Way back towards the end of the seventies, I toyed with the idea of making a short Super 8 film simply showing Fireball XL5 taking off. I hadn’t seen the series for a number of years, and in that far off time there was no internet to check things out. My only reference was my TV21 comics and annuals.
At that time my modelling skills left a little to be desired, but my enthusiasm made up for any short fall.
I eventually made the three minute film, using edited dialogue from the ‘Journey to The Moon’ record (I used a compact cassette player to do that, remember those?)
I built puppet sets of Space City control room and Fireball XL5’s cabin, and in place of puppets, would you believe, I used cardboard cut-outs of Steve and Comr. Zero!
The film still exists, although since my old Super 8 projector has long since given up the ghost, I haven’t seen it since the eighties. However, a friend of mine, and fellow Anderson fan Andy Kerr took a few photos of my Space City diorama at the time, and for many years they remained undisturbed. However, after sorting through some old photos he found them and let me have a look.
The base board was a sheet 8’ X 4’ chipboard painted grey and covered with sawdust and lichen.
Space City Tower was made from card and paper and revolved by sitting it on a child’s wind -up toy hidden inside the base (It would play ‘Old MacDonalds Farm’ as we filmed)
Fireball was made from a piece of sanded broom handle and was around 11” long. I hadn’t discovered Vac-forming at that point, so the cockpit screen was simply painted on.
I do recall filming the little Fireball taking off which involved a Standard firework being placed in the rear rocket nozzle and lit. I figured if Derek Meddings could do this sort of thing, so could I.
The flames spewed out of the rear of my XL5 and it looked great, however, as I filmed my brother pulling the model along the launch rail I couldn’t help noticing that the flames were getting bigger as the model began to burn.
The film didn’t turn out quite as polished as I’d planned; in fact I cringe at the thought of seeing now.
These days , everything could be done very easily using the technology on a smart phone, and a couple of programs on a laptop computer, but, somehow I don’t think it would be as much fun.