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 byParamount Home Video
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.


1939, Bodega Bay Inn, California: An old puppeteer named André Toulon is putting the finishing touches on his newest puppet, Jester, before he brings it to life. Two Nazi spies get out of a car and head for Toulon's room while Kahn, another living puppet, warns him. Toulon calmly places all the animate puppets in a chest and hides it in a wall panel compartment. As the Nazis break down the door, Toulon shoots himself in the mouth.

1989: four psychics miles apart are all "contacted" by Neil Gallagher, all five of them previous being acquaintances: Professor Alex Whitaker through a nightmare involving Neil and leeches, Dana Hadley via a premonition of her own death, and Frank Forrester & Carissa Stamford, two psychic researchers through unspecified means. Dana has also uncovered André Toulon's "hiding place" and tells the others, arranging a meeting at the Bodega Bay Inn, where Neil resides. Upon arrival, they are surprise to find that not only does Neil has a wife, Megan, but that he has also killed himself, leaving instructions for Megan on the others’ arrival. She leaves them with the body to pay respects and Dana stabs a long pin into Neil's corpse to verify that he is in fact dead.

While getting settled into their rooms, the psychics experience different confusing visions of Neil. That night at dinner, Dana purposefully upsets Megan, causing her to leave the table and Pinhead, another animated doll, crawls out of Neil's casket. Alex follows Megan and tells her their history with her husband. Carissa, a psychometrist, can see any object's emotional history by touching it, Dana can tell fortunes and locate items and people, and Alex himself can foresee the future in his dreams. Neil was researching alchemy and with Frank's help discovered that Ancient Egyptians has created a method of reanimating to inanimate figurines, a power also discovered by André Toulon, the last true alchemist. But because Neil 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.

That night, Theresa the housekeeper attends to the fire and is attacked by Pinhead with a poker fulfilling Dana's fortune for her. Gallagher's body has moved to a chair which Megan finds, causing her to faint; Alex attends to her while the others return the body to the casket. After Blade finds protective spells on Alex's and Dana's rooms he moves on to Carissa and Frank's, who are having very loud sex and disrupting Alex and Dana's sleep. Two more puppets, Tunneler and Leech Woman, enter. Tunneler kills Carissa by drilling into her face when she inspects a noise coming from under the bed and Leech Woman vomits leeches onto Frank, who's tied to the bed, draining his blood. Coming back from a walk, Dana finds Gallagher's body in her room and 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 and crawl to the elevator, only to have her throat cut by Blade, fulfilling her fortune.

Alex suffers more nightmares, eventually woken by Megan, who shows him André Toulon's diary and tells him that Neil found Toulon's secret to reanimation. Alex has a vision of Neil and they rush downstairs to escape but find the bodies of Dana, Frank, and Carissa sitting around the dining table accompanied by the newly resurrected Neil. He explains that did commit suicide, but he used Toulon's secrets to become reanimate himself in an effort to become immortal. He admits to killing Megan's parents and expresses disgust for the puppets, violently throwing Jester, but is satisfied that he now has human puppets to experiment with. The other puppets see this attack and descend on Neil; Tunneler takes out his legs and Blade pins him down while Leech Woman vomits a leech into his mouth and Pinhead finally breaks his neck. The next day, Megan sees Alex off and as she ascends the stairs, she brings Dana's stuffed dog to life.


  • William Hickey as André Toulon
  • Paul Le Mat as Alex Whitaker, the main protagonist of the film; an anthropology professor at Yale University with the ability to dream of things yet to come
  • Irene Miracle as Dana Hadley, a small-time, fairground psychic specializing in fortune telling and locating lost/missing objects
  • Jimmie F. Skaggs as Neil Gallagher, the main antagonist of the film; he serves as the titular "puppet master" orchestrating the deaths of his former friends and colleagues at the hands of the animate puppets
  • Robin Frates as Megan Gallagher, Neil's wife; her parents owned and operated the Bodega Bay, which she inherited when they died and which is also where she and Neil first met
  • Matt Roe as Frank Forrester, a psychic researcher for Pensa Research Inc (PRI) & partner to Carissa; together they specialize in sexual psychic readings
  • Kathryn O'Reilly as Carissa Stamford, a psychometrist for Pensa Research Inc (PRI) & partner to Frank, she often receives visions from past sexual trauma victims or couples being intimate together but can reconstruct the emotional history of any object through touch
  • Mews Small as Theresa, the Gallaghers’ housekeeper
  • Barbara Crampton as Woman at Carnival
  • David Boyd as Buddy
  • Peter Frankland as Max
  • Andrew Kimbrough as Klaus

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] although both of these series have since produced additional sequels. 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]