Puppet Master Franchise

Day 3-20 of the 2022 31-Days of Horror.

I decided to tackle this whole franchise this year. It was a pleasant surprise that Doktor Death was released on the 30th so I could add it to this review right away.

“Puppet Master” (1989)

For more information follow this link.

A group of psychics gather together at the Bodega Bay Inn after being summoned there by a former colleague, Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs), who, they had not known, had committed suicide. There they discover his young, innocent wife, Megan, the heiress to the hotel, and as they try to discover what Gallagher was up to, people start being murdered by living puppets.

I’ve loved this movie since I first saw it. (My husband and I actually enjoyed this so much that we dressed up as Blade and Leech Woman for Halloween one year.) It is creative and uses the “talents” of each psychic in different ways. The cast is a bit homogenous and one dimensional, starring Paul Le Mat as Alex as the dreamer, Irene Miracle as Dana the Voodoo practitioner, and Catherine O’Reilly and Matt Roe as Carissa and Frank, the sexual psychometrists; and featuring William Hickey plays the old puppet master, Andre Toulon, who was hunted down by the Nazi’s at the Bodega Bay Inn, before committing suicide himself to protect his puppets. There’s even a scene with the incomparable Barbara Crampton!

The real stars, however are the puppets, Jester, Blade, Pinhead, Tunneller, and Leech Woman.

The workmanship of the puppets in this is fantastic and the stop animation they used gave real personality to each one. Which is likely why the franchise has been so prolific. Of all of them, this one holds up the best.

I do like to revisit this one every few years.

“Puppet Master 2” (1990)

For more information follow this link.

Following the events of the first movie, reportedly, the survivors were considered to have gone mad. Alex was specifically mentioned to have been institutionalized. A group of paranormal investigators, lead by Carolyn Bramwell, arrive at the Bodega Bay Inn in an attempt to learn what occurred. A mysterious and heavily bandaged man shows up claiming to be the owner of the hotel and their psychic disappears and Carolyn’s troubled brother is murdered.

The story turns more to Toulon in this entry, but casts him as the villain. The puppets are still a part of the story, but more tools of Toulon rather than being the beloved children and having as much personality as in the first. We’re introduced to the puppet, Torch, and Leech Woman appears to be destroyed. Clearly the story was less thought out, which is exceedingly evident when he calls his adored wife “Mrs. Andre Toulon” and variations of that, rather than by her given name.

Nita Talbot, as Camille the psychic, is the only cast member of note in this entry.

The make-up and effects, again, are good and hold up well, which in itself is why I occasionally revisit.

Puppet Master 3: “Toulon’s Revenge” (1991)

For more information follow this link.

This prequel occurs in 1941, during WWII.

Toulon’s Revenge is the first of the Puppet Master films to feature Guy Rolfe as Andre Toulon. It backtracks to Toulon being a kind and loving father-like figure for the puppets and his wife, Ilsa (Sara Douglas), as his devoted wife. It also explains the origin of the puppet, Blade.

This is actually my second favorite film of the franchise.

“Puppet Master 4: The Demon”” (1993)

For more information follow this link.

An unknown amount of time after the Puppet Master 2, but long enough that it doesn’t appear to be open to the public, Rick, a young scientist, is staying at The Bodega Bay Inn while he works on a robotics project when, on a dark and stormy night, a mysterious figure drops off a package. Shortly after, Rick (Gordon Currie) finds the puppet, Blade, in the hallway. That same night, his girlfriend, Suzie, arrives with her friends, Lauren, and rival scientist, Cameron. Lauren apparently has some psychic ability, because she finds Toulon’s trunk containing the rest of the puppets and Toulon’s diary. And, of course, not understanding anything, they go ahead and inject the green formula into the puppets.

So, we’ve got a few things going on here. First, there is a group of scientists working toward being the cutting edge of robotics. Seemingly randomly, the movie starts out with a scientist who has received a package with a mysterious doll, who they presume is from Rick, so they call him and he says he hasn’t sent anything. Rick is their whiz kid and has been given space and independence to work on his groundbreaking products, as the caretaker of the Bodega Bay Inn. Next, we have Toulon’s puppets, who have been sleeping for an unspecified amount of time and decide they actually like the kind natured Rick and choose to protect him. Then we have Sutek (Jake McKinnon), the Egyptian demon lord, and his army of Totems, who seek revenge on Toulon for stealing the secret of the magic that gives the puppets life. The scenes from Sutek’s realm are… well, they have entertainment value. Last, we have Toulon (Guy Rolfe), himself, fighting to protect his puppet friends, by having the puppets bring Decapatron to life.

I rather like this more than I like Puppet Master 2.

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter” (1994)

For more information follow this link.

This entry picks up immediately following the events of Puppet Master 4, with Rick at the police station being questioned about the deaths which occurred not only at The Bodega Bay Inn, but also the apparent murders of his boss and coworkers at Biotech/Omega Systems. They use clips from the previous film to help tell the story of what happened the night before, an Omega Exec comes and posts Rick’s bail and Rick is off to find the puppets because he can sense that something is wrong.

I was hugely entertained that Clu Gulager’s cameo is as one of the “Evil Executives”. The dream sequence is really stunning. One has to wonder if there is some deeper meaning *chuckle* hidden in certain scenes of the film, because there are a surprisingly large amount of scenes that take place while people are walking through hallways.

It’s obvious that this and PM4 had originally been intended to be one film that was split into two, which isn’t horrible. Watching these 2 together works, watching one without the other would feel incomplete.

Puppet Master 6: “Curse of the Puppet Master” (1998)

For more information follow this link.

Scientist, Dr. Magrew (Gregory Peck) and his daughter, Jane (Emily Harrison), happen upon Robert (Josh Green), a simple young gas station attendant, being bullied by some rowdy townies. Dr. Magrew notices a small wooden carving that Robert has done and hires him to come live with them and be his assistant, carving puppets for his roadside attraction “Magrew’s Marvels”, since his last assistant “disappeared.” It really is the same script as Sssssss, how about that. A mad scientist trying to create an improved human race and turning his assistants into living puppets (instead of snakes), as his daughter and his newest assistance begin to fall in love.

The movie opens with the Toulon Puppets in cages and that’s where they spent most of the first 2/3 of the story, as Dr. Magrew does most of his own dirty work, only letting them out for specific tasks. I think this movie has the least amount of focus on the puppets than the entire rest of the franchise. Most of the supporting characters are unpleasant and unredeemed, from the gang of townies who clearly have a fixation on rape fantasies, to the overly aggressive sheriff and deputy. Even though Magrew is clearly not the “good guy”, you do rather cheer for the puppets when he sends them to murder his victims.

It definitely has a different feel from the rest of the franchise, which is refreshing.

Puppet Master 7: “Retro Puppet Master” (1999)

For more information follow this link.

This entry into the Puppet Master franchise tells the tale of young Andre Toulon before he became the Puppet Master and how he met the love of his life, Ilsa. It is framed as a memory of the elderly Toulon, Guy Rolfe, which is significant because this is Guy Rolfe’s final film.

It really wasn’t that bad. Okay, the final showdown/”fight scene” between Young Andre (Greg Sestro) and The First Servant (Stephan Bleckehart) was truly awful. But overall, the story was solid and the effects hold up. I even thought that the make-up of the Servants of Sutekh.

Puppet Master 8: “Puppet Master The Legacy” (2003)

For more information follow this link.

This is the story of Peter Hertz, who met Toulon when he was a child in Nazi occupied Germany (Puppet Master 3), now an old man and in custody of the puppets. An assassin (Kate Orsini) tracks him down to learn more about how the puppets work.

Legacy is very like an anthology film (I guess they call this a “clip show”), except with only about 30 minutes of new content, which was the framework/overarching story, this was essentially a remix or flashback of the previous 6 films. I’m not certain why this was made, unless it was an attempt to pull all the separate stories into one cohesive narrative. Considering there are several more to follow, I guess I’ll find out.

The premise behind the new parts is interesting, but overall the movie was a disappointment.

Puppet Master 9: “Puppet Master VS Demonic Toys” (2004)

For more information follow this link.

Okay, this movie is about Andre Toulon’s great-nephew, Robert Toulon (Cory Feldman with really big hair) and his daughter, Alex (Danielle Keaton). Robert has followed the family tradition of being a toy/doll maker and he has been trying to reproduce “Old Man Toulon’s” secret formula. He used to work for Sharpe’s Toys, but they parted ways. The evil CEO, Erica Sharpe (Vanessa Angel), who has made a deal with a demon, Bael, to give him the blood of Toulon by Christmas Eve, secretly has her own demonic toys on which her new Christmas toy line is based. Oh yeah, and Robert develops a crush on the cop (Silvia Suvadová) who responds to a disturbance call at his home after Sharpe’s thugs break in, then somehow is always around whenever Robert has problems. And all the women want to get it on with Robert. Sigh.

PMvDT is not part of official canon, which is probably good. It was originally intended to be the follow up to Puppet Master 3, but it was shelved for the Decapatron movies. This film was directed, by Ted Nicolaou, it is also the only movie that Charles Band really has nothing to do wit, though he has an “honorary” producer’s credit. As far as the Demonic Toys go, Baby Oopsie is rather evilly, sadistically cute; Jack Attack is kind of terrifying; and Grizzly Teddy is just kind of there.

I mean, it’s fun, not particularly good, but fun. It would probably have been more fun if I’d had a cocktail or 2 (or more).

When Puppets and Dolls Attack” (2005)

For more information follow this link.

This is not part of the Puppet Master franchise, but I thought I’d give it honorable mention as it is a compilation of all the best kill and thrill scenes from all the Puppet and Doll movies in the Full Moon catalog up to this point.

Puppet Master 10: “Axis of Evil” (2010)

For more information follow this link.

This entry into the Puppet Master franchise again hops the timeline and to take place immediately following the death by suicide of Andre Toulon, using footage from the first movie of William Hickey’s Toulon.

Initial thoughts… I was concerned about the footage from the 1st movie, especially after Legacy. However, it is a new story that takes place just after Toulon dies. Then, once Danny finds the formula (and the formula has been a green fluid consistently throughout the franchise)… all I could think was that looks like Herbert West’s reagent!

The story has some charm at least. A young man, Danny, disabled from the ravages of surviving Polio, who wants nothing more than to serve his country against the Axis/Nazis, finds himself in custody of Toulon’s puppets. His girlfriend, Beth, works at a weapons plant. While visiting Beth, Danny observes the same men who murdered Toulon and recognized them as Nazi’s and takes it upon himself, with the help of the puppets, to stop them.

Puppet Master 11: “X Axis Rising” (2012)

For more information follow this link.

Axis Rising picks up the day after Axis of Evil ends.

This picks up the day after Axis of Evil ends. The cast changes for Danny and Beth are not an improvement. The over-the-top stereotypical, overly hedonistic, Nazi characters have some entertaining moments. I actually found the vixen who decorated her fingertips in weapons such as mini knives and syringes to be the most creative part of the movie. The original puppets are represented here, as in Axis if Evil, with poorly made replicas.

This entry of the franchise introduces new puppets named Blitzkrieg (half-man/half tank), Bombshell (a blonde female puppet with bombs, that shoot bullets, for breasts), Kamikaze (a horribly cliched Japanese puppet with bombs strapped to its chest), and Weremacht (a werewolf in an SS uniform), who fight alongside the Nazis. These insultingly racist bad guy puppets/dolls are not nearly in the same league as the originals.

This was my least favorite of the Axis trilogy. Not quite on par with the Bloodrayne movies, but not far off.

Puppet Master 12: “Axis Termination” (2017)

For more information follow this link.

This final installment of the Axis trilogy, again picks up in 1942 immediately following the events of the previous movie. Arriving too late to stop their murder by a Nazi soldier, Captain Brooks is entrusted by Beth and Danny to protect the puppets. General Hansard sends Brooks and a mysterious but powerful psychic in charge of a special projects unit, along with the puppets, against a Nazi special unit investigating magic, who have their own puppets.

The new protagonists introduced are actually not too bad… compared to the other movies. George Applyby is the highlight, as Dr. Ivan Ivanov. I would have liked to have seen this entire trilogy about Dr. Ivanov and the puppets. Paul Logan, as Brooks, gives his usual he-man, chick-magnet performance, in a modern t-shirt and jeans. The primary antagonist, Tonya Kay, as Dr. Ernst does solid as the current villain after Toulon’s secret.

The effects are painful to see, pretty much all slop-shod computer graphics, occasionally with some added fake blood splashed around so the actors aren’t always completely clean after the CGI violence ends.

Puppet Master 13: “The Littlest Reich” (2018)

For more information follow this link.

At first I was excited to see how Udo Kier would portray Andre Toulon. It took my less than 20 minutes to realize I wasn’t thrilled. It took me longer to realize that this story is set in an alternative timeline in the Puppet Master universe. One where Toulon was allied with the Nazis and the puppets were his weapons against everyone but the Arian race.

So, we have a new Toulon. We have new versions of the puppets, as well. Except, apparently Pin Head. Multiple Blades appear throughout the movie and an army of other new puppets.

I quite liked the new protagonists, Edgar, a mild mannered, recently divorced, comic book artist, his kind of obnoxious boss, Markowitz, and his new lady love, Ashley; who all go to a convention for the 30 year anniversary of the Toulon Massacre. Additionally of note, we are treated to Barbara Crampton, as Officer Doreski, tour guide to Toulon’s “historical home” where he was shot to death by non other than Doreski, herself. Also. Michael Pare as the detective in charge when the murders begin.

As with the previous few films, the writers seem to take the fact that the story is about Nazi hatred to pull out all the worst stereotypical characters they can muster.

Overall, once I realized it was an alternate timeline, I was able to enjoy some of it. At least the effects were much improved over the Axis trilogy.

Puppet Master 14: “Blitzkrieg Massacre” (2018)

For more information follow this link.

This is another “clip show special” of the series, similar to Legacy. The beginning/introduction and ending scene are a narration over comic book like stills of a lone man, ragged and worn, travelling a wasteland, who discovers a bunker where lives a “Gore Collector” who makes the Traveler watch a VHS called Blitzkrieg Massacre then at the end, the back story and what ends up happening to the Traveler. Though officially, I don’t think they actually consider this part of the ongoing story in the franchise, since the wrap around story is supposed to be “reality” and the tape they’re watching is “fiction”. There’s not really a whole lot more to say about this hour long collection of kill scenes from the Puppet Master series.

Puppet Master 15: “Blade the Iron Cross” (2020)

For more information follow this link.

And we’re back in the Axis universe – even though it’s promoted as a stand alone movie. This time, it’s Elisa Ivanov (Tania Fox), the clairvoyant daughter of Dr. Ivan Ivanov from Axis Termination, who is the lead protagonist. Elisa is a “psychic war journalist” who somehow creates a bond with the puppet, Blade. The newest in a seemingly unending supply of evil Nazi mad scientists, is the Engineer Erich Hauser (who makes very clear his is not a doctor), who has created some sort of psychic death ray that turns people into zombies controlled by the machine. With some help from her photographer friend, Barney, and Lieutenant Joe Gray, and even though she spends no small part of the movie in a state of undress, Elisa and Blade defeat the Nazi villains.

In this entry of the franchise, we discover just how truly invincible the puppets are.

Puppet Master 16: “Doktor Death” (2022)

For more information follow this link.

Yes, I got the app so I could watch this the day it was released.

This is a stand alone 1-hour feature “sidebar” to the Puppet Master franchise. It takes place at the Shady Oaks Senior Home. It is April’s first day as a caregiver and it starts out with the death of one of the residents. As the staff clean out his room, they discover an old trunk chained and locked, so of course they break it open to find a creepy Puppet of a doctor.

Everything about the logistics of the nursing home made me twitch. I usually love horror movies set in nursing homes (Bubba Ho-tep, Cockneys vs Zombies, Silent but Deadly, etc.) because of my professional background, but this was beyond hilarious. I couldn’t tell if they were trying to make parts of it serious/dramatic and just failing, or if they were trying to be humorous about it all and failing.

Overall, I actually liked what they did with this one, far more than I did the Blade movie.

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *