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Puppet Master (1989) Review

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Yell! Magazine’s review of Puppet Master:

There’s no name quite as synonymous with the direct-to-video boom of the late ’80s/early ’90s as Full Moon Entertainment. If you’re a child of my generation, there’s a good chance you share my memories of running for the horror section of your local video store every week just hoping to see that familiar cloudy, blue moon logo somewhere on a VHS tape’s box art. (VHS tapes are what old timers like your faithful reviewer used to watch movies on. We also used to play something called the NES, collect Pongs, dance the Charleston, and our cell phones were so big they had their own area codes. It was a different time…)

Puppet Master (1989)
Cave drawings found of a typical ’90s child.

A Brief Full Moon History

The creative minds behind the studio weren’t inexperienced rookies, having already produced many B-movie classics under the Empire Pictures umbrella since the very early ’80s. Just mention Trancers, Ghoulies, Zone Troopers or Re-Animator to any B-movie aficionado and watch their smile widen.

Puppet Master (1989)
Or you could mention Troll and watch them start frothing at the mouth like a pit-bull overdosing on Alka Seltzer…

By the end of the decade, Empire Pictures was in dire financial trouble and company founder Charles Band needed a new platform from which to launch his movies. Partnering with Paramount, Band created Full Moon Entertainment in 1989. The Full Moon brand name really took root in the subconscious of video store dwellers with the same year’s release of what would become the studio’s flagship series: Puppet Master.

A Puppet Master Golden Era

The Puppet Master franchise would re-invent itself several times over the years. The eventual popularity of Andre Toulon’s creations would push the studio into making them slightly more heroic but the series’ first few entries cast them as pure antagonists. Kicking the story off in 1939 at one of Full Moon’s most iconic locales, the seaside Bodega Bay Inn, the titular puppet master himself, Andre Toulon, takes his own life to escape the clutches of pursuing Nazi spies. In his initial appearance, Toulon is played by the late, great veteran character actor William Hickey. Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve no doubt seen him in a thousand different movies.

Puppet Master (1989)
“I won an Oscar, you know?”

Later entries would recast the Toulon role with the more affable Guy Rolfe. It would have been interesting to see what take Hickey would have had on the character if the actor stayed with the series beyond his initial cameo. Fast forward to then-modern times and a collection of psychics begin having strange visions surrounding a deceased colleague of theirs, visions that lead them to gather at the aforementioned Bodega Bay Inn. If you’re only familiar with later movies in the Puppet Master series, part 1 might seem a little odd in tone compared to its brethren. While most Puppet Master movies dabble in magic, alchemy, and alternate histories, the heavy use of psychic powers in this entry feels a bit out of step with the rest of the franchise.

Continue reading the Puppet Master review after the jump…

Puppet Master (1989)
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
12 October 1989
David Schmoeller
Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe, Kathryn O’Reilly, Barbara Crampton, and Irene Miracle
Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Official URL:
Full Moon Direct

Pages: 1 2

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