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  Invasion: UFO Anderson ArsenalBuy this film here.
Year: 1974
Director: Gerry Anderson, etc
Stars: Ed Bishop, Michael Billington, George Sewell, Grant Taylor, Gabrielle Drake, Antonia Ellis, Gary Meyers, Michael Mundell, Dolores Mantez, Wanda Ventham, Maxwell Shaw, James Cosmo, Shane Rimmer, David Warbeck, Anouska Hempel, Steven Berkoff
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Adventure, TV Movie
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten years ago, there was an incident on Planet Earth where three people stumbled upon something strange in the forest near their home, and one of them managed to take a picture with his camera. That something was a flying saucer, and it opened fire and slaughtered them, though the photographs survived and found their way to military man Ed Straker (Ed Bishop), who knew he was onto a major story when another saucer tried to blow up him and the car he was travelling in. On attending a top secret meeting at the United Nations, he persuaded the world leaders that they needed to set up a defence force, and that's what they did, with Straker nominated commander of S.H.A.D.O...

If this sounds familiar, it's probably because you've seen the 1970 television series UFO, which was Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's concerted effort to break out of the children's entertainment ghetto and make serious adventure shows for grown-ups. Naturally, what they succeeded in doing was gather a devoted audience of kids and the adults were more dismissive; this didn't stop them persevering, and they followed it up with Space: 1999, a series that did run to more than one season unlike this. But just because UFO had ended within the year with no follow up did not damn it to oblivion and obscurity, as for a start it had been expensive to make, so generating profits was imperative.

What ITC did with the Andersons' biggest properties was to gather a selection of episodes and re-edit them together to make feature length efforts that would be sold to television stations across the globe as TV specials, usually broadcast for the younger viewers as it was considered that older ones would not be interested in ninety minutes straight of Thunderbirds or Captain Scarlet. Some of these escaped into cinemas, often in Italy for some reason, but Invasion: UFO seems to have been an exclusive to the small screen, though other compilations of cut down episodes did make it to the big screen. But they have not been as popular with the Anderson fans as the series they were derived from.

This was to do with wanting to watch the stories as originally intended, which were those hour-long (with adverts) instalments, and if you knew those you were not going to be satisfied with diluted renditions. On the other hand, if you were seeking an introduction to these series, and UFO in particular, then you could do worse than dip into them to get the flavour of the piece, so though there were key points missed out of this feature, including oddly the fact that the S.H.A.D.O. base was located in a film studio, there was enough compiled to make sense as a continuing plotline rather than a more episodic experience. That said, you still had to contend with continuity not quite marrying up over the course of the ninety-seven minutes.

For example, the most glaring element was not that moonbase commander Gabrielle Drake lost her glittery purple wig somewhere in the middle of the story, but more that an apparently important character, Alec Freeman (George Sewell), totally disappeared without comment during the final half hour, purely because he had not appeared in the episode they had elected to include. That was down to the choices being the ones which showed off the organisation's capabilities on land, sea and air to their best advantage, not to mention the regions of space they visited thanks to Derek Meddings' miniatures and models that displayed their arsenal and hardware. Therefore action sequences demonstrating the action over the more thoughtful aspects that could be part of many plotlines were neglected - and many will rankle that Barry Gray's theme tune was replaced. Obviously the best way to see UFO was the source, but you got the idea of a few of its strengths from this, if not the whole experience.

[This has been cleaned up for Blu-ray by Network and sold exclusively on their website. It looks and sounds great, with various extras relating to credits and titles. This is to whet your appetite for the complete series Blu-ray released later.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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