Puppet Master (1989) Review

Our assembled psychics are played by a veritable who’s who of obscure cinema: Paul Le Mat, best known for his role in American Graffiti, stars as Alex, Irene Miracle, a veteran of both Dario Argento (Suspiria) and Aldo Lado (Night Train Murders) movies, joins him as Dana, they’re accompanied by Frank and his lover Carissa, both played by actors with more forgettable careers, although the latter kindly fills the movie’s nudity quote quite nicely. (Gratuitous nudity was another Full Moon hallmark. Not that my 12-year-old self was complaining in the least.) Overall, the cast is a notch above the standard genre fare. Le Mat (who is totally ripping off my name, by the way) and Miracle takes things seriously and deliver solid performances. The rest of the supporting cast is largely puppet fodder, while Hickey is in a class all his own.

Following the age-old formula of people wandering off alone and getting killed one by one, Puppet Master isn’t exactly treading new ground as far as plot is concerned. However, the various abilities possessed by each of Toulon’s puppets do up the ante in terms of quality murders. A large part of the movie’s success lies in the personalities and unique touches each puppet brings to the screen. While the franchise’s cast of puppets would grow to overly large proportions, Puppet Master features what many fans consider the series’ MVPs.

Puppet Master (1989)

The Puppet Master Crew

Blade, based on actor Klaus Kinski, is the poster child for the series. I still remember seeing his life-size toy replica in stores and wondering if I was courageous enough to have that thing staring at me from the foot of my bed. (Answer: I wasn’t.) Dressed in a black trench coat, a white mane of hair, and boasting beady, soulless eyes, Blade is easily the creepiest member of the gang and seemingly the most competent, carrying out complex tasks.

Puppet Master (1989)

Pinhead is the bruiser. Easily the strongest of the puppets, he spends the entire movie breaking legs, smashing faces into pulp and dispatches someone by breaking their neck with his bare hands. Not bad for six inches of roided up wood. (That sounded way dirtier than I intended…) Ironically, Pinhead gets taken out of the game by having his head pulled off, which, come to think of it, really should happen more often when puppets attack. (When Puppets Attack, coming soon on FOX!)

Puppet Master (1989)

Leech-Woman. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this one. Her entire power set requires her target to stay still for prolonged periods of time while she regurgitates an apparently endless supply of leeches unto her victim. Seems to me she could just have Blade slice their throats while she gets a manicure or something…

Puppet Master (1989)

Jester is another mainstay of the Puppet Master universe and easily the most useless of the bunch. I’ve never gotten what purpose he served. Mostly, Jester stands around while the other puppets do most of the work and his swiveling head transforms into one of five expressions appropriate to whatever happens to be going on at the moment: happy, devious, sad, angry, or scared.

Puppet Master (1989)

Now here’s a puppet with his head screwed on straight! Tunneler is another popular member of Toulon’s tiny brigade and the one you’ll have the easiest time believing can cause harm to humans 10 times his size. I never get tired of watching him get a running start and plunging that drill into some unsuspecting victim’s Achilles tendon or right into their cerebellum.

The Future of Puppet Master

Puppet Master would go on to introduce more complex and, by the time we got to Decapitron, more ridiculous creations but these five initial miniature terrors are still fondly remembered by horror fans everywhere. In a direct to video world filled with serial killers, clichéd monsters, and killer aliens, Toulon’s puppets stood out as unique. Credit goes to stop-motion genius David Allen for animating the puppets. Allen has done everything from Willow to Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and was a Full Moon contributor for many years.

Full Moon kindly sent us a copy of Puppet Master. As a lifelong Full Moon fanboy I appreciated the Making Of documentary, “No Strings Attached”, included on the disc, as well as a collection of 12 movie trailers for all of the studio’s classic films. Also included is a sneak peek at the upcoming latest entry in the franchise: Axis Rising. Check out Yell!’s coverage of the movie and watch for a review of Axis Rising coming soon.

If you’ve never experienced the sheer B-movie goodness of sitting down with a Full Moon movie, there’s no better place to start than with the movie that catapulted the studio into the stuff of direct-to-video legend. Go to Full Moon Direct now and get your hands on Puppet Master! THIS I COMMAND!

Your faithful reviewer,
TheMatt Le Mat!

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