His Puppet Master’s Voice

Lets get one thing straight. If you’ve been waiting for the definitive version of Puppet Master; if you’ve had periods in life, or sleepless nights where you’ve asked yourself: “When will an improved version of the first instalment in the Puppet Master franchise be made publicly available? In high definition and struck from the original 35mm print with DTS HD master audio?” then your wait is over.

For regular folk, or those who were born after 1990 and are perhaps unfamiliar with the early work of Charles Band, then the materialization of a new Puppet Master Blu-ray from 88 Films may not exactly set the pulse racing. Simply put, it’s the best ever version of a not exactly great film.

The plot synopsis can be summarized as follows: a group of psychics gather in an abandoned hotel where they are executed, one by one, by supernaturally possessed puppets.

Said psychics include Paul Le Mat – he has big 80’s hair, a chubby face with slightly confused expression and reoccurring nightmares of slugs appearing on his guts and eating him.

Irene Miracle is a fairground fortune teller with the unwavering knack of foreseeing violent death (Nb. she tells the fortune of Barbara Crampton who does not for once expose her considerable assets in this film).

And then there’s Matt Roe and Kathryn O’Reilly;two sexy scientists who do – ahem – psychic sex research experiments. Worth mentioning is that Matt Roe has a balding head and a ponytail and still this does not seem to put his missus off when it comes to the sex research stuff. Interesting …

All four are friends and are reunited when a mutual acquaintance invites them to traipse over to the Bodega Bay Inn to be slaughtered by marionettes, who as you might guess, are the real stars of a movie called “Puppet Master”.

Each puppet has a different special attribute, deployed with varying degrees of aplombwhen it comes to bumping off the largely unsympathetic cast. Ms. Leech regurgitates leeches, Blade has blades on his hands, Tunneler has a revolving drill-bit on the top of his head, Pin Head endowed with disproportionately big fists and finally, Jester has a sinister, revolving face and is arguably a bit shit.

What is striking about watching Puppet Master today, some twenty years plus since it fist arrived on VHS under the Full Moon label, is just how slow placed the bloody thing is. It takes an eternity to get going. There are endless dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream sequences that cripple the film’s pacing.

Also there’s the gore. It now looks terribly restrained and not very well executed, despite what other reviewers claim on the interweb and elsewhere.

This seems all the more surprising considering Charles Band’s (Puppet Master’s producer, co-writer etc. etc. etc.) former association with Empire Movies and the no-holds barred, Grand Guignol of ReAnimator and From Beyond.

But then again, thinking about it, maybeit’s not entirely unsurprising considering the flood of sewage Charles would release unbidden on home VHS throughout the 90s and beyond (Meridian anyone?) courtesy of Full Moon Entertainment.

To my jaded eyes Puppet Master isn’t all bad news though. What I did rate was Sergio Salvati’s cinematography, which holds up remarkably well, channeling the best of his collaboration with Lucio Fulci and some of the baroque “dreamy” stuff he created in those films, in amongst characters having their brains drilled out and what not.

Also, the puppet Blade looks like Klaus Kinski, who I like. I really like in fact.

And there’s also a high content of sex in Puppet Master (which I don’t mind), to be expected perhaps considering the presence of the aforementioned sex scientist characters. Examples include some heaving breasts on display along with a soft core, non-erotic bondage sex scene, and a random moment where a woman pleasures herself in the bath and so on.

Overall, if you’ve an interest in puppets and/or dolls of any description you may like this film. Also, Puppet Master does hold a place in the pantheon of 80’s slasher movies, albeit a minor one. For my money though, the best of all scary puppet movies remains Dead of Night, even though it contains nothing as disturbing as Matt Roe’s ponytail.

Editor: This arrived in the in box with the following disclaimer – despite what I’ve written I did actually enjoy catching up with it again (probably for all the wrong reasons) – One, which, I happen to totally agree with.

Puppet Master is available now from 88Films, who are currently working their way through Full Moon’s catalogue.


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