By Chris Dale
In the early 1980s, Vice President of Creative Affairs at ITC New York, Robert Mandell, and consultant David Hirsch embarked on a project that aimed to raise awareness of the various television series produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson among American viewers. This project took episodes from some of their most popular productions and combined them into new movie length features, with eleven ‘films’ being produced over the next three years. Together with two Space: 1999 compilations that had previously been assembled by ITC London, this package of thirteen films was sold to American cable stations under the umbrella title of Super Space Theater.
Among this collection were two compilation movies, each assembled from four episodes of Stingray; 1980’s The Incredible Voyage of Stingray (which combined the pilot episode, Plant of Doom, Count Down and The Master Plan) and 1981’s Invaders from the Deep (which comprised Hostages of the Deep, Emergency Marineville, The Big Gun, and Deep Heat). To fit a ninety-minute timeslot, up to ten minutes of material was trimmed from across each film’s four episodes, with the final scene of each episode usually being cut.
Since its episodes revolved around the Stingray crew’s battles with Titan, Incredible Voyage required little additional editing to be presented as a cohesive movie narrative. However, the episodes used in Invaders were unrelated ‘aliens of the week’ stories, and so were presented within a newly edited framing device of Titan ordering his various underwater allies to destroy Marineville. New opening and closing title sequences were created for each film, using footage or still images from the series with new overlaid credits and digital effects.
One of the most controversial changes to both films, came with an addition that had also been used in the Captain Scarlet compilations; computer-generated laser effects (replacing the missiles of both Stingray and Titan’s mechanical fish) created by Dolphin Productions in New York. In order to match the speed of the original missiles however, these were the slowest-moving lasers ever seen on screen – with visible wisps of very unlaserlike smoke further giving away the fact that these weren’t part of the original production.
Additionally, extra music was added to almost every scene in the film. In several of the Super Space Theater compilations, music from a different Anderson series entirely was often added, but thankfully most of the additional music in the Stingray films actually came from Stingray – although viewers may recognise one or two cues from other Anderson productions! Infamously, a brass band version of the Thunderbirds theme plays over the end titles of Invaders from the Deep – before leading into Yellow Submarine by The Beatles! This track (‘Thunderbird’s Submarine’) was released in 1967 as the b-side of Kapel Van De Koninklijke Luchtmacht and the Dutch Royal Airforce Band’s version of Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String.
The Super Space Theater compilations were aired on a variety of American cable stations (with Invaders from the Deep being the very first feature to appear on the American movie-mocking comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000, when it launched in 1988), and although they were often used as early hours schedule fillers, they did help to raise awareness of the Anderson shows Stateside. They then went on to be mainstays of various international Stingray home media releases through the 1980s and 90s. In fact, until the advent of the DVD era in the 2000s, these compilations were the only way to enjoy the eight Stingray episodes that had been used to make them – unless you were lucky enough to have an off-air recording!
Forty years after they were first made, we have revisited the Stingray compilation movies (laser effects and all) in the form of new Blu-ray releases for both The Incredible Voyage of Stingray and Invaders from the Deep! Each film is presented with a choice of movie or episodic soundtrack, in both original length 4:3 and extended 16:9 widescreen versions! And, if you ordered either the Deluxe or Super Deluxe edition releases of Stingray on Blu-ray, you can expect a bonus disc containing both films (plus several other exciting extras) to be sailing your way shortly – so stand by for Super Space action!