A Case for the Bishop

Marc J. Frattasio

a dead parishioner wills a device to Father Stanley Unwin, his parish priest, that can shrink a man to 1/6th his normal size. Father Unwin and his gardener Matthew subsequently go to work for British Intelligence as undercover agents and they use the 'Minimizer' to facilitate their espionage missions. This is the basic premise of The Secret Service, the Andersons' 7th Supermarionation television series. In many respects the most peculiar Supermarionation series ever produced, The Secret Service presented a strange mixture of live action and puppets. Basically, real human beings and objects were used in long shots while puppets and models were used in close ups. Indeed, British comedian Stanley Unwin had the unique experience of playing himself in this 1969 Supermarionation series. The bizarre combination of filming techniques did not please Lew Grade of itc who ordered production of The Secret Service cancelled after only 13 episodes had been completed. However, the experience gained with live action and miniature photography was quickly put to good use in the Andersons' next television series, ufo.

Stanley Unwin
Here is the real live Stanley Unwin as he appears in the titles of The Secret Service. This program was unlike anything else done by the Andersons. The Secret Service attempted to 'trump' Captain Scarlet and Joe90 by freely mixing live shots with standard Supermarionation puppet and model shots. Did it work? Well, reviews are mixed! It certainly did not please itc's Lew Grade who ordered the series cancelled after 13 episodes, telling Gerry Anderson that 'the Americans will never understand it'.
Puppet Unwin
Here is the puppet Stanley Unwin. Normally, the puppet Unwin was used in close up shots like this and the real live Stanley Unwin was photographed in long shots. Stanley Unwin was a popular comedian in England who used a strange sort of nonsense-speak in his act. Unwin's nonsense-speak is used liberally throughout The Secret Service and reportedly this was a major factor in Lew Grade's decision to cancel the series [it may be noted that in the US/Canadian version of The Secret Service, Unwin's 'Unwinese' was actually replaced by something more resembling 'normal speech' – JLN2nd].
Minimizer
This is a 'live insert', a close-up shot of a pair of actual hands manipulating a full scale 'Minimizer' prop hidden in Father Unwin's bible. The Minimizer can shrink a person down to 1/6th normal size, in other words, down to Supermarionation puppet size! Live inserts such as this were used from the very beginning of Supermarionation. In the early days, however, rubber gloves were often worn to make the hands look 'puppet like'. The introduction of realistically proportioned puppets in Captain Scarlet and Joe90 made such gloves unnecessary.
Matthew Big
Here is Matthew, Father Unwin's gardener and fellow spy about to be shrunk down to 'puppet size' by the Minimizer device. This interesting trick shot shows the Matthew puppet optically enlarged to actual human size and matted into a live action set which represents Father Unwin's study.
Matthew Small
Here is the Matthew puppet after being shrunk down to 'normal' Supermarionation puppet size by the Minimizer ray. This is the actual size of the Matthew puppet in this live action set!
Matthew in Case
Here is another interesting shot. Father Unwin transports the shrunk-down Matthew to and from spy missions in a modified suitcase. Here is the Matthew puppet in his suitcase next to the real Stanley Unwin.
Unwin's Real Car
Father Unwin (the live actor) drives a Model T Ford called 'Gabriel'. Like Supercar, The Secret Service took place in the 'present' day of 1969, thus, live action surroundings and vehicles could be used without much difficulty. There were at least three different versions of the 'Gabriel' Model T Ford automobile. The real one shown here, a puppet sized one (which was radio controlled), and a small 1/24th scale version which was used on miniature sets and the 'rolling road'.
Puppet Driver
Here is the puppet Stanley Unwin behind the wheel of the puppet sized Model T Ford. This model vehicle was made by the Space Models Company, a company which made models and props on a contract basis for the Andersons for many years. Note the rear projection screen behind the puppet and car to provide the illusion of motion. This model was also electrically powered and capable of radio controlled operation for use (in a 'minimized' state of course) on actual roadways.
Dreisenberg Aircraft
Here is a model of the Dreisenberg ambassador's aircraft in a model hangar. This model is odd in that it is one of the very few propeller driven aircraft to appear in a Supermarionation program.
Live Action Aircraft
Here is a shot of the outside of the Dreisenberg hangar, now a live action shot of course!
Jet Engine
Here is the Matthew puppet inside a full scale jet engine. One of the many advantages of filming puppets like this in live surroundings was that sets came at low to no cost.
Mrs Appleby
Mrs. Appleby is Father Stanley Unwin's housekeeper. This puppet's facial features were modeled on chief puppeteer Christine Glanville's mother.
Scarlet Extra
This should be a familiar face. Many of the puppets seen in The Secret Service, like this one here, were recycled from Captain Scarlet and Joe90. This particular puppet was a minor guest character in many episodes.
Captain Ochre
And this pilot was Captain Ochre in Captain Scarlet.
ATC
Different series, same job. This air traffic controller character in The Secret Service was also an air traffic controller in the Captain Scarlet episode Winged Assasin.
Airliner in Flight
Here is the Dreisenberg airliner model on wires suspended in front of the old rolling sky developed by Derek Meddings for Thunderbirds. Allegedly, Derek Meddings used the rolling sky and road from the APF/Century 21 studios in some of the James Bond films that he worked on.
standard shot
Here is a standard Supermarionation shot. This is the 1/24th scale 'Gabriel' Model T Ford on a miniature airport set next to a large scale model of the Dreisenberg diplomatic airliner. For all the technical sophistication of the combined live action and puppet shots, the old standbys like this were the backbone of The Secret Service.
Shrink!
This is truly a very unusual shot! What we have here are two 'normal' sized puppets standing in the Dreisenberg aircraft's doorway with a 'minimized' puppet character standing between them. In other words, the puppet in the center has been optically reduced to the size a Supermarionation puppet would actually be in relation to the other puppet characters!
This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission