Thursday, 4 August 2016

Invasion UFO (1980)

“A UFO Taster”

Gerry Anderson.
We don’t have many SF TV gods in the UK. While the US has Gene Roddenberry and Chris Carter, Kenneth Johnson and Joss Whedon, many of our cult favourites have been more of a group effort whose 'creators' tend to only get mumbled about. People talk instead of the ‘Phillip Hinchcliffe years’ of DR WHO, or that THE AVENGERS only really hit its stride once Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell got involved.

         But then there’s Gerry Anderson - a man who created not just one cult TV series, but several, with revolutionary model and effects work that’s still fascinating to behold today. Famous for his Supermarionation successes like THUNDERBIRDS and CAPTAIN SCARLET, UFO was Anderson’s early 1970s attempt at a live-action SF series. It’s still held in (deservedly) high regard, not least for trying to do straight-faced (and often downbeat) SF while TV cop shows were still Roger Moore and Tony Curtis in THE PERSUADERS and JASON KING with his remarkable hairstyles.

         And so we come to INVASION UFO, a bit of a curiosity that was made for American and European TV by cutting together big chunks of three episodes (Identified, Computer Affair and Reflections in the Water) with some little bits and pieces of three others (ESP, The Man Who Came Back and Confetti Check A-OK). 

         One presumes the aim was to give audiences a taster for the show proper and indeed, Network are releasing this on Blu-ray prior to bringing out the entire show later this year. The problem is that with such chopping about, while you get a bit of an introduction to the characters and situations, INVASION UFO doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

It does make for a whole lot of beautiful Blu-ray, though. Just like Network’s superb restoration job on SPACE:1999, the image here looks excellent. For some reason however, the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio has been blown up to 1.85:1. It’s actually not too much of a problem - there aren’t any obvious tops of heads cut off & if you didn’t know it was shot in a different aspect ratio you can’t really tell from this. It is, however, sincerely to be hoped that Network get this right for the full release.

         What INVASION UFO is very good for is letting you know if you’ll want to watch the entire show. Despite some dodgy and inconvenient fashions (the final segment gives us David THE BEYOND Warbeck, Anouska SCARS OF DRACULA Hempel and Barry PREY Stokes in string vests under the sea) the underlying arc plot - dying aliens want our organs - is played very seriously indeed. In fact the very opening shot feels more like an episode of THE SWEENEY (still five years away) as a trio of innocents are subjected to a bloody machine-gunning - but by a flying saucer.
Extras in this disc include the original 1980 VHS version (if you fancy some nostalgia / giving yourself a headache), a trailer, and full frame opening and closing titles. Oh, and I should probably mention - the opening title music is terrible and is nothing like Barry Gray’s memorable theme. Don’t worry, however, the rest of the music here is 100% pure Barry.

Network's Blu-ray release of INVASION UFO is available exclusively from their site now. Click here to find out more.

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