DVD Review: Joe 90 (The Complete Series)

Gerry Anderson wasn’t merely the English version of an American TV producer. His Supermarionation shows with their science fiction themes made him a combination of Irwin Allen (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and Sid & Marty Krofft (Land of the Lost). Although Gerry (and his wife and partner in puppetry Sylvia) hit the airwaves with his shows before his American counterparts. Thus Gerry blazed a path on ’60s television for others to follow with real humans who looked like they needed strings. Joe 90: The Complete Series was an action show that allowed a kid to perform adult activities.

The star of Joe 90 was Joe McClaine, a nine year old kid with a secret life. Turns out his dad Professor Ian McClaine has invented the BIG RAT which stands for Brain Impulse Galvanoscope Record And Transfer. This amazing machine has the ability to make a person think like another person using computer tape, blinking lights and a swirling globe. Naturally the Professor does the initial tests on his son. Thanks to spy pal Sam Loover, the Professor and Joe become part of the World Intelligence Network (WIN). Each episode has Joe get the mind transference to do amazingly adult things. He flies airplanes, drives trucks, fights bad guys and slices away on brains. Nothing is beyond him. Which raises the tricky question: Why is a secret government agency allowed to conduct mind altering experiments on a child and place the minor in dangerous situations? Joe is Professor McClaine’s adopted son so there’s a sneaking feeling that child services ought to be investigating them. Of course it helps that the kid is made of wood so he’s only really in trouble when near an open flame. There is a bit of tension on whether it’s a smart idea to let the kid do dangerous things. But Joe enjoys the adventure.

The characters in Joe 90 continue the design from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Their heads are properly proportioned so they resemble G.I. Joe dolls. Their eyes and lower lips move so they have a realism to them that Lorenzo Lamas can’t achieve. Gerry does a find job of making scenes look more realistic by avoiding showing the characters legs walking. There are moments that the puppets look more real than the cast of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Joe 90 was the last major success of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Super Marionation process. The Secret Service ceased production after only 13 episodes. The show blended live action with the marionettes so it wasn’t quite like his early six shows. Gerry would return with live action science fiction in UFO and Space: 1999. There’s no word if The Secret Service will be released as part of the Shout! Factory’s Gerry Anderson Collection. Joe 90 is a fitting way for Gerry Anderson to end his string pulling days. The mixture of action, science fiction and a heroic kid brought together the elements that made Supermarionation transcend a mere puppet show. Naturally putting Joe in the title also makes it a must have TV show for collectors.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the color on the miniature sets and tiny actors. You can see the string, but they aren’t that distracting. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0. The levels are fine so that the music doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue.

Audio Commentary are included on two episodes. Designer Mike Trim speaks on “The Most Special Agent.” Director Ken Turner pulls the stings on “The Unorthodox Shepherd. Both give a good history of this show and the way it was to work on Anderson’s productions.

Gerry Anderson Interview (10:00) allows him to discuss his relationship with Lew Grade (The Muppet Show).

Joe 90: The Complete Collection is the final complete Supermarionation from Gerry Anderson. The show is pure escapist fun as a kid becomes genius with a computer aided mind implanting device. This is a concept that would be revisited in The Matrix.

Timeless Media Group presents Joe 90: The Complete Collection. Starring: Len Jones, Rupert Davies, Keith Alexander, David Healy, Sylvia Anderson, Gary Files, Martin King, Jeremy Wilkin and Shane Rimmer. Boxset contents: 30 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: April 14, 2015.

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