Puppet Master (film series)
|The Puppet Master Franchise|
R1 DVD Box set containing the first seven installments.
|Directed by||Charles Band
David W. Allen
|Produced by||Charles Band
Keith S. Payson
Kirk Edward Hansen
Mona C. Vasiloiu
|Written by||Charles Band
Kenneth J. Hall
C. Courtney Joyner
Steven E. Carr
David S. Goyer
|Music by||Richard Band
|Distributed by||Full Moon Features|
|Running time||770 minutes (combined total)|
|Budget||$4,230,000+ (combined total)|
Puppet Master is an American horror film franchise which focuses on a group of anthropomorphic puppets animated by an Egyptian spell, each equipped with its own unique and dangerous device (although not in all installments of the series are the puppets portrayed as threatening) and are represented as heroes, anti-heroes, and antagonists. Produced by Full Moon Features, the series was established in 1989 with the eponymous first installment, which has since been followed by nine sequels, including an unofficial crossover with the characters of Demonic Toys, two comic book mini-series and numerous other collector's items.
- 1 Development
- 2 Films
- 3 Series in Chronological Order
- 3.1 Retro Puppet Master
- 3.2 Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge
- 3.3 Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
- 3.4 Puppet Master X: Axis Rising
- 3.5 Puppetmaster
- 3.6 Curse of the Puppet Master
- 3.7 Puppet Master II: His Unholy Creation
- 3.8 Puppet Master 4: The Demon
- 3.9 Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter
- 3.10 Puppet Master: The Legacy
- 4 Reception
- 5 Home video
- 6 Characters
- 7 Merchandising
- 8 See also
- 9 References
After the collapse of his film studio, Empire Pictures, Charles Band relocated to the United States and opened Full Moon Productions. Band's goal with Full Moon was to create low budget horror, science fiction and fantasy films which mirrored the quality of films with more generous budgets. After partnering with Paramount Pictures and Pioneer Home Entertainment, Full Moon began production on its first feature film, Puppet Master, which had a premise similar to an earlier Empire film produced by Band, Dolls. Originally intended for theatrical release in summer 1989, before being released on home video the following September, Puppet Master was ultimately pushed to a direct-to-video release on October 12, 1989, as Band felt he was likely to make more money this way than he would in the theatrical market.
Puppet Master proved to be a success, and the film's cult status has led to the production of nine sequels (in addition to these nine films, there is a crossover with another Full Moon franchise, Demonic Toys). The film was later proclaimed unofficial. A documentary containing interviews with cast and crew members was also shot and included on VHS and Laserdisc pressings of Puppet Master, as a featurette titled No Strings Attached.
1991 saw the release of two sequels, Puppet Master II and Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge; the latter which served as a series prequel. Toulon's Revenge was the first installment to feature Guy Rolfe in the role of puppeteer Andre Toulon (in the films prior, Toulon was portrayed by renowned actor William Hickey and Steve Welles, respectively). Rolfe reprised the role of Toulon for three additional films before his death in 2003, after which he posthumously appeared in Puppet Master: The Legacy through extensive use of archival footage. In 1993 Full Moon began shooting another two sequels simultaneously, Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter, the latter which, as the title indicates, was intended to be the final installment of the series. After the release of The Final Chapter in September 1994, Full Moon opted to retire Puppet Master and announced that a spin-off trilogy titled "Puppet Wars" was to be started in 1995. The spin-off trilogy was cancelled leaving the series to continue its legacy through merchandising and a growing cult following.
Due to demand from video retailers for a new installment of the series, four years after its retirement the Puppet Master franchise was promptly revived by the production of a sixth entry, Curse of the Puppet Master, in 1998. This was the first installment not to have David W. Allen involved with special effects. As by this time Paramount had ended its deal with Full Moon, to conserve costs the film was put together using using a combination of rod and string puppets, as well as archival footage. In September of the following year, a Puppet Master spin-off featuring the Totems of the fourth installment was released, titled Totem, and that October, a second prequel (taking place at an even earlier time than Toulon's Revenge) was released, titled Retro Puppet Master. This entry was an anomaly to the series, in that the main theme composed by Richard Band, brother of Full Moon's Charles Band, was completely absent, and it with its PG-13 rating, Retro Puppet Master was the first film in the series not to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. The original idea for the seventh installment of the series was to take place following Toulon's Revenge, with Toulon and his puppets escaping Germany by train, after which they are confronted by Nazis and demons. This idea was abandoned because the Kushner Locke Company thought it would offend the German audience, but it will form the basis for the ninth installment of the series, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. On June 12, 2009, Band announced that he would post video updates of Axis of Evil on Full Moon's website. Four days later on June 16, the first update was made available, verifying the film's roster of puppets to be included, as well as the principal cast members, Levi Fiehler and Jerry Hoffman. In 2010, Axis Of Evil was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
As of 1999, Retro Puppet Master is the latest original, feature-length Puppet Master film produced by Full Moon. An eighth entry, Puppet Master: The Legacy, was released in 2004, however only a fraction of the film contains original footage; the remainder is archival footage used to summarize the series thus far. The same year, a crossover film featuring the animated playthings of Full Moon's Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series aired on Sci Fi Channel, however neither Full Moon nor Charles Band had any involvement in its production (although the usual Puppet Master screenwriters are credited with penning its script).
In 2005, Charles Band alluded to a possible Puppet Master television series, called Puppet Wars (see left for promotional artwork), and expressed interest in seeing a video game adaptation of the franchise developed. In June 2008, Band announced that a tenth installment of the series is planned, tentatively subtitled Axis of Evil. In March 2009, it was reported that Band is also interested in remaking 1989's Puppet Master in 3-D. Similarly, the original film was reissued by Razor Digital in 2007 in DualDisc format, featuring both standard and stereoscopic versions.
Series in Chronological Order
The Puppet Master series is a confusing one, as each installment is not created in chronological order, and the events of Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge are dated inaccurately. For instance, Puppet Master, first motion picture states that Toulon committed suicide in 1939 at the Bodega Bay Inn in Bodega Bay, California, while Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge takes place in 1941, and he is still very much alive, (possibly a mistake).
In an attempt to resolve the confusion, the installments are listed below in chronological order based on the plot summaries of each film.
Retro Puppet Master, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1999. The prologue of this film shows Toulon (Guy Rolfe) hiding out from the Nazis, after the events in Puppet Master III. He finds a cracked head of a Cyclops puppet, and decides to tell the current puppets the story of how he came to possess the puppet life power to begin with. Flashback to 1902, an unconventionally immortal Egyptian named Afzel steals the secret of life from the god Sutekh. Sutekh sends several followers after Afzel, but none are successful in killing him and returning the spell, although in Paris, Afzel is severely wounded and is sheltered by Andre Toulon. Afzel teaches Toulon Sutekh's spell, telling him when gods like Sutekh rise up one day, the secret of life will be the only thing to protect humanity. Toulon uses the secret to animate one of his puppets, Pinhead. Comfortable that the spell has been passed on, Afzel commits suicide in front of Sutekh's henchmen, making them believe Afzel has taken the magic to his grave. However, when Toulon uses the spell to animate a handful of other puppets, Cyclops, Drill Sergeant, Six Shooter, Blade and Doctor Death, Sutekh's henchmen return to Paris to slay the Puppet Master. While the puppets are successful in besting Sutekh's forces, two of them are resurrected to pursue Toulon. Toulon confronts the demons on a train where they have kidnapped and are keeping his love interest, Elsa, and a battle ensues, with Toulon and his puppets successful in defeating their pursuers and rescuing Elsa.
Eventually, Toulon takes his puppetry to Cairo with his new puppet, named "Mephisto", where, during a 1912 expedition one of his performances, is attended by a magician who, unbeknownst to Toulon, sets his theater ablaze. There to rebound Toulon's loss, the magician invites the puppeteer and his wife to his quarters, where he shows them an animated puppet of his own, a chained Egyptian goblin puppet, named "Homunculus" that was animated by an elixir formula Egyptians developed to bring life to inanimate figurines. (This is first revealed in a flashback of Puppet Master 2 and later reinstated with archived footage in Puppet Master: The Legacythe integration of both "origin's" for Toulon's powers over his puppets suggests that he, for reasons unaddressed, could no longer animate them, and acquired a new, more sinister, method, after he and Elsa fell under the hypnotic influence of this mysterious sorcerer.)
Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1991. Years later, in Berlin, where Andre and Elsa Toulon have now taken residence, a Wehrmacht lieutenant learns that Toulon's puppets are sentient. Toulon is arrested by the Gestapo, two of his puppets are confiscated and Elsa is murdered. Toulon escapes and uses his puppets to avenge his wife. While in hiding, a fellow refugee reveals Toulon's location to the Gestapo, who infiltrate his hideout and force him to flee. Assisted by his puppets, Toulon tortures Major Kraus, the man who killed Elsa and organized the several attempts to arrest Toulon. Afterwards, he and a child refugee, Peter Hertz, flee to Geneva, Switzerland by train. After reuniting Hertz with relatives, Toulon continues his travels to the Swiss border, taking shelter from rainfall at an unattended inn, where he tells his puppets the story of Afzel and of his original puppets.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 2010. Continuing his journey to the United States, Toulon takes shelter at the Bodega Bay Inn in Bodega Bay, California. The Gestapo, however, have traced his location and two soldiers are sent to the hotel to assassinate him. With the chest containing his puppets and secrets hidden inside a wall panel, Toulon commits suicide before the assassins can infiltrate his room. (This is all a replay of the prologue/flashback sequence from the original 1989 Puppetmaster, augmented with new material.) Bodega Bay employee Danny Coogan discovers Toulon's body, along with his trunk of puppets, and begins taking care of them, eventually their secret. Coogan becomes jealous when his girlfriend, who also knows the puppets are alive, flirts with a man Coogan recognizes as one of the Gestapo who had come hunting for Toulon. Coogan discovers the Gestapo are involved in a plan to bomb the United States, and with the puppets' help, Coogan resolves to stop them, and creates a new puppet "Ninja" to aid the others in battle.
Puppet Master X: Axis Rising, directed by Charles Band, was released on video in 2012. Danny Coogan (played by Levi Feihler), the teenage handicapped boy who found Toulon's puppet's, goes to rescue the love of his life, Beth, from being kidnapped from Klaus, and kills two Japanese, and two Germans, but in the end, the puppets wind up helpless and stolen by the only survivor, Ozu. Leaving Blade, Pinhead, and new recruit, Ninja, with the soul of Don Coogan, (played by Taylor M. Graham), behind. They will need to get their old puppet friends back, and defeat a few new ones along the way, such as the leader, Blitzkreig, Bombshell, Weremecht, and the only Japanese puppet, (living with the other's as Nazis), is Kamikaze, but he is not able to go over sea's and fight against the Krauts, but he may just get his wish by doing his bit right in China Town, California, with the help of a newly rebuilt Six Shooter. Even if he is fighting with and against 12 inch tiny terrors!
Puppet Master (first motion picture of the franchise), directed by David Schmoeller, was released on video in 1989. In 1989, four psychics each receive unsettling visions, which they assess have been sent by a former colleague, Neil Gallagher. The group meets at the Bodega Bay Inn where Gallagher has been staying, where before long they are introduced to Gallagher's wife, Megan. The psychics are skeptical that Gallagher had ever been wed, but this is forgotten when Megan reveals that he has recently commit suicide. Toulon's puppets, now out and about, proceed to murder everyone in the hotel before only the psychic Alex Whitaker, and Megan remain. It is here that Gallagher, alive, confronts the two survivors. Gallagher explains that while he did die, Toulon's formula was used to give himself eternal life. However, when Gallagher mistreats the puppet Jester, the others revolt against him, locking him in an elevator and mercilessly killing him. Whitaker returns home. Megan, now alone, is shown picking up Dana's taxidermic dog, and by the following scene, the dog becomes completely animate, indicating that she too has learned Toulon's method.
The Curse of the Puppet Master, directed by David DeCoteau, was released on video in 1998. After the incident, Toulon's trunk is soon placed into an auction by Megan, who believe as a revenge to get rid of the puppets for good, where they are obtained by Magrew, an honorary doctor who manages a sideshow in a small American community. Here, Magrew conducts experiments on transforming humans into puppets, in an attempt to primitively duplicate Andre Toulon's method of animation. When Magrew's daughter, Jane, returns from college, the two meet a gas station attendant named Robert "Tank" Winsley. Winsley's skill at carving wood is noticed by Magrew, and the boy is invited to stay with he and Jane if he agrees to carve a puppet for Magrew's experiment. As Winsley and Jane grow closer, Magrew tries to discourage Jane from seeing Winsley, so that in the event where the boy leaves, Jane will not be hurt. However, Jane assures her father that Winsley would not leave her. After carving the pieces for Magrew's puppet, Winsley becomes ill. Magrew calls for a doctor, and Jane is ordered to leave town to pick up a package for his sideshow. After learning that no package was sent, Jane races home, but makes a stop to inspect debris she had found burnt in a ditch shortly before. In it, she finds a grotesque fleshy puppet who knows her name, which she identifies as her father's former assistant; the role which Winsley has replaced. Winsley wakes restrained to a laboratory table, with Magrew nearby, brandishing a mechanical puppet of his own. Magrew transfers Winsley's soul into the machine, but before he can enjoy his success, Toulon's puppets become enraged by his disgusting experiments, and they attack him. When Jane returns home, she finds her bloodied father and the mechanical puppet, recognizing it as Winsley because his face appears on a visual display unit on the figure's head. Winsley then proceeds to electrocute Magrew to death.
Puppet Master 2, directed by Dave Allen, was released on video in 1991. After the puppets returned to Bodega Bay Inn, they visit the Shady Oaks cemetery where they recover Toulon's corpse and reanimate it using the last of the Egyptian's elixir. With Toulon alive, the puppets hope that he can brew a new elixir to continue keeping them sustained. Toulon humbly pursues the formula, but to do so, his puppets are required to continue killing, as blood and brain tissue are the key ingredient in the concoction. After slaying the Bodega Bay Inn's owner, Megan Gallagher, Toulon unofficially takes ownership of the hotel, to the confusion of a group of parapsychologists who come to investigate the rantings of Alex Whitaker, who has gone insane since his visit to the place. It is during this time that Toulon designs his last puppet, Torch. After seeing one of the investigators, Carolyn Bramwell, Toulon is reminded of his wife Elsa, who bears a striking resemblance to Bramwell, and uncharacteristically he abandons the plan to help his puppets in order to find a way of being united with who he believes is his reincarnated wife. Toulon, who has had two life-sized mannequins created to house the souls of both he and Bramwell, uses a combination of the elixir and a magic spell to place his soul into one mannequin. However before Bramwell's soul can be transferred into the other mannequin, her love interest, Michael Kenney, rescues her. The puppets, both angry and ashamed that their long loving master has abandoned them due to his mind being corrupted by formula he taken that made him nothing more but a shadow of his former self, opt to have him killed once again. They use the remaining elixir and mannequin to resurrect one of their victims, Michael's mother, Camille. However Camille takes on a sadistic personality and has the puppets locked away, with the exception of Torch, who shares her disgust for children. This is key in that Camille uses the puppets to terrorize institutionalized children. though this is only suggested and never shown on screen.
Puppet Master 4, directed by Jeff Burr, was released on video in 1993. Some time after Camille takes Toulon's puppets on the road, they are returned to the Bodega Bay Inn, where they are not discovered until one summer while a youth scientist named Rick Myers serves as caretaker for the hotel. It is at this time that the god Sutekh makes a second attempt to suppress the secret of animation. Sutekh has three tribal puppets, spiritually linked to demonic minions of his own, called Totems sent to Earth to hunt down key personnel in the Omega Project, an organization also attempting to create life in inanimate objects. Myers' girlfriend, Susie, pays a visit to the Bodega Bay Inn, along with her friends Cameron and Lauren. Unknown to Susie, both Myers and Cameron have been previously acquainted, and they are both members of the Omega Project. Lauren, a clairvoyant, leads the group to the chest containing Toulon's puppets, and from the puppeteer's notes, Myers learns to inject the puppets with elixir to reanimate them. The puppets befriend the group, and protect them when the Totems arrive to kill Myers and his friends. Toulon's spirit, at ease since his puppets slew him over his treachery, returns to guide the puppets, advising them to activate his unfinished figure, Decapitron. The puppets set up an electric current which is used to animate Decapitron, who uses its interchangeable heads to communicate with the group and attack Totems.
Puppet Master 5, directed by Jeff Burr, was released on video in 1994. Following the events of Puppet Master 4, shortly after the attack, Myers is arrested under suspicion for having caused the murders committed by the Totems. His boss, Jennings, has Myers bailed because he believes he is innocent, and Myers tells Jennings about his experience with Toulon's puppets, all-the-while expecting Jennings not to believe him. However Jennings is interested in Myers' story, and he organizes a group of thugs to break into the Bodega Bay Inn and steal the puppets. Myers has a disturbing premonition and decides to return to the hotel with Blade to check on the puppets which were left behind when he was taken into custody. Meanwhile, Sutekh activates another Totem, which he proceeds to transfer his soul into. In the midst of their search for the puppets, Sutekh ambushes Jennings' thugs at the Bodega Bay Inn, before confronting Myers, who has recently arrived at the hotel, and Toulon's puppets. A battle between Sutekh and the puppets ensues, resulting in Sutekh attempting to retreat. However the spirit of Andre Toulon, piloting Decapitron, is able to destroy him, inadvertently damaging all of the puppets in the process.
Puppet Master: The Legacy, directed by Charles Band, was released on video in 2003. After Rick is murdered by rogue agent Maclain (off screen), The puppets were abdopted by Peter Hertz, adopted son of Toulon (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge), who is now held hostage by rogue agent Maclain who is hired by the original puppets to learn how to reverse the spell of animation in order to end their suffering. Beforehand Maclain murders Rick Myers (Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5) in order to obtain the Toulon’s journal; however, the text fails to mention de-animation, which brings him to the Inn. Hertz is not aware of how to reverse animation himself, so he plays several taped recordings of Andre Toulon that chronicles his life, but the secret is absent from these recordings as well. In the end, Hertz and Blade attack Maclain before they are ambushed by an unseen character.
The most well-received Puppet Master installments are generally those released before the series' four-year hiatus. As the series was revived at a time when Full Moon Features was no longer partnered with Paramount Pictures, the studio's finances grew increasingly tight, and as a result the quality of each subsequent Puppet Master title (as well as numerous other Full Moon productions) waned. On Rotten Tomatoes, the only three installments which have been rated by critics are Puppet Master, which has a 33% rating after 6 reviews; Puppet Master II, which has a 33% rating after 6 reviews; and Puppet Master 4, which has a 0% rating after 5 reviews. The films have evidently scored much better with users, currently rating 51%, 47% and 66%, respectively.
Most Puppet Master films were originally released direct to video on VHS.
The Puppet Master films have been released on DVD in very small quantities. A box set containing the first seven installments of the series was released by Full Moon, but was recalled shortly after. However, in 2007, Full Moon Features reacquired the rights to the first five films, and the box set has since been reissued and is available directly from Full Moon, as well as through several online retailers. The first three films were included as part of an 18-disc Full Moon Features collection, and have since been individually released as a Spanish-subtitled import collection. In 2007, Razor Digital released an uncut DualDisc version of the first film, featuring both the standard and stereoscopic versions of the film, but with very poor picture quality. In 2012, Echo Bridge home entertainment released all 9 films in one DVD collection, while the first three films were licensed for a UK release by 88 Films.
The original Puppet Master film was released on Blu-ray in a remastered widescreen transfer on July 27, 2010. On September 18, 2012, the first three films will be released on Blu-ray in a set, the second and third films also remastered in widescreen.
Main Article See: List of Puppet Master characters
|Puppet Master||His Unholy Creation||Toulon's Revenge||The Demon||The Final Chapter||Curse of the||Retro||The Legacy||vs. Demonic Toys (unofficial)||Axis of Evil||Axis Rising|
|Andre Toulon||William Hickey||Steve Welles||Guy Rolfe||Greg Sestero (younger Toulon) and Guy Rolfe||Archival footage||Archival footage and unidentified double|
|Elsa Toulon||Elizabeth Maclellan||Sarah Douglas||Brigitta Dau||Archival footage||Mentioned only|
|Peter Hertz||Aron Eisenberg||Jacob Witkin|
|Rick Meyers||Gordon Currie||Archival footage|
|Susie||Chandra West||Archival footage|
|Lauren||Teresa Hill||Archival footage|
|Dr. Magrew||George Peck||Archival footage|
|Robert Winsley||Josh Green||Archival footage|
|Robert Toulon||Corey Feldman|
|Danny Coogan||Levi Fiehler||Kip Canyon|
|Beth||Jenna Gallagher||Jean Louise O'Sullivan|
|Ozu||Ada Chao Fang||Terumi Shimazu|
|Puppet||Puppet Master||His Unholy Creations||Toulon's Revenge||The Demon||The Final Chapter||Curse of the||Retro||The Legacy||vs. Demonic Toys (unofficial)||Axis of Evil||Axis Rising|
|Leech Woman||Archival footage|
|Dr. Death||Archival footage|
|Drill Sergeant||Archival footage||His head only|
- The Puppet Master Adventure - A four-issue comic book limited series written and drawn by Australian comicbook creators Dave de Vries and Glenn Lumsden and printed by Eternity Comics. It was followed by a two-issue sequel titled Children of the Puppet Master also by de Vries and Lumsden.
- The Puppet Master Figures - A series of action figures produced by Full Moon Toys, and scale replicas of the series' puppets, produced by Full Moon Playthings.
- The Puppet Master Costumes - A set of Clothing and Halloween costumes of the series' puppets.
- Puppet Master 5 "Videozone" documentary
- "HILL'S CHARLES BAND INTERVIEW - Part 2". Puppet Master. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- "PUPPET MASTER: AXIS OF EVIL, DEMONIC TOYS 2, GINGERDEAD MAN 3? FULL MOON Sequel-Mania!". Icons of Fright. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- "Charles Band to Remake 'Puppetmaster' in 3-D". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Puppet Master". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Puppet Master 2: His Unholy Creations". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Puppet Master 4: The Demon". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "Puppet Master". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- "Puppet Master 2: His Unholy Creations". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- "Puppet Master 4: The Demon". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-03-24.