JULY 5 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE PUPPET MASTER SERIES
FROM WIKIPEDIA AND OTHER SOURCES
Puppet Master is a horror film franchise which focuses on a group of puppets animated by an Egyptian spell, each equipped with their own unique and dangerous device (although not in all installments of the series are the puppets portrayed as threatening) and are represented as heroes, anti-heroes, and antagonists. Produced by Full Moon Features, the series was established in 1989 with the eponymous first installment, which has since been followed by seven sequels (in addition to a crossover with the characters of Demonic Toys), a comic book spin-off and numerous other collector's items. In 2010, its latest sequel, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
After the collapse of his film studio, Empire Pictures, Charles Band relocated to the United States and opened Full Moon Productions. Band's goal with Full Moon was to create low budget horror, science fiction and fantasy films which mirrored the quality of films with more generous budgets. After partnering with Paramount Pictures and Pioneer Home Entertainment, Full Moon began production on its first feature film, Puppet Master, which had a premise similar to an earlier Empire film produced by Band, Dolls. Originally intended for theatrical release in summer 1989, before being released on home video the following September, Puppet Master was ultimately pushed to a direct-to-video release on October 12, 1989, as Band felt he was likely to make more money this way than he would in the theatrical market.
Puppet Master proved to be a success, and the film's cult status has led to the production of nine sequels (of these nine films, one is a crossover with another Full Moon franchise, Demonic Toys). A documentary containing interviews with cast and crew members was also shot and included on VHS and Laserdisc pressings of Puppet Master, as a featurette titled No Strings Attached.
Loving all the matters would see the release of two sequels, Puppet Master II and Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge; the latter which served as a series prequel. Toulon's Revenge was the first installment to feature Guy Rolfe in the role of puppeteer Andre Toulon (in the films prior, Toulon was portrayed by renowned actor William Hickey and Steve Welles, respectively). Rolfe reprised the role of Toulon for three additional films before his death in 2003, after which he posthumously appeared in Puppet Master: The Legacy through extensive use of archival footage. In 1993 Full Moon began shooting another two sequels simultaneously, Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter, the latter which, as the title indicates, was intended to be the final installment of the series. After the release of The Final Chapter in September 1994, Full Moon opted to retire Puppet Master and announced that a spin-off trilogy entitled "Puppet Wars" was to be started in 1995 (see promotional arwork on left). The spin-off trilogy was cancelled leaving the series to continue its legacy through merchandising and a growing cult following.
Due to demand from video retailers for a new installment of the series, four years after its retirement the Puppet Master franchise was promptly revived by the production of a sixth entry, Curse of the Puppet Master, in 1998. This was the first installment not to have David W. Allen involved with special effects. As by this time Paramount had ended its deal with Full Moon, to conserve costs the film was put together using using a combination of rod and string puppets, as well as archival footage. In September of the following year, a Puppet Master spin-off featuring the Totems of the fourth installment was released, titled Totem, and that October, a second prequel (taking place at an even earlier time than Toulon's Revenge) was released, titled Retro Puppet Master. This entry was an anomaly to the series, in that the main theme composed by Richard Band, brother of Full Moon's Charles Band, was completely absent, and it with its PG-13 rating, Retro Puppet Master was the first film in the series not to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. The original idea for the seventh installment of the series was to take place following Toulon's Revenge, with Toulon and his puppets escaping Germany by train, after which they are confronted by Nazis and demons. This idea was abandoned because the Kushner Locke Company thought it would offend the German audience, but it will form the basis for the ninth installment of the series, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. On June 12, 2009, Band announced that he would post video updates of Axis of Evil on Full Moon's website. Four days later on June 16, the first update was made available, verifying the film's roster of puppets to be included, as well as the principal cast members, Levi Fiehler and Jerry Hoffman. In 2010, Axis Of Evil was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
As of 1999, Retro Puppet Master is the latest original, feature-length Puppet Master film produced by Full Moon. An eighth entry, Puppet Master: The Legacy, was released in 2004, however only a fraction of the film contains original footage; the remainder is archival footage used to summarize the series thus far. The same year, a crossover film featuring the animated playthings of Full Moon's Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series aired on Sci Fi Channel, however neither Full Moon nor Charles Band had any involvement in its production (although the usual Puppet Master screenwriters are credited with penning its script). As such, the puppets used in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys are all noticeably replicas produced for the film.
In 2005, Charles Band alluded to a possible Puppet Master television series, called Puppet Wars (see left for promotional artwork), and expressed interest in seeing a video game adaptation of the franchise developed. In June 2008, Band announced that a tenth installment of the series is planned, tentatively subtitled Axis of Evil. In March 2009, it was reported that Band is also interested in remaking 1989's Puppet Master in 3-D. Similarly, the original film was reissued by Razor Digital in 2007 in DualDisc format, featuring both standard and stereoscopic versions.
* Puppet Master (1989)
* Puppet Master II (1991)
* Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991)
* Puppet Master 4 (1993)
* Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)
* Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
* Retro Puppet Master (1999)
* Puppet Master: The Legacy (2004)
* Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004)
* Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2009)
Series in Chronological Order
The Puppet Master series is a confusing one, as each installment not created in chronological order, and the events of Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge are dated inaccurately. For instance, Puppet Master, first motion picture of the franchise states that Toulon committed suicide in 1939 at the Bodega Bay Inn in Bodega Bay, California, while Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge takes place in 1941, and he is still very much alive.
As attempt to fix the confusion, below the installments are listed in rightful chronological order based plot summaries of each film.
Retro Puppet Master
Retro Puppet Master, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1999. The prologue of this film shows Toulon (Rolfe) hiding out from the Nazis, probably during the events in “Puppet Master III.” He finds a cracked head of a Cyclops puppet, and decides to tell the current puppets the story of how he came to possess the puppet life power to begin with. Flashback to 1892, an unconventionally immortal Egyptian named Afzel steals a spell for animating lifeless objects from the god Sutekh. Sutekh sends several followers after Afzel, but none are successful in killing him and returning the spell, although in Paris, Afzel is severely wounded and is sheltered by Andre Toulon. Afzel teaches Toulon Sutekh's spell, which he uses to animate one of his puppets, Pinhead. Comfortable that the spell has been passed on, Afzel commits suicide in front of Sutekh's henchmen, making them believe Afzel has taken the magic to his grave. However, when Toulon uses the spell to animate a handful of other puppets, Cyclops, Drill Sergeant, Six Shooter, Blade and Doctor Death, Sutekh's henchmen return to Paris to slay the Puppet Master. While the puppets are successful in besting Sutekh's forces, two of them are resurrected to pursue Toulon. Toulon confronts the demons on a train to Kara, where they have kidnapped and are keeping his love interest, Elsa, and a battle ensues, with Toulon and his puppets successful in defeating their pursuers and rescuing Elsa.
Eventually, Toulon takes his puppetry to Cairo with his new puppet, named "Mephisto", where, during a 1912 expedition one of his performances, is attended by a magician who, unbeknownst to Toulon, sets his theater ablaze. There to rebound Toulon's loss, the magician invites the puppeteer and his wife to his quarters, where he shows them an animated puppet of his own, a chained Egyptian goblin puppet, named "Djinn" that was animated by an elixir formula. (This is first revealed in a flashback of Puppet Master 2 and later reinstated with archived footage in Puppet Master: The Legacy:
Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge
Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1991. Years later, in Berlin, where Andre and Elsa Toulon have now taken residence, a Wehrmacht lieutenant learns that Toulon's puppets are sentient. Toulon is arrested by the Gestapo, two of his puppets are confiscated and Elsa is murdered. Toulon escapes and uses his puppets to avenge his wife. While in hiding, a fellow refugee reveals Toulon's location to the Gestapo, who infiltrate his hideout and force him to flee. Assisted by his puppets, Toulon tortures Major Kraus, the man who killed Elsa and organized the several attempts to arrest Toulon. Afterwards, he and a child refugee, Peter Hertz, flee to Geneva, Switzerland by train. After reuniting Hertz with relatives, Toulon continues his travels to the Swiss border, taking shelter from rainfall at an unattended inn, where he tells his puppets the story of Afzel and of his original puppets.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 2010. In 1939, continuing his journey to the United States, Toulon takes shelter at the Bodega Bay Inn in Bodega Bay, California. The Gestapo, however, have traced his location and two soldiers are sent to the hotel to assassinate him. With the chest containing his puppets and secrets hidden inside a wall panel, Toulon commits suicide before the assassins can infiltrate his room. Bodega Bay employee Danny Coogan discovers Toulon's body, along with his trunk of puppets, and begins taking care of them, eventually their secret. Coogan becomes jealous when his girlfriend, who also knows the puppets are alive, flirts with a man Coogan recognizes as one of the Gestapo who had come hunting for Toulon. Coogan discovers the Gestapo are involved in a plan to bomb the United States, and with the puppets' help, Coogan resolves to stop them.
Puppet Master (first motion picture of the franchise), directed by David Schmoeller, was released on video in 1989. In 1989, four psychics each receive unsettling visions, which they assess have been sent by a former colleague, Neil Gallagher. The group meets at the Bodega Bay Inn where Gallagher has been staying, where before long they are introduced to Gallagher's wife, Megan. The psychics are skeptical that Gallagher had ever been wed, but this is forgotten when Megan reveals that he has recently commit suicide. Toulon's puppets, now out and about, proceed to murder everyone in the hotel before only the psychic Alex Whitaker, and Megan remain. It is here that Gallagher, alive, confronts the two survivors. Gallagher explains that while he did die, Toulon's formula was used to give himself eternal life. However, when Gallagher mistreats the puppet Jester, the others revolt against him, locking him in an elevator and mercilessly killing him. Whitaker returns home. Megan, now alone, is shown picking up Dana's taxidermic dog, and by the following scene, the dog becomes completely animate, indicating that she too has learned Toulon's method.
Puppet Master 2
Puppet Master 2, directed by Dave Allen, was released on video in 1991. After the incident, the puppets visit the Shady Oaks cemetery where they recover Toulon's corpse and reanimate it using the last of the Egyptian's elixir. With Toulon alive, the puppets hope that he can brew a new elixir to continue keeping them sustained. Toulon humbly pursues the formula, but to do so, his puppets are required to continue killing, as blood tissue is a key ingredient in the concoction. After slaying the Bodega Bay Inn's owner, Megan Gallagher, Toulon unofficially takes ownership of the hotel, to the confusion of a group of parapsychologists who come to investigate the rantings of Alex Whitaker, who has gone insane since his visit to the place. It is during this time that Toulon designs his last puppet, Torch. After seeing one of the investigators, Carolyn Bramwell, Toulon is reminded of his wife Elsa, who bears a striking resemblance to Bramwell, and uncharacteristically he abandons the plan to help his puppets in order to find a way of being united with who he believes is his reincarnated wife. Toulon, who has had two life-sized mannequins created to house the souls of both he and Bramwell, uses a combination of the elixir and a magic spell to place his soul into one mannequin. However before Bramwell's soul can be transferred into the other mannequin, her love interest, Michael Kenney, rescues her. The puppets, both angry and ashamed that their long loving master has abandoned them due to his mind being corrupted by formula he taken that made him nothing more but a shadow of his former self, opt to have him killed once again. They use the remaining elixir and mannequin to resurrect one of their victims, Michael's mother, Camille. However Camille takes on a sadistic personality and has the puppets locked away, with the exception of Torch, who shares her disgust for children. This is key in that Camille uses the puppets to terrorize institutionalized children.
Puppet Master 4
Puppet Master 4, directed by Jeff Burr, was released on video in 1993. Some time after Camille takes Toulon's puppets on the road, they are returned to the Bodega Bay Inn, where they are not discovered until one summer while a youth scientist named Rick Myers serves as caretaker for the hotel. It is at this time that the god Sutekh makes a second attempt to suppress the secret of animation. Sutekh has three tribal puppets, spiritually linked to demonic minions of his own, called Totems sent to Earth to hunt down key personnel in the Omega Project, an organization also attempting to create life in inanimate objects. Myers' girlfriend, Susie, pays a visit to the Bodega Bay Inn, along with her friends Cameron and Lauren. Unknown to Susie, both Myers and Cameron have been previously acquainted, and they are both members of the Omega Project. Lauren, a clairvoyant, leads the group to the chest containing Toulon's puppets, and from the puppeteer's notes, Myers learns to inject the puppets with elixir to reanimate them. The puppets befriend the group, and protect them when the Totems arrive to kill Myers and his friends. Toulon's spirit, at ease since his puppets slew him over his treachery, returns to guide the puppets, advising them to activate his unfinished figure, Decapitron. The puppets set up an electric current which is used to animate Decapitron, who uses its interchangeable heads to communicate with the group and attack Totems.
Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter
Puppet Master 5, directed by Jeff Burr, was released on video in 1994. Following the events of Puppet Master 4, shortly after the attack, Myers is arrested under suspicion for having caused the murders committed by the Totems. His boss, Jennings, has Myers bailed because he believes he is innocent, and Myers tells Jennings about his experience with Toulon's puppets, all-the-while expecting Jennings not to believe him. However Jennings is interested in Myers' story, and he organizes a group of thugs to break into the Bodega Bay Inn and steal the puppets. Myers has a disturbing premonition and decides to return to the hotel with Blade to check on the puppets which were left behind when he was taken into custody. Meanwhile, Sutekh activates another Totem, which he proceeds to transfer his soul into. In the midst of their search for the puppets, Sutekh ambushes Jennings' thugs at the Bodega Bay Inn, before confronting Myers, who has recently arrived at the hotel, and Toulon's puppets. A battle between Sutekh and the puppets ensues, resulting in Sutekh attempting to retreat. However the spirit of Andre Toulon, piloting Decapitron, is able to destroy him, inadvertently damaging all of the puppets in the process.
Curse of the Puppet Master
Curse of the Puppet Master, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1998. The puppets are soon placed into an auction, where they are obtained by Magrew, an honorary doctor who manages a sideshow in a small American community. Here, Magrew conducts experiments on transforming humans into puppets, in an attempt to primitively duplicate Andre Toulon's method of animation. When Magrew's daughter, Jane, returns from college, the two meet a gas station attendant named Robert "Tank" Winsley. Winsley's skill at carving wood is noticed by Magrew, and the boy is invited to stay with he and Jane if he agrees to carve a puppet for Magrew's experiment. As Winsley and Jane grow closer, Magrew tries to discourage Jane from seeing Winsley, so that in the event where the boy leaves, Jane will not be hurt. However, Jane assures her father that Winsley would not leave her. After carving the pieces for Magrew's puppet, Winsley becomes ill. Magrew calls for a doctor, and Jane is ordered to leave town to pick up a package for his sideshow. After learning that no package was sent, Jane races home, but makes a stop to inspect debris she had found burnt in a ditch shortly before. In it, she finds a grotesque fleshy puppet who knows her name, which she identifies as her father's former assistant; the role which Winsley has replaced. Winsley wakes restrained to a laboratory table, with Magrew nearby, brandishing a mechanical puppet of his own. Magrew transfers Winsley's soul into the machine, but before he can enjoy his success, Toulon's puppets become enraged by his disgusting experiments, and they attack him. When Jane returns home, she finds her bloodied father and the mechanical puppet, recognizing it as Winsley because his face appears on a visual display unit on the figure's head. Winsley then proceeds to electrocute Magrew to death.
Puppet Master: Legacy
Puppet Master: The Legacy, directed by Charles Band, was released on video in 2003. The puppets are returned to the Bodega Bay Inn, which is now the residence of Peter Hertz, the boy Toulon escaped Germany during the war (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge). Meanwhile, a mercenary named Maclain, who has been hired by Toulon's original puppets to learn what reverses the spell of animation, is immersing herself in the puppeteer's history. In her investigation, she meets Rick Myers (Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5), who she murders for a book previously owned by Toulon, which details the animation process. The text fails to mention deanimation, so Maclain infiltrates the Bodega Bay Inn, where she meets Hertz. Hertz is not aware of how to reverse animation himself, so he plays several taped recordings of Andre Toulon, which chronicle his life, but the secret is absent from these recordings as well. Hertz and Blade then attack Maclain, before they are ambushed by an unseen character.
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (unofficial installment), directed by Ted Nicolaou, was aired on TV in 2004. In 2004, the puppets along with the formula are now in the ownership of Andre Toulon's great-grandnephew Robert Toulon and his daughter Alexandra. One Christmas Eve Alex and Robert finally figure out how to make the potion and bring the puppets to life. Toulon explains to the awakened puppets who he is and they are quick to accept their new master. Meanwhile an evil toy manufacturer Erica Sharpe seeks to use Andre Toulon's formula to give life to a line of killer toys that she plans to unleash on Christmas Eve. Subsequent to spying on Robert through a spy camera, Erika orders a team of thieves to break into the Toulon residence and retrieve the puppets. Nevertheless, Toulon’s creatures fight back and as a result, they are badly burnt from a fire accidently started by Six Shooter in the workshop. Robert fixes up the puppets with new cyborg parts and powerful new weapons, which will come in handy. After her failed attempt, Erika comes up with another evil plan, using the help of a Bael (the demon of wealth and profits) she mass-markets demonic toys. Robert Toulon discovers the spy camera and has the idea that the thieves who broke into his workshop are connected with Sharpe toys, he goes over to the factory to see what is going on, and there he is ambushed by an evil living Baby doll (Baby Oopsie-Daisy). On Toulon's return, he discovers his daughter has been kidnapped. Robert assist the help of a friendly police officer Sargent Jessica Russell who on Christmas Day with the puppets break into Sharpe toys and have a final fight with Erica Sharpe and her demonic minions and Toulon and his loyal puppets. The demonic toys are no match for the puppets and quickly dispatched. Robert frees his daughter from the hands of her evil kidnappers and at sunrise Erica fails to live up to her deal to bring Alex Toulon to Bael. Thus, instead of bringing the toys to life he takes Erica back to his kingdom in hell where she will become his loyal slave for all eternity, after that, Pinhead was wounded and soon dies after a moment. Saving the day and perhaps the world the Toulons, their puppets and Jessica head off into the sunrise singing and going out for a Christmas dinner. At the end Baby Oopsy Daisy somehow survived in the well and says "Merry Christmas my ass, and a crappy New Year!"
The most well-received Puppet Master installments are generally those released before the series' four-year hiatus. As the series was revived at a time when Full Moon Features was no longer partnered with Paramount Pictures, the studio's finances grew increasingly tight, and as a result the quality of each subsequent Puppet Master title (as well as numerous other Full Moon productions) waned. On Rotten Tomatoes, the only three installments which have been rated by critics are Puppet Master, which has a 17% rating after 6 reviews; Puppet Master II, which has a 20% rating after 5 reviews; and Puppet Master 4, which has a 0% rating after 5 reviews. The films have evidently scored much better with users, currently rating 51%, 47% and 66%, respectively.
Several of the Puppet Master films have been released on DVD in very small quantities. A box set containing the first seven installments of the series was released by Full Moon, but was recalled shortly after. However, in 2007, Full Moon Features reacquired the rights to the first five films, and the box set has since been reissued and is available directly from Full Moon, as well as through several online retailers. The first three films were included as part of an 18-disc Full Moon Features collection, and have since been individually released as a Spanish-subtitled import collection. In 2007, Razor Digital released an uncut DualDisc version of the first film, featuring both the standard and stereoscopic versions of the film, but with very poor picture quality. In December 2008, Charles Band authorized the first Puppet Master film for digital download through the iTunes Store; his first foray into the digital market.
* A four-issue comic book limited series printed by Eternity Comics. It was followed by a two-issue sequel titled Children of the Puppet Master.
* A series of action figures produced by Full Moon Toys, and scale replicas of the series' puppets, produced by Full Moon Playthings.
* A set of collectible cards.
* Clothing and Halloween costumes of the series' puppets.