Four Feather Falls

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Four Feather Falls was the third puppet TV show produced by Gerry Anderson for Granada Television, from an idea by Barry Gray.



The show was made on a tight budget and could not afford sophisticated special effects. To achieve the effect of the guns' muzzle flashes, small specks of black paint were carefully applied to the 35 mm negatives, so that they would appear as white flashes on the prints.

The series was the first to use an early version of Anderson's Supermarionation puppetry process, although the term was not coined until Anderson's next series, Supercar. The original puppets produced for the series were made by Christine Glanville and had papier-mâché heads. Because they were stationary, the viewer could not tell which character was talking unless its puppet moved up or down. This was unsatisfactory to Anderson, and the papier-mâché heads were replaced with hollow fibre glass heads with rods inside which could move the eyes — though the puppets could not blink — and wires which with a 12 volt current could move the mouths.

The wires used to control the puppets were eight feet long and made of tungsten, an improvement on the curtain wire used in the two earlier series, and were only 1/200 of an inch thick. Being shiny, the wires had to be blackened. The puppets were made one-third life size with the puppeteers on a bridge eight feet above the set. The horses moved by being pulled along on a trolley which meant the viewer never saw their feet when they were moving.

Anderson paid singer Michael Holliday £2,000 to sing the songs in the shows that were composed by Barry Gray. Tommy Reilly played the harmonica and mouth organ music for it, and for Tex Tucker when he played a mouth organ in the show. A number of people had been brought in for the voices and Denise Bryer suggested her husband for the voice of Tex Tucker. When Anderson asked if he had had any stage experience, she revealed that her husband's name was Nicholas Parsons. Anderson liked Parsons' voice and he got the job.

The waterfall in the pilot episode was produced by making a model version of a library film of a waterfall available to Anderson and fading from the model to the film of a waterfall running, so the water seemed to appear by magic. A lot of fantastic scenery and buildings were produced by Reg Hill, his carpenter Bill James and an assistant, Bob Bell. Anderson said that Bob Bell got arrested while getting shrubs and trees for the show by taking cuttings in a local park. Reg Hill meanwhile got hold of huge chunks of coal and painted them white for rocks for the mountain and desert scenery. Shortly afterwards polystyrene appeared and Hill then carved his own "rocks" from this and painted them grey. The show was filmed in a mansion on the side of the River Thames in Leatherhead. The film used was not very sensitive and under the strong lights needed, something would start to smoke if left there too long.

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