Puppet Master (1989)
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by Kenneth J. Hall and David Schmoeller
Starring Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates
Matt Roe and Kathryn O'Reilly
Welcome to the start of a new semi-regular feature around here. Maybe. Depending on how lazy I’m feeling. With Full Moon Friday Night, I intend to watch a film from Charles Band’s Full Moon Features every week or so and post a review of it Friday. And perhaps some Empire stuff as well. As I said, not sure if it will be every Friday, depends on my schedule and shit.
In 1983 Charles Band formed Empire International Pictures. The company produced a plethora of low-budget horror, Sci-Fi and fantasy films including Trancers, The Dungeonmaster, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, TerrorVision, Troll, and Ghoulies. Eventually financial problems caught up with Empire. Which led to Bankruptcy. After Empire’s collapse, Band formed Full Moon Productions. This time he was partnered with Paramount Pictures and Pioneer Home Entertainment for direct-to-video releasing on VHS and Laserdisc for all Full Moon’s releases. Instead of making films for a theatrical release. Band would make low budget, theatrical looking movies for the growing home video market. All this leads us to today’s film. Full Moon’s first production. Puppet Master. Because If I’m going to start somewhere, might as well start at the beginning.
Is that a pube on the print?
In Bodega Bay, California 1939, old dude puppet maker André Toulon (William Hickey) is on the run from some Nazi guys and hiding out at the Bodega Bay Inn. He’s hanging out with some living puppets. Jester, Blade and Shredder Khan! With the Nazi’s closing in, Toulon hides the puppets and plays a quick game of Russian roulette. Spoilers he loses.
It's the Miracle
Cut to the present day. 2017? Oh, 1989. Anyway. Four psychic friends, Alex Whitaker, Dana Hadley, Frank Forrester and Carissa Stamford are summoned to the Bodega Bay Inn via psychic text message by Neil Gallagher. Carissa can touch an object and know it’s history. Frank has the power of sleazy pony tail. Dana is a witch and part time bitch. Or is that the other way round? And Alex has an amazing helmet of hair. Plus he get premonitions in his dreams. Gallagher is an friend of theirs who was searching for Toulon’s secrets. The four assume he’s found them. But when they arrive at Inn Neil’s wife Megan tells them he’s dead.
The password is fidelio
The group settle in for the night. Deciding to stay and figure out what the hell is happening. But they’re not the only one’s there. Some of Toulon’s puppets are scurrying about the inn, spying on the new guests. Who’s controlling them? What happened to Neil? And can Alex’s hair get anymore magnificent?
The one that started it all! It was a big hit for Full Moon. Spawning a entire series of puppet films, not to mention inspiring some of Full Moon’s other properties. I’m looking at you Demonic Toys.
Puppet Master all these years later is still a blast. Although it spends most of it’s time focused on the psychics and Neil, making the puppets sort of secondary. It’s still an enjoyable viewing experience. The film always moves along at a good clip, even if the puppets aren’t on screen.
The score by Richard Band reminiscent of his Empire work, a good thing! I’ve had the Puppet Master theme in my head for years. When ever I think of the franchise or Full Moon in general that theme pops into my head.
There’s nothing like some good old Stop motion. The late David Allen created the stop motion effects for the puppets. Each of the puppets feels alive. And each feels like it has a personality. When the puppets aren’t stop motion they’re still pretty damn good.
Oooo. Sprechen Sie sexy...
That brings me to the characters. Except for Dana, played by the awesome Irene Miracle, no of them really stand out. She has a fun little scene involving fortune telling with Barbara Crampton in a cameo. Dana is a cynical witch and her character is the most fun through out the film. Alex is your typical hero type. Really not much going on there, except for that awesome hair. Frank is sleazy and that’s about it. Carissa is the hot librarian type. Okay, I like Carissa too, for um… Different reasons.
Big hands Big um...
If you want to jump into the huge lake that is the Puppet Master franchise, this is the place to start. Not the best of the series. And the puppets aren’t as much of a presence here. But it’s where it began and has it’s moments.