So this was Daniel’s first monster movie, and you could not ask for a better one. It’s fantastic fun and just a little bit scary. It dumps International Rescue into one of those 1950s creature features where some chemical turns ordinary beasts into gigantic ones. When one of the thirty-foot alligators – I won’t tell you how many there are, but I remind you of the rule of these films that says there’s always at least one more than the heroes think – makes itself known and attacks a boat, Daniel was behind the sofa like a shot.
He stayed in the room until Alan decided to draw an alligator away from the house. He watched nervously as they played a slow cat-and-mouse. Alan was on a hoverbike, looking over his shoulder, moving when the monster moved. They inched forward, and forward, and forward, and Daniel gripped the sofa for dear life, his face peaking over the top, eyes wide…
And then Alan, not looking, smacked into a rock and was pitched forward, over the handles and off the bike, smacking his head into a log and rolling over, bruised and eyes closed… and Daniel was out of the room like a rocket. We called him back once the danger was passed.
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for this episode’s production meeting. Beautifully, it opens with what looks like a totally fake rear-screen projection shot, superimposing a live alligator over footage of the swamp set. Then the very next shot has two real alligators interacting with the puppets on a boat on the set. They really did dump real animals onto the set, and let them snap at each other, charge boats, and demolish the miniature house. An ordinary episode of Thunderbirds presented production challenges we can only guess at. This thing must have been a complete nightmare to make!
Although actually, as impressive as all the usual puppetry and animal wrangling are, I think the most impressive shot features a puppet flawlessly pouring liquid from a beaker into a test tube. Gerry Anderson’s programs always got some teasing for the marionettes bouncing around, but man alive, that was some precision work.
In fact, the only letdown in this great production was in the script. The sealed vial containing the last of the chemical gets dropped into the swamp river and Gordon, in Thunderbird 4, goes to find it. I’m more likely to believe in thirty-foot alligators than I am Gordon being able to see anything in that water!