Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet (1967)
A&E Home Video
Extras: Commentary Track, Character Profiles, Still Galleries, Creator Bio, Production Notes

"Captain Scarlet" (AKA "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons") comes from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the creators of "Thunderbirds". And while "Captain Scarlet" may have a similar look to that of "Thunderbirds" and share the distinctive "Super-Marionation" technique, the tone and style of the show is much different. The "Captain Scarlet" story is set in the year 2068. While exploring the surface of Mars, members of Spectrum, the Earth’s foremost security force, encounter an ancient race known as The Mysterons. Assuming the aliens to be hostile, the Spectrum agents attack. This only angers The Mysterons, who have the power to regenerate matter. The aliens then launch an attack on Earth. In the process, they possess Captain Scarlet (all of the Spectrum agents are named after colors), who attempts to assassinate the World President. When his mission fails, Captain Scarlet is freed from The Mysterons control, but the encounter has left him invincible. With his newfound power, Scarlet, along with the other Spectrum agents prepare for a long battle with The Mysterons.

Whereas "Thunderbirds" is great fun, which borders on camp at times, "Captain Scarlet" is very serious and dark in tone. Buildings explode, planes crash, and characters die in this show, and one of the main characters, Captain Black, is basically an evil zombie. Also, The Mysterons show no mercy in their attack on Earth, adding further to the mature tone of the series. The bottom-line is that "Captain Scarlet" is a very good science fiction story that would have been impossible to film as a live-action series at the time it was originally produced. And while the puppet effects are clumsy at times, the engrossing story allows one to quickly forgive these shortcomings, as the focus remains on the unfolding plot itself. The show has many characters and each one develops a distinct personality throughout the course of the show. Those who were intrigued by the action and great vehicles in "Thunderbirds", but wanted something more serious, should definitely check out "Captain Scarlet" now that it is available on DVD.

"Captain Scarlet" is beautifully revived on DVD by A&E Home Video in a handsome box set. The set contains all 32 original episodes of the show, spread out over four discs. The set comes packaged in a unique quadruple Amaray-style case. The episodes have been digitally remastered and are presented in their original full-frame format. The shows look very good and at times, it’s hard to believe that we are in actuality watching something that is 35 years old. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of artifacting and distortion at times. For the most part it is free of blemishes and mars, making for a stable and superb presentation. The colors, which play an important role in this series, are also great and vividly rendered with vibrant hues. The image has a true depth and dimension through its well-balanced black levels, creating shadows that are deep, but never wash out. The compression has been equally well done and no distracting artifacts are evident throughout the presentation of these episodes.

The DVD comes with a newly-created <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 audio track, which rivals that found on the "Thunderbirds" releases. They offer clear dialogue with a natural frequency response that never appears to be overly harsh. Surround channels are sued frequently and effectively to complement the images on the screen. The bass response here is quite good, adding ambiance and "volume" to the constant explosions.

A&E Home Video has loaded the set with extras, though some may find them disappointing. Creator Gerry Anderson lends his voice to audio commentaries for two episodes, "The Mysterons" (the pilot) on Disc 1 and "Attack on Cloudbase" on Disc 4. Anderson gives a plethora of detailed information pertaining to the creation of the show and it’s quite clear that he’s still proud of his achievements. The remainder of the extras are comprised solely of text or photo files. Each disc contains a still gallery of production photos or behind-the-scenes shots. Disc 1 offers an "Introduction to Captain Scarlet", which is a text overview of the show. On Disc 2, viewers will find bios for the seven main Spectrum agents, as well as a bio of Gerry Anderson. Disc 3 contributes bios of the Spectrum Angels (female pilots who fly fighter jets!) and ID cards, which give detailed info on each agent. And finally, Disc 4 offers a text overview for each Spectrum vehicle. A behind-the-scenes documentary, such as the one found in "Thunderbirds" — Set 6, would have been great, but at least we now have the entire run of "Captain Scarlet" available on DVD.

"Captain Scarlet" is a far cry from many other puppet serials. It features a mature storyline that is well-told and executed. The DVD box set that A&E Home Video is presenting here has been painstakingly restored and remastered to ensure the best possible presentation quality throughout all episodes. For all science fiction fans, this release is definitely worth checking out a little closer!