Puppet Master (film)

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Puppet Master
Puppet Master (1989 movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Schmoeller
Produced byHope Perello
Charles Band
Written byKenneth J. Hall
David Schmoeller (as Joseph G. Collodi)
StarringPaul Le Mat
William Hickey
Irene Miracle
Jimmie F. Skaggs
Robin Frates
Matt Roe
Kathryn O'Reilly
Mews Small
Music byRichard Band
CinematographySergio Salvati
Edited byThomas Meshelski
Distributed byFull Moon Features
Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • October 12, 1989 (1989-10-12)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

Puppet Master (also titled The Puppet Master, and Puppetmaster) is a 1989 American horror film written by Charles Band and Kenneth J. Hall, and directed by David Schmoeller. It is the first film in the Puppet Master franchise and stars Paul Le Mat, Irene Miracle, Matt Roe, and Kathryn O'Reilly as psychics who are plotted against by a former colleague, using puppets animated by an Egyptian spell. 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 Charles Band felt he was likely to make more money this way than he would in the theatrical market. The film was very popular in the video market and since developed a large cult following that has led to the production of twelve sequels.


In 1939 Bodega Bay, California, an old puppeteer named André Toulon is putting the finishing touches on a living puppet named Jester. A living oriental puppet, named Khan, stares out of the window for Blade. Meanwhile, Blade scouts the grounds of the Bodega Bay Inn that André is staying. Two Nazi spies get out of a car and head for Toulon's room but Blade beats them there and André puts Blade, Jester and Shredder Khan into a chest with an Indian puppet, named Gengie, before hiding the chest in a wall panel. As the Nazis break down the door, Toulon shoots himself in the mouth with a pistol.

Fifty years later, in 1989, psychics Alex Whitaker, Dana Hadley, Frank Forrester, and Carissa Stamford make contact with an old colleague of theirs, Neil Gallagher, and conclude that he found André Toulon's hiding place. Each one of them experiences a different vision; Alex sees Neil pointing a gun at a young woman's head, and dreams of leeches sucking blood out of his stomach, while Dana foresees her possible death.

The psychics meet at the Bodega Bay Inn that Neil resides at and meet Neil's wife, Megan, the woman from Alex's vision. They also meet the housekeeper, Theresa. The psychics are skeptical that Neil took a wife but it is forgotten when Megan tells them that Neil shot himself. Theresa, Megan, and Alex leave the body, leaving Frank, Carissa, and Dana. Dana stabs a long pin into Neil's corpse to verify that he is in fact dead.

Each psychic experiences a vision; Dana tells Theresa not to go near the fireplace, Alex sees Neil wearing a mask while dancing with Megan in the dining room, and Carissa sees Neil assaulting a woman in the elevator. As the sun sets, Pinhead, who is another living puppet, climbs out of Neil's casket. That night at dinner, Dana makes several remarks about Neil that causes Megan to leave the table. Alex goes after her and explains about the powers of the people in the group. Carissa is a psychometrist, and she can touch an object and give the object's history, Dana can tell fortunes and locate things and people, and Alex himself has premonitions in his dreams and when he's awake. All four of them were helping Neil in his research of alchemy, and during that time, Frank and Neil discovered that the Egyptians created a method of giving life to inanimate figurines, a power passed down to practitioners of magic, and Dana tracked down the location of André Toulon, the last true alchemist, to the hotel. But because he had not made contact with them in a while, Dana and the rest think he abandoned them and took whatever he was looking for himself, and they are there to take it and settle the score.

When night falls, Theresa goes near the fireplace and is knocked out when Pinhead hits her with a poker. Someone moves Gallagher's body to a chair, and causes Megan to become ill. Before going to bed, Dana puts protection spells around Alex and his room, forcing Blade to leave Alex alive for now. Carissa and Frank spend some intimate time together to open up a channel and make contact with Neil in their hotel room but two more living puppets, Tunneler and Leech Woman, enter. Tunneler kills Carissa by drilling into her face and Leech Woman vomits leeches onto Frank's body, which drain his blood, which disrupts Alex in his sleep. Meanwhile, Gallagher's body reappears in Dana's room, and she puts a spell on him to put him at rest until she is attacked by Pinhead, who breaks her leg. Pinhead chases her and repeatedly strangles and punches her until she manages to knock him away, only to have her throat cut by Blade, using his knife-hand, fulfilling her fortune.

Alex has a premonition of Megan taking him to Toulon's room when nightmares of Megan having a gun put to her head by Neil and the other psychics being found dead block him from seeing the room, but is eventually awoken by Megan, who takes him into the room that André Toulon was in, and tells him that Neil found Toulon's secret to bringing inanimate objects to life. Alex has a vision of Neil shooting him and they go downstairs to escape when Alex senses the others in the dining room, and finds their dead bodies sitting around a table. They are stopped by the newly resurrected Neil. He explains that "metaphysically speaking", he did commit suicide, but he used Toulon's secrets to become immortal. He contacted them all so they wouldn't take the secret from him, and he hopes to use their bodies for future human experiments, expressing disgust of working with the puppets and violently throws Jester at a chair. Seeing this attack on one of their own, the puppets revolt against Neil, brutally killing him in front of Alex and Megan.

The film cuts to Alex saying goodbye to Megan and leaving the hotel. Now alone, Megan picks up Dana's taxidermied dog, and in the following scene, the dog becomes completely animate, walking up the stairs with Megan, suggesting that she, too, has learned Toulon's method.


Featured puppets[edit]

  • Blade
  • Jester
  • Pinhead
  • Tunneler
  • Leech Woman
  • Shredder Khan
  • Gengie


Home media[edit]

Puppetmaster was released on VHS by Paramount Home Video on September 30, 1992.[1]

In 2000, it was released for the first time on DVD by Full Moon Home Video and by Film 2000 on June 13, and November 13, 2000, respectively. Film 2000 would later re-release to film as a part of its "Terror Toys Box Set" on November 21, 2005. On March 4, 2008, it was released by Wizard Entertainment under the alternate title The Puppet Master. Wizard later released the film on Blu-ray on July 27, 2010. That same day, a remastered version of the film was released on DVD by Full Moon Features. On October 5 and 12 that same year, it was released by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment as a single and multi-feature pack. It was released one more time that year by New Video Group on November 16, as a part of its "Puppet Master Collection". In 2012, Echo Bridge would re-release the film a total of four times, as a part of separate multi-feature packs. Echo Bridge would re-release the film one final time on November 14, 2017 as a part of "Killjoy and Puppet Master: The Complete Collections" alongside the Killjoy series.[2] On April 10, 2018, Full Moon released the film both on Blu-ray and a limited-edition vintage VHS collection, with the latter having only 3,000 units produced, and the first 300 being signed and numbered by the film's creator Charles Band.[3]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 50% based on 8 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 4.14/10.[4]

TV Guide gave the film a negative review calling it "a pointless variation on the killer-doll genre".[5]

Dread Central awarded the film a score of 3/5, commending the film's atmosphere, soundtrack, and set designs, but criticized the acting, weak script, and the film's first act. The review concluded their review by writing, "Puppet Master isn't what I would call a great film, but its heart is in the right place, and I've always been a huge fan of the evil doll subgenre of horror, making the film's shortcomings easily forgivable."[6] Wes R. from Oh the Horror.com gave the film a positive review stating, "Despite its flaws, Puppet Master emerges as one of the more enjoyable of the 'killer toy' type horror films".[7]


The film proved to be a cult hit, inspiring numerous sequels and prequels, with thirteen films released as of 2019, with twelve subsequent films released as of 2019 alongside two spin-offs.


In March 2009, it was reported that Band is interested in remaking 1989's Puppet Master in 3-D.[8]


  1. ^ "Amazon.com: Puppet Master [VHS]: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe, Kathryn O'Reilly, Mews Small, Barbara Crampton, David Boyd, Peter Frankland, Andrew Kimbrough, Sergio Salvati, David Schmoeller, Charles Band, Hope Perello, J.S. Cardone, Kenneth J. Hall: Movies & TV". Amazon.com. Amazon. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Puppetmaster (1989) - David Schmoeller". Allmovie.com. AllMovie. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Vintage VHS Collection: Puppet Master NOW AVAILABLE". Horror Society.com. Blacktooth. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Puppet Master (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Puppet Master Trailer, Reviews and Schedule for Puppet Master". TVGuide.com. TV Guide. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Puppet Master (Blu-ray) - Dread Central". Dread Central.com. thehorrorchick. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  7. ^ R., Wes. "Horror Reviews - Puppet Master (1989)". Oh the Horror.com. Wes R. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Charles Band to Remake 'Puppetmaster' in 3-D". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2009-03-23.

External links[edit]