Classic Movie Themes: Thunderbird 6
Despite the popularity of the TV show in 1965, the two spinoff Thunderbirds feature films were both box offices failures. This has often been attributed to the indifferently written screenplays that seem to have completely missed the sense of suspense that the fifty-minute episodes achieved. Both feature films feel rather slow and like extended episodes rather than big budget extravaganzas. They fail to do anything different with established characters and apart from showcasing more extensive miniature effects in a widescreen format, don’t really have much more to offer. It’s curious that the winning, character driven formula that worked on television was overlooked for these big screen outings.
However, there is one aspect of both film productions that is flawless. Composer Barry Gray’s musical scores. Thunderbird 6 was his favourite of the two, as it afforded him a wider range of musical themes with its globetrotting storyline. Through the use of a 56-piece orchestra he successfully managed to vary many of the classic Thunderbird themes, using them as motifs to reflect either impending danger or regional locations. All of this is done with a generous helping of typically 1960s lounge jazz. The various locations visited throughout the film also provide local ethnic idioms to further embellish the score. As usual there are humorous pastiches to underpin comic moments by Parker or Brains, all of which are interpreted in Barry Gray’s very literal musical style.
It's all very well crafted and ingeniously orchestrated as you would expect from a master composer at the peak of his career. It may lack some of the more urgent style of the TV series, but this is down to the somewhat ponderous narrative that drive the score. Below are two musical cues that are my personal favourites. The first is the main opening theme from Thunderbird 6. It is not the traditional tune associated with the series, but a bespoke track designed to capture the spirit of international travel which was still considered “glamourous” at the time.
The next track was written for when Skyship 1 travels over the Grand Canyon. It is designed to reflect the beauty and awe of this geographical feature. It then segues into a more mysterious piece as the villains’ plot against International Rescue. The cue again embodies the class and flamboyance of Barry Gray’s talent.