps in season 2).
  • Dr. Horatio Beaker: co-inventor of Supercar with Professor Popkiss (voiced by David Graham).
  • James "Jimmy" Gibson: a young boy who lives with his brother (voiced by Sylvia Anderson, credited as Sylvia Thamm in Season 2). After Mike and Supercar save his life, he joins the Supercar team.
  • Mitch the Monkey: Jimmy's pet monkey (voiced by David Graham).

Recurring villains

  • Masterspy: a foreign spy (voiced by George Murcell in season 1 and by Cyril Shaps in season 2). He is obsessed with getting his hands on Supercar. By the second episode, he is already an old adversary of Mike Mercury and team.
  • Zarrin: Masterspy's henchman (voiced by David Graham).
  • Mr. Harper: a posh English criminal (voiced by George Murcell).
  • Ben Judd: a not so posh Cockney-speaking criminal (voiced by David Graham).

Other recurring characters

Casting the characters

The cast for Supercar was put together weeks before shooting was to commence. [4] The lines were recorded in the rushes theatre, which was transformed into a recording studio. Lines were recorded on a Sunday (once every month), because the studio was on a trading estate, meaning Sundays were the quietest days of the week. The recording sessions typically took place between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., during which time the cast, along with the sound engineers, would try to get through at least three scripts. [4] [5]

Canadian actor Graydon Gould ( The Forest Rangers ), who voiced Mike Mercury despite never auditioning for the part, was offered it whilst doing a stage production that was shown on television. In an interview Gould recalls that, without owning a car, getting to Slough was difficult because "Sunday transport is about half of what it normally is" but because he had a wife, a two-year-old child and a three-bedroom apartment, he was grateful for the money. Sylvia Anderson directed the sessions and helped Gould with his accent; he recalls, "she would point out when my Canadian accent was slipping through". [6]

David Graham voiced three characters for the series: Doctor Beaker, Zarin, and Mitch the Monkey. He also voiced the recurring character of Bill Gibson. He had previously worked on the series Four Feather Falls [4] [7] where he had shown his ability to provide a variety of different voices. Graham had based his voice for Dr. Beaker on veteran actor Felix Aylmer, while he also spent a day at London Zoo watching monkeys at the Monkey House, trying get a good interpretation as to how Mitch should sound. [4] [5]

George Murcell voiced Professor Popkiss and Masterspy for the first season. He had previously worked for AP Films when playing the character Diamond in the low-budget B-Movie Crossroads to Crime alongside David Graham. [4] [5] Graham believes that because of his voice quality, Gerry thought he would make a good Masterspy, [5] while Gould remembers Murcell doing "all the European voices". [6] Murcell left the series after 24 episodes, which explains why he, and Popkiss do not appear in the last two episodes of the first series. [8]

Sylvia Anderson, then Sylvia Thamm before her marriage to Anderson, was credited as "voice direction", and voiced Jimmy Gibson and all female characters in the series; however, she was not credited for the first series. [9] Originally Sylvia was not to voice Jimmy, but she was given the opportunity when Gerry was not happy with the original voice of Jimmy that had already been recorded. [4] [5] This marked Sylvia’s first involvement in voice acting. [5]

Cyril Shaps was brought in to voice Professor Popkiss and Masterspy for the second season. [5] David Graham was a friend of Shaps and suggested him for the part when Murcell left. [5] At the time Shaps was performing in the West End play The Tenth Man, which Graham and the Andersons went to see. [5] [10]

U.S. syndication

Supercar debuted in the U.S. on WPIX, a local station in New York, on Saturday 6 January 1962 at 6:30 pm. The station's EVP and general manager, Fred M. Thrower, reported to ITC that after four weeks the show "has solidly established itself as the number one program in its time period and the number one weekend children's show in New York among all local children shows in this market" with an average ARB rating of 15.2. [11] A year later, Supercar had been sold into 140 U.S. and 49 foreign markets for $1.9 million in total sales, guaranteeing production of a second series of shows. [12]

Comic book

In the U.K., comics based on the series appeared in TV Comic in the years 1961–1964, running from issue #483 (18 March 1961) until issue #667 (26 September 1964). These stories were drawn by H. Watts and Bill Mevin. [13] Further Supercar comics were published in TV Century 21 , from 23 January 1965 to 8 Jan. 1966, drawn by Bruno Marraffa.

Supercar was the first Gerry Anderson series to be adapted as a comic book in America, with the Gold Key company releasing four issues between November 1962 and August 1963. [14]

Misc!Mayhem Productions in the USA planned to release a five-issue Supercar licensed comic book min-series "picking up where the classic Gerry Anderson TV series left off". Only the first issue (Vol. 1. No.0) appeared in February 2003. [15]

Soundtrack

In 1998, Fanderson issued a limited-edition album of Barry Gray's music from the series, paired with his work on Fireball XL5 . It was the first soundtrack album produced by the society.

In 2013, the society released a second limited-edition disc, this one completely devoted to the series.

Related Research Articles

<i>Four Feather Falls</i> British television series

Four Feather Falls was the third puppet TV show produced by Gerry Anderson for Granada Television. It was based on an idea by Barry Gray, who also wrote the show's music. The series was the first to use an early version of Anderson's Supermarionation puppetry. Thirty-nine 13-minute episodes were produced, broadcast by Granada from February until November 1960. The setting is the late 19th-century fictional Kansas town of Four Feather Falls, where the hero of the series, Tex Tucker, is a sheriff. The four feathers of the title refers to four magical feathers given to Tex by the Indian chief Kalamakooya as a reward for saving his grandson. One of the feathers allowed Tex's guns to swivel and fire without being touched whenever he was in danger, two conferred the power of speech on Tex's horse and dog, and the fourth feather could summon Kalamakooya.

Supermarionation style of television and film production

Supermarionation is a style of television and film production employed by British company AP Films in its puppet TV series and feature films of the 1960s. These productions were created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed at APF's studios on the Slough Trading Estate. The characters were played by electronic marionettes with a moveable lower lip, which opened and closed in time with pre-recorded dialogue by means of a solenoid in the puppet's head or chest. The productions were mostly science fiction with the puppetry supervised by Christine Glanville, art direction by either Bob Bell or Keith Wilson, and music composed by Barry Gray. They also made extensive use of scale model special effects, directed by Derek Meddings.

Sylvia Anderson

Sylvia Beatrice Anderson was an English television and film producer, writer, voice actress and costume designer, best known for her collaborations with Gerry Anderson, her husband between 1960 and 1981. In addition to serving as co-creator and co-writer on their TV series during the 1960s and early 1970s, Anderson's primary contribution was character development and costume design. She regularly directed the fortnightly voice recording sessions, and provided the voices of many female and child characters, in particular the creation of Lady Penelope and Parker in Thunderbirds.

Gerry Anderson English producer and director

Gerry Anderson was an English television and film producer, director, writer and occasional voice artist. He remains famous for his futuristic television programmes, especially his 1960s productions filmed with "Supermarionation".

<i>Stingray</i> (1964 TV series) British childrens Supermarionation television series

Stingray is a British children's science-fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by AP Films (APF) for ITC Entertainment. Filmed in 1963 using a combination of electronic marionette puppetry and scale model special effects, it was APF's sixth puppet series and the third to be produced under the banner of "Supermarionation". It premiered in October 1964 and ran for 39 half-hour episodes.

<i>UFO</i> (TV series) 1970 British TV science fiction series

UFO is a 1970 British science fiction television series about the ongoing covert efforts of a government defence organisation to prevent an alien invasion of Earth. It was created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, and produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade's Century 21 for Grade's ITC Entertainment company.

<i>Fireball XL5</i> British childrens TV series

Fireball XL5 is a 1960s British children's science-fiction puppet television series about the missions of Fireball XL5, a vessel of the World Space Patrol that polices the cosmos in the year 2062. Commanded by Colonel Steve Zodiac, XL5 defends Earth from interstellar threats while encountering a wide variety of alien civilisations.

AP Films

AP Films or APF, later becoming Century 21 Productions, was a British independent film production company of the 1950s until the early 1970s. The company became internationally known for its imaginative children's action-adventure marionette television series – most significantly Thunderbirds – produced for British independent broadcasting companies Associated-Rediffusion, Granada, ABC Weekend Television and Associated Television. At its height, the company employed more than 200 staff.

<i>The Secret Service</i> British television series

The Secret Service is a 1969 British science fiction television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company, Century 21, for ITC Entertainment. It follows the exploits of Father Stanley Unwin, a puppet character voiced by the comedian of the same name. Outwardly an eccentric Christian vicar, Unwin is secretly an agent of BISHOP, a division of British Intelligence countering criminal and terrorist threats. Assisted by fellow agent Matthew Harding, Unwin's missions involve frequent use of the Minimiser, a device capable of shrinking people and objects to facilitate covert operations. In hostile situations, the Father spouts a form of gibberish to distract the enemy.

Michael William Sammes was an English musician and vocal session arranger, performing backing vocals on pop music recorded in the UK from 1955 to the 1970s.

Cyril Shaps English film and television actor (1923–2003)

Cyril Leonard Shaps was an English actor of radio, television and film, with a successful career spanning over seven decades.

Trapped in the Sky 1st episode of the first series of Thunderbirds

"Trapped in the Sky" is the first episode of Thunderbirds, a British Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company AP Films (APF) for ITC Entertainment. Written by the Andersons, it was first broadcast on ATV Midlands on 30 September 1965.

"The Duchess Assignment" is the 23rd episode of the first series of Thunderbirds, a British Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company AP Films (APF) for ITC Entertainment. Written by Martin Crump and directed by David Elliott, it was first broadcast on 17 February 1966 on ATV Midlands.

"The Cham-Cham" is the 25th episode of Thunderbirds, a British Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company AP Films (APF). The penultimate episode of Thunderbirds Series One, it was written and directed by Alan Pattillo and first broadcast on 24 March 1966 on ATV Midlands.

"Ricochet" is an episode of Thunderbirds, a British Supermarionation television series created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and filmed by their production company AP Films. Written by Tony Barwick and directed by Brian Burgess, it was the penultimate episode to be produced and was first broadcast on 6 November 1966 on ATV London and Anglia Television as the fifth episode of Series Two.

<i>Crossroads to Crime</i> 1960 film

Crossroads to Crime is a 1960 British crime film produced and directed by Gerry Anderson and distributed by Anglo-Amalgamated (AA). Starring Anthony Oliver, George Murcell, Miriam Karlin, David Graham and Ferdy Mayne, Crossroads to Crime is about a police constable who works undercover to bring down a gang of lorry hi-jackers. Made as a B movie by Anderson's production company AP Films (APF), which made children's puppet television series, it was APF's first film production as well as its first production with live actors. It was also the only film that Anderson directed.

Brains (<i>Thunderbirds</i>)

Brains is a fictional character introduced in the British mid-1960s Supermarionation television series Thunderbirds, who also appears in the sequel films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968) and the 2004 live-action adaptation Thunderbirds. The puppet character was voiced by David Graham in the TV series and the first two films, while Anthony Edwards played the role for the live-action film. Brains is voiced by Kayvan Novak in the CGI remake series Thunderbirds Are Go, which aired in 2015.

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References

  1. The Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide, A. Pirani, Titan Books Ltd, 1989
  2. Supercar: Origin, in Supercar section at aiai.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 9 January 2018
  3. "Supercar. Limited Edition".
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 La Rivière 57.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Full Boost Vertical – The Supercar Story (DVD Documentary). Swinging Star Productions. 2004.
  6. 1 2 Clark, Mike (19 July 2003). "Graydon Gould "Mike Mercury" Part One" (Doc). Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  7. Marriott 60
  8. Bentley, 47.
  9. Bentley, 38.
  10. La Rivière 65.
  11. Television Mail, 23 March 1962
  12. Broadcasting, 21 January 1963
  13. Mevin entry, Lambiek's Comiclopedia.
  14. Supercar (1962) comic books, at mycomicshop.com. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  15. http://www.miscmayhemprods.com
Bibliography