Puppet Master, directed by David Schmoeller and produced by Full Moon Entertainment, was released in 1989. The script was written by the famous Charles Band, founder of Full Moon Entertainment.
A puppet master uses ancient Egyptian magic to bring his toys to life. He eventually commits suicide after hiding the puppets so the nazis wouldn’t discover his secret. Years later, Alex Whitaker and a group of psychics are investigating the rumors of the puppeteer’s achievement. They quickly cross path with the evil puppets who only have one purpose : protect their master’s secret…while causing mayhem !
Puppet Master is a very good start for a franchise as it definitely leaves you wanting more of the puppets but it isn’t very good as a stand-alone film. After the opening sequence, it takes too long for the puppets to appear on screen again so the first half of the movie is spent expecting something that never comes. Puppet Master is mainly a murder mystery and the puppets are only a background distraction who don’t have enough screen time.
The film is never scary but is quite amusing and has a great atmosphere which is enhanced by the fitting score. The camera work was also very interesting and quite creative at times, such as what is commonly referred to as « the puppet cam », giving the viewer a first-person perspective as one of the puppets. Though the acting is very bad, what matters the most is done brilliantly : the puppets.
The puppets absolutely deserve their cult status : Blade, Tunneler, Leech Woman, Pinhead and Jester are a fun bunch of little misfits. David Allen did an excellent job at designing them. I particularly liked the animation which I found very smooth and sometimes reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen’s work. Granted, most people would not appreciate the animation but if you love old school special effects as much I do, you will ! Each puppet has a unique design with one distinctive feature which gives them all a different personnality. My two favourites are Blade and Tunneler (see below), I found them to be the most fun to watch and I especially liked their design and weapons (especially Tunneler, who is quite original).
I do recommend Puppet Master. The first 45 minutes are rather dull but the pay-off is worth it. The film is a compilation of good ideas which are never fully explored but remains fun throughout.
88 Films released Puppet Master on Blu-ray in a great new edition. The transfer is of high quality, both audio and video. The edition also comes with some special features, including an audio commentary and a very interesting behind-the-scenes featurette. Last, but not least, there is a reversible cover letting you choose between a great new artwork or the original poster. Click on the link below to access 88 Films’ website !