Snappy Gallery presents: Joe 90 "Most Special Agent"
The Snappy Gallery
Joe 90: Most Special Agent
Joe 90 is about the adventures of Joe McClaine, a nine year old boy who happens to be a secret agent (Agent 90) for an organization called the World Intelligence Network (WIN). Joe 90's special talent is that he can be 'programmed' with the brain patterns of anybody using a special device developed by his adoptive father (Ian McClaine) called the Brain Impulse Galvanascope Record and Transfer (BIGRAT). With the use of the BIGRAT, Joe 90 becomes an instant expert in whatever field of endeavor required for his mission. Since nobody ever suspects that such a young boy is really a secret agent, Joe 90 gains access to places, people, and situations that no adult WIN operative ever could. Thus, the basic premise for Joe 90, the Anderson's 7th (counting Supercar) Supermarionation television series, introduced to the world in 1968.
Joe 90 was built upon the experience gained using the new naturalistic puppets in Captain Scarlet. The Joe MacClain puppet, seen here, was quite a bit smaller and ligher than the typical 'adult' puppets used in the Supermarionation programs and it was rather difficult for the puppeteers to control it on wires. For this reason, Joe 90 is not typically seen in motion unless he is seated on some kind of vehicle or machine, like the BIGRAT (Brain Impulse Galvanascope Record And Transfer) here.
Most of the Captain Scarlet puppet cast later appeared in Joe 90. Take a close look at Sam Loover here. Sam often showed up in Captain Scarlet as an 'extra'. For example, he was the Mysteronized lunar controller in 'Lunarville 7'. Although the properly proportioned puppets used in Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 looked far more realistic than the caracatured and 'cartoonish' puppets used in previous Supermarionation programs, they tended to have stiffer joints and were more difficult for the puppeteers to operate on strings.
An extremely high standard of realism was achieved in the puppet sized interior sets used in the production of Joe 90. Look closely at the level of detail incorporated into professor MacClain's cottage set. Without the puppets in the shot, this could easily be mistaken for a full-scale set on a sound stage. That white spiral staircase behind Sam Loover was made from custom polyester resin castings by Wag Evans at Space Models Limited.
Here is a close up of the large scale model of professor MacClain's flying car lifting off the famous 'rolling road'. The rolling road, which was developed by Derek Meddings, was a roadway and background painted on endless belts were mounted on motorized rollers which permitted models like this one to remain stationary in front of the camera while presenting the illusion of motion. This large scale fiberglass jet car was a marvel of operating parts as it incorporated moving wings and stabilizer fins, retractible wheels, and operating lights.
Here are the 1/24th scale versions of professor MacClain's and Shane Weston's cars in front of the World Intelligence Network (WIN) office building. 1/24th scale was established for most Supermarionation ground vehicles as far back as Stingray. This was done because 1/24th scale was the scale used by the AMT company (now Ertl), makers of a large range of model automobile kits which were frequently used by the APF and Century 21 studio model makers.
Sam Loover's car was first seen in Thunderbird 6 on a roadway at the Dover missile base near the end of the film! Although hard to see here, the model car has a transparent 'glass' top. This design feature was added so that the strings of puppets seated in the puppet sized car set would have an opening through which their strings could pass, a practice that goes back to the days of Supercar. In reality however, the car set was mostly used with the stringless under-control puppets.
Here is one of many models from Captain Scarlet that were reused again in Joe 90. This miniature was first seen as the Mysteron controlled airliner boarded by Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue in 'Flight 104'.
Look familiar? The Russian MIG 242 jets were either rebuilt from Captain Scarlet Angel Jets or they were made new from fiberglass parts cast from the original Angel Jet molds. The presence of the USSR as an adversary is unique to Joe 90. Usually the Supermarionation enemies were shrouded in mystery, a conscious effort made by the Andersons so not to fan the flames of the Cold War. Interestingly, the Russians dropped from sight after the very first episode of Joe 90 and were replaced by an organization called 'The Eastern Alliance'.
Here is another Captain Scarlet recycling job. This under-control puppet of Joe 90 is sitting in a repainted Angel Jet cockpit. The puppet is being controlled from under the set by a puppeteer who is using a complicated arrangement of rods and wires. Thus, there are no strings to get in the way of the canopy! Under-control puppets were introduced in Thunderbirds for use in situations such as these where it was not desirable to use stringed puppets. Under-control puppets were used extensively in Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.
Here goes a MIG 242 jet! The white cloud of exhaust smoke is caused by a Schermuly black powder rocket motor. Gerry Anderson had a 'thing' for VTOL aircraft ever since he saw the NASA 'flying bedstead' on television during the early 1960s. The USAF experimentally launched fighter jets off ramps mounted on truck trailers using expendable solid fuel booster rockets during the late 1950s. This technique was called 'Zero Launching' and it was the inspiration for the Joe 90 scene shown here.
This Russian pilot is of course sitting in an old Angel Jet cockpit from Captain Scarlet and is also wearing a Captain Scarlet crash helmet and sunglasses. This is an interesting composite of several Supermarionation filming techniques. The pilot is an under-control puppet seated in a puppet sized cockpit set. Behind him is a large scale model of a MIG 242 suspended on wires to provide an illusion of depth. Behind the cockpit set and the model MIG 242 jet is a painted 'rolling sky' backdrop to provide the illusion of motion.
Here are three MIG 242 models on wires in front of the rolling sky backdrop. There were at least four MIG 242 models made for the Joe 90 pilot episode. It looks like these three models were made in the smaller scale (about 7 inches long) Angel Jet size. Some of the MIG 242 models were made with one ventral rocket pod while others (like Joe 90's stolen jet) were made with two rocket pods. One of the MIG 242 jets in this image has just been hit by one of Joe's missiles and it is going down trailing a column of oily smoke.
Here is a large scale section of a MIG 242 that was built for close-up shots used to show rockets being fired from the rocket pods. There were of course no rockets fired from these pods, just a small electrically fired pyrotechnic charge to produce a flash of flame and smoke. Note the generally high standard of detail that was incorporated into this large scale section. The model makers loved to use striping tape to make panel lines! Also, note the complete lack of an opening at the jet engine inlet, its white painted solid wood!
This exploding MIG 242 was a hollow fiberglass shell filled with an explosive charge and Fuller's Earth, an extremely fine powder commonly used in the plastics industry as a filler material. The Fuller's Earth caused the black cloud of smoke. Generally, minor 'guest' models like these that were only seen once or destroyed were not finished to a particularly high standard. In fact, it is quite possible that only one side, the side that was visible to the camera, was finished and fully painted.
Here is the standard technique used to film a crashing aircraft like this ill-fate MIG 242. The model aircraft, with a tube fixed to the fuselage, was pulled down an inclined wire trailing a column of oily black smoke through a hole cut in the bottom of the set. Once the model passed through the hole, a petrol gel (like napalm) charge was detonated to create the explosion. In this way, the model aircraft was not destroyed in the blast and it could be used again if the shot did not come out good enough.
This Russian missile is being launched downwards! The set and the camera are both upside down. This was a common technique started in Thunderbirds and later used extensively in Captain Scarlet and Joe 90. By filming rocket launches upside down, the pyrotechnic flames and smoke would appear to point downwards. Often the rockets filmed 'properly' suffered the problem of the exhaust flames curling upwards or the smoke catching up with and overtaking the rocket, spoiling the realism of the shot.
These two balsa wood hovercraft armored vehicles have Jetex motors (a small pyrotechnic device used in the 50s and 60s to power model aircraft) installed underneath them which disturbs a layer of Fuller's Earth on the model runway to cause clouds of dust. They are being pulled on wires by technicians located outside the camera's field of view. It looks like this MIG 242 model was made using the larger scale (1/16th or about 26 inches long) Angel Jet as its basis.
Here is the 1/24th scale version of professor MacClain's flying car on wires in front of the rolling sky. The so-called 'Jet Car' was not the most attractive vehicle ever designed by Derek Meddings. Not only is the cabin small, but the rest of the car is about the size of a commercial truck! This thing is a tri-phibian. It runs on the ground, flies, and has a boat-hull body. Though not obvious here, the car is capable of vertical flight by means of jet nozzles located on the underbody. The salt water must have done a job on them!