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|Home Videos: Tintin - The Secret of the Unicorn (1991)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Tuesday, 31 May 2011 13:33|
In the weekly rummage through the vat of VHS tapes in my attic, I recently came across something rather exciting: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. "Surely this must be worth something!" I thought, heading to the internet. A quick check round Amazon later, and people were selling their "Collector's Edition" copies of Tintin for £3.75. So much for that then.
It's no surprise that it's not worth a lot: this is the 1991 American animated Tintin, not the original 1959 Belvision series. Ever since the American Tintin cartoons appeared on DVD, people have been complaining about the lack of Belvision videos, which used to get shown in 5 minute chunks, with most of the runtime taken up by Pete Dawkins booming out the words "Hergé's Adventures of Tintin!" at the start.
Then again, it's not as if the Belvision show was the first screen version of Tintin. That honour goes to a bizarre little oddity, a 1947 stop-motion tale, The Crab with the Golden Claws. It goes a little something like this:
It's worth remembering the title of that one, because along with The Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab with the Golden Claws is one of the Tintin tales being used by Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg for their Tintin film. Needless to say, neither Speilberg's motion-capture animation nor the 1991 American TV show feature stop-motion puppets with oversized moustaches. But once you get over that disappointment, there's a lot of fun to be had with the cartoon version.
The costume, too, is always the same, from the trench coat and blue jumper to the white open-necked shirt. You could even argue that Tintin's fashion sense has inspired future detectives throughout the generations.
I say detective, because that's clearly what Tintin is, despite his official job title of journalist. Throughout The Secret of the Unicorn, as wallets get stolen by a pickpocket and hidden treasure maps turn up in model ships, our hero doesn't once sit down to write a news story, or even contact his (seemingly non-existent) employer. He just runs around with his dog, slowly realising that maybe something serious is going on.
Colin O'Meara does well to deal with the occasionally duff dialogue given to him, the majority of which is just exposition. "What's this?" "Why? What does that mean?" he says aloud to himself (or to loyal dog Snowy), building up to the most laboured of all: "I think I've discovered a hidden storage room!"
In fact, Tintin's world is pretty rough and ready, what with all the evil men, wallet-snatchings, drive-by shootings and occasional chloroform attacks. It's no L.A. Noire, but this is pretty action-packed stuff for a kids show. Tintin even gets to throw a few punches. Fans of hard-boiled crime can relax, though, because there are still plenty of hats to enjoy.
With such high-octane action sequences, it's a good job that lookalike detectives Thompson and Thomson are on hand to provide the plucky comic relief:
And then there's Captain Haddock. The most colourful character in the books, vocalist David Fox makes sure his time on screen is spent yelling random catchphrases with a gravelly piece of ham lodged firmly in his throat.
Haddock's also the main source of backstory in The Secret of the Unicorn. His ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, duelled with Red Rackham the pirate before blowing his ship up and losing track of his treasure. It's a typical globe-trotting plot for Tintin (suited to Spielberg's upcoming adaptation), and one that also allows Captain Haddock to jump around the room reenacting the sword fight.
Will Tintin and Captain Haddock find Red Rackham's Treasure? Will Thompson and Thomson get their wallets stolen again? What hat will Snowy wear next?