1) Rocky and Bullwinkle Season 2: Episode 11
R & B are still dealing with Upsidasium and Boris and Natasha are still crashing planes and ballons trying to deal with the fruits of Mt. Flatten. This series is a funny look at Cold war anxieties - as well as taking a playful look at physics itself. The Fractured Fairy Tale story revolves around the goose that lays golden eggs. The voice of the king sounds like Captain Crunch. While the animation is limited, the cleverness of the designs more than make up for the rationed movements. If anything, the purity of the vision makes me sad about far we have fallen away - culturally speaking.
2) The Complete Ultraman: The Blue Stone of Baraj
There is a meteorite down in a strange desert area. Scientific groups sent to investigate it keep vanishing, so the French (?) dispatch a representative to ask the Science Patrol for their help. The French guy does little in this episode beyond smoking a cigarette in the back of their car on the way from the airport. Fuji isn't allowed to come on this trip. The look on her face as she hears this decision is priceless. It's one of my favorite "cheerfully resigned" Fuji moments. The village in the unnamed Middle Eastern country is in view of Mt. Ararat ("That's where Noah's ship landed") and is populated by Japanese looking Turkish (?) peasants who are led by a mysterious princess (like in H. Rider Haggard's She). The monster is the beetle-like creature Antlar. I have a small vinyl version of this guy and he is obviously one of the better looking Ultraman monsters. Like earlier versions of Baltan, he appears to have "Robin Hood"-like leggings. He shoots a magnetic ray and can create sand storms. Watching him wreck the mysterious village’s palace was priceless. I have no idea where they shot this episode, but it really looks like either a desert or a deserted fairground like the one in Spirited Away.
3) Terrahawks Volume One: Close Call
This episode features Zelda trying to capitalize on the work of an investigative reporter. This plot device was also used on Thunderbirds and the reporter's demands that the "public has a right to know" is reminiscent of current debates about security. I noticed that both Tiger and Mary seem more comfortable hanging around in the cockpit of the Battlehawk than they do in hanging around their mansion. I took this to mean that they generally were eager for action. I think the Battlehawk was influenced by Chris Foss's paintings. Tiger and Mary go to intercept a routine shipment of goods (Tiger is looking forward to his lobster claws) when the land transport is hijacked. This giant, three car transport was wonderful. It reminded me of some of the best of the designs from earlier Anderson shows - huge tires (which flew off and bounced off dramatically after explosions), a high cab, and the over-all feel of actual trucks and earthmoving equipment I remember from the 70's. The Battletank was also most impressive. I loved the doomed turrets (?) in the front. they are in keeping with the Zeroids motif. Indeed, the Zeroids' opposite numbers, Zelda's nasty little cubes, came off really well in this episode. The spin around and appear as buzzing little incarnations of evil. The end of the episode was particularly satisfying for me - in that the characters seemed to be examining each other's characters and doubt about Tiger's decisions were resolved in a way that delighted me. Influenced, I suspect, by Star Trek's Spock vs. McCoy and "logic vs. emotion" issues, Terrahawks did not fall prey to the usual, expected plot points. While I studied the credits I noted, because I had forgotten, that famed puppeteer Christine Glanville was in charge of the puppets on Terrahawks. I also thought the name of the director, Desmond Saunders, sounded familiar...
4) Thunderbirds Volume 3: Operation Crash-Dive
Again with the Fireflash. This episode, which again concerns problems with the crisis-plagued supersonic plane, is a sequel to the first episode of the series. Well, who could mind when the plane is so beautiful? Lots of great shots of water scenes, lots of shots of TB2 flying around after dropping the crate (so it's hollow in the middle), lots of TB4 in action underwater. I love seeing TB2 drop a crate on the open ocean and seeing it splash into the water. Even some of the minor puppet characters look great in this episode - the annoyed engineer in the white coat, the Irish farmer with his cows, the hapless Fireflash pilots. Jeff Tracey is his usual gruff self, and I enjoyed watching the Tracey brothers play pool (while smoking cigars!) and practice their shooting in an indoor target range. Brains is referred to once, indirectly, as an "egghead." Who directed this one? None other than Desmond Saunders! What a difference between the two series! The amount of detail in Thunderbirds is staggering. Every detail is perfect. For example, has anyone noticed the Japanese art in Jeff Tracey’s office? It’s on either side of his desk. Even the sets of Terrahawks looked cramped.