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Tonnerre De Feu Pt.2…

BT_French7BT_French11BT_French9BT_French10BT_French8BT_French12Presenting the second half of the French lobby card collection in order of sequence – Notice that the beauty shot of the chopper (fourth pic down) is ‘flipped’ – an unfortunate common occurrence when images are taken from slides.  Also notice the continuity error of Murphy’s lack of green wristbands (top pic) which would miraculously re-appear after take-off.  Interestingly, the simulated devastation caused by the the F-16 missile at street level (bottom pic) in other lobby sets/posters actually show the crane setup and the skip of debris as its dropped on the poor extras…

Coming soon, German Theatrical Programme and Part 2 of the American Cinematographer features…

AKA Tonnerre De Feu…

BT_French1BT_French2BT_French3BT_French4BT_French5BT_French6The worldwide campaign for Blue Thunder yielded some interesting translations.  In Europe it would be known as Das Fliegende Auge (Germany) Sininen Salama (Finland) and Tuono Blu (Italy).  Go here for the full obscure list but for now we are hovering over France where it was known as Tonnerre De Feu.

This vintage set of 12 (second half to follow in next post) French 10×8 full colour lobby cards are among the sharpest examples I’ve seen and came undisturbed in their original brown exhibitors (Warner-Columbia Film) envelope.  To brand them cards is a stretch as they are actually no more than prints on the thinnest paper so have endured well over the last 30 or so years…

The Hollywood Collection…

BT_4 BT_1 BT_2 BT_3Join THE SPECIAL on a journey of pure nostalgia as we fondly look back at the age of VHS where it was not unusual to devote an entire cassette (plus packaging) to individual 47 minute TV episodes.

With the 11 episode series originally airing on the BBC in 1984, this collection (distributed in the UK by Parkfield Entertainment) was attractively presented but failed to make it beyond the four volumes shown above and quickly became shelf warmers in department stores.  None of this mattered to me, however, as my excitement was tangible having discovered the lot as a kid being pulled around BHS one rainy Saturday afternoon.

The content (besides having no commercials) went essentially unchanged save for a hastily and poorly inserted title card at the beginning of each episode.  While this dead format is easily dismissed now, with only one televised re-run on BRAVO in the ’90’s it would be over twenty years before the series would be seen again in any format…

Storage Wars…

BT_RC1BT_RC2BT_RC3BT_RC7BT_RC6BT_RC8BT_RC9BT_RC10BT_RC5Dumped in a corner and left to gather dust, this fantastic piece of movie history was unearthed Auction Hunters style in 2004 by a fan smart enough to recognise and photograph the neglected carcass of what I presume to be the primary R/C Helicopter used in Blue Thunder.

Although obviously left in pitiful condition the pics tell us that most, if not all the parts were still present (remote control, cannon assembly and even a spare canopy, 5th & bottom pic) and offer conclusive proof that the ship was once airborne, (judging by the bird poop) and that Roy Scheider’s stunt double was a smiling Ken doll.

While researching these pics I was lucky enough to get in contact with ‘Lee S’ of the Replica Prop Forum who was kind enough to share the story of how he made the discovery below;

“…It was mostly by chance.  I’d bid on a huge miniature of the Roger Young from Starship Troopers that Sony was selling off on eBay. I didn’t win, but I asked the seller if it would be possible to take some pictures of the model before it left with the new owner.  I was working in Culver City CA, just behind Sony and the guy from Sony said sure. I zipped over and had about 20mins to take pictures right before the Roger Young was loaded onto a truck. This wasn’t AT Sony, it was across the street in an old bank that they were storing stuff in, mostly it seemed bits & pieces they were selling off. After taking pictures of the RY I took a couple of minutes to look around and found the Blue Thunder model around a corner. So I snapped the pics you see and then asked if it had been on eBay too as I’d not noticed. The guy said it wasn’t but he thought it might be at some point. I asked if he’d let me know if it was listed, but I never heard from him again. The date/time on the pictures was Oct 29th 2004 around 8am. The date sounds about right, but it wasn’t 8am as I recall it was mid afternoon 3-4pm.

And that’s about all I know :-)..”

Although R/C Helicopter models from Blue Thunder have been restored and offered in auction over the last 10 years, the lack of pilot figure in the Profiles In History lots make me more inclined to believe that this one may have been salvaged for display in the Sony offices (see post below) rather than offered up anywhere else (possibly due to its condition) if indeed it was salvaged at all…

My sincere thanks go to Lee for permitting use of this fascinating gallery of pictures showcasing this intriguing find.  If you have anything to add to this story, feel free to get in touch..!

“Believable As The 11 O’Clock News…”

BT_AC_Cover1BT_AC_1aBT_AC_2aBT_AC_3aBT_AC_16aBT_AC_17aEnjoy what must surely be the most comprehensive of journals detailing how the plethora of special effects photography in Blue Thunder was achieved.  The series of fascinating articles from the May 1983 edition of American Cinematographer magazine will be posted here in its entirety beginning with the overview above (click for larger images) by Robert Veze and concluding with a piece on Motion Control.  Catch ‘ya later..!

Courtesy Of Sony…

blue thunder model at sonyblue-thunderRC_BT_SonyI present the model Blue Thunder used in the 1983 film Blue Thunder - Imgur(1)Further to the last post regarding the fate of the Blue Thunder R/C helicopters – here are a few images culled from Google (apologies for the quality) showing an alternative model currently on display in the Sony offices.  Notable differences between this and the Planet Hollywood version are the stabilizing paddles for the rotors, missing rung on the left hand skid and the addition of a Murphy pilot figure. (all of which leads me to believe it was used in the final Cochrane confrontation scenes).  One sad parallel is the treatment of the cannon, although the salvation in this instance is that at least its still present. (top pic in side window…)  Anybody with better, more current pics please feel free to contribute…

Courtesy Of Columbia…

BT_Hollywood1BT_Hollywood2BT_Hollywood3Another highlight of my trips to Florida was the discovery of this – incredulously tucked away in a dark corner of Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney, Orlando.  Suspended by wires at considerable height but otherwise unmolested, this genuine R/C miniature of the Blue Thunder helicopter may well still be in situ today.  As the pics show there had been no restoration to the chopper (broken cannon/canopy windows missing)  before mounting and the sign (accompanied by original lobby card) was partially hidden behind a plant.  If any fans out there happen to be passing and confirm its still there by shooting some more recent pics, I’d be happy to host them here…

A Virtual Tour…

MGM_BT1MGM_BT2MGM_BT3MGM_BT4MGM_BT6MGM_BT5MGM_BT7MGM_BT8The first of many exclusives to come on THE SPECIAL is this unpublished set of pictures shot at Disney/MGM studios Orlando,Fl from 2007.  Presented above is a 360° view of the mockup helicopter prop built for the closeup scenes fro the movie and subsequently, the series.  This perfect replica front portion of the chopper was originally mounted on a platform/hydraulic gimbal for scenes deemed too dangerous to be photographed in the air before being abandoned and laid to ruin after the cancellation of the TV Series.

This prop plus a menagerie of other mockup vehicles final resting place was the appropriately named ‘Boneyard’ only accessible by land train and featured on the ‘Backlot tour’ of MGM.  Lined up for display from the studio’s opening in 1989 and steadily ravaged by the weather, Blue Thunder took its place alongside similarly outrageously treated pieces of film/TV history such as the Spinner Car from Blade Runner and aircraft from the Rocketeer.  The rapid tour did not stop and only offered fleeting glimpses of the Boneyard as it flew by, making photography difficult and closer inspections an impossibility (despite repeated pleas onsite and by email)

Regardless of its status as the only 1:1 version of the helicopter still left in existence, by 2010 the frame had depleted to such a state that upon one of the many moves around the site it was decided it was too far gone and subsequently scrapped, much to the dismay of fans who had started a campaign to save it.

Luckily devotees like myself have visited the Studios on more than one occasion to try and record the prop in greater detail before its demise.  Random pictures dating back from the early 2000’s show it in much better condition before the canopy glass collapsed permitting water damage on the inside.  The set above represents the last time I would see it and its already apparent the shell was blistering – (its also one of the only records of the rear showing the framework) but the sheer magic of seeing this genuine and iconic piece from the production never diminished…

The Cops, The ‘Copter…

BT_TV_Guide1BT_TV_Guide3BT_TV_Guide2BT_TV_Guide4Director John Badham said it best in the Blue Thunder Special Edition DVD Documentary ‘Ride With The Angels’ when he mentioned “The best sign that you’re doing well is when people start to rip you off..”

To that end, when Columbia Pictures ripped themselves off by allowing ABC to commission Blue Thunder as a TV Series, they had some real obstacles to overcome, not least competition from Universal who were initiating a little rip-off of their own for CBS…

Firstly, according to Starlog magazine during an interview for 2010, star Roy Scheider had already been approached to reprise his role as Frank Murphy for the spin-off to which he had replied “No…Absolutely no” and then there was the small matter of the titular helicopter being obliterated at the movie’s end.

The studio’s simple fix for this was to dismiss the continuity set by the movie and rewrite it like it never happened – this would include watered-down versions of the same characters and the re-branding of the helicopter from its former sinister purpose to a force for ‘good’.

And so with the generous assistance of endless stock footage from the movie obtrusively inserted for most of the aerial scenes, Blue Thunder the series premiered on Jan 6th, 1984.  The rest is history, however its 12 episodes will be chronicled here exhaustively with subsequent posts.  For now, enjoy the nostalgia of the various TV Guide ads shown above, where having two forward-mounted electric cannons as illustrated (top) were the least of the series unfulfilled promises…