Andre Toulon, a toy maker living in a US hotel during the second world war, spends his time building dolls and bringing them to life. The Nazis, aware of his magical skills, want to use him to help with their war effort, but Toulon has other ideas, hiding his toys in the walls of his hotel room and then shooting himself before they can get their grubby German hands on him.
Fifty years later, a group of psychics arrive at the hotel after experiencing visions of the death of an old colleague. They soon realise the hotel is the same one where the legendary toy maker Toulon died and that their friend was experimenting with magic to become immortal.
What they don't know is that their dead friend is only sort of dead (a half-explained metaphysical thing), and that he found Toulon's toys, became their new master, and is using them to kill his old friends so only he knows the secret of immortality. Eventually, when they realise their new boss is actually a bit of a cock, the dolls revolt and turn on their master.
Although a fairly low budget affair, the stop-motion animation is well done, it's quite bloody, and thanks to the permanently horny blonde psychometrist who can feel the history of objects like beds and bath tubs just by lying on or in them, there's quite a bit of sexy boob time too. The acting is decent enough for what it is, it never gets dull, and the dolls all make pretty memorable characters.
7/10PUPPET MASTER 2
Completely reinventing the personality of a character has always been a cheap and lazy way to continue a story. Changing The Old Man in Robocop from a benevolent boss into a slimy, power hungry monster for the sequel was a terrible idea, and turning Malcolm McDowell's nice and friendly Dr Loomis in Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween into a narcissistic egomaniac for the piss-poor sequel was even worse.
With Puppet Master II, Andre Toulon, the kindly old man who only wanted to keep his magical secret and his toy friends safe from the Nazis, is now a monstrous and bandaged figure (played by a completely different actor) who sends his dolls out to kill people and retrieve parts of their brains. The dolls, under the misapprehension that Toulon is getting them to do this so they can live forever, happily do his bidding by killing old couples, children, and anyone really, eventually realise their master's motives are purely selfish, and the film ends up following the blueprint of original film by having them turn on their master and killing him.
Dull, badly acted, and wholly uninspired (although to it's credit, the puppet effects are decent), it's a wonder a third film was even allowed to go ahead.
4/10PUPPET MASTER III- TOULON'S REVENGE
Silent killers like Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Michael Myers aside, I don't think I can remember a speaking villain in a horror film being played by three different actors in the first three instalments, but that's what happens with the Puppet Master series.
A prequel this time, PMIII doesn't exactly get off to a good start by inexplicably forgetting its own timeline, setting the action in Germany during 1941, two years after puppet master, Andre Toulon, was meant to have killed himself in the Bodega Bay Hotel in the original.
However, after a pretty rickety start, Puppet Master III actually goes on to be just as good as the original, if not better. Guy Rolfe, the actor playing Toulon this time had already done a similarly splendid job as a toymaker in Stuart Gordon's 'Dolls' a few years before, and the role of chief villain is given to reliable burnt faced perma-baddie, Richard Lynch (Invasion USA, Bad Dreams, every TV action show in the '80s). Walter Gotell (General Gogol from a few Bond films) plays a high ranking German, but looks too much like Colonel Von Strohm from 'Allo 'Allo to be taken seriously, and spends most of his time in a brothel being soaped down and finished off by sexy German prostitutes.
The story this time is surprisingly interesting, the characters are given actual motives for their actions and aren't reduced to the usual black and white cardboard cut-outs, and the puppets, although they still kill, aren't evil this time, with some even being given back stories to make them a little more human. Even the little kid (Aron Eisenberg who went on to play Nog in Deep Space Nine) isn't annoying.
7.5/10PUPPET MASTER IV – THE DEMON
Returning to the present (well, 1993 anyway), a computer genius now lives at the Bodega Bay Hotel, working for a bunch of scientists and playing robot wars with himself. A demon from another dimension or somewhere releases bite-sized minions into the hotel to kill everybody, while the ghost of Toulon instructs his puppets to be the goodies for this instalment, telling them to look after the people in the hotel for reasons I really can't be arsed to explain.
Hideously acted, and bizarrely difficult to follow even though the storyline is wafer thin, the only memorable highlights (other than the puppets) are the amazingly high pitched and girly scream of one of the male characters, Guy Rolfe being the first actor to actually reprise his role as Toulon, and noticing that Johnson from Robocop, and Jury from Sons of Anarchy must all have been seriously desperate for work in the early nineties.
3/10PUPPET MASTER 5 – THE FINAL CHAPTER
Filmed back to back with The Demon, Puppet Master 5 features nothing that couldn't have been shown in the previous film. One flashback sequence takes up nearly ten minutes of its already short seventy minute running time, Toulon appears at the end to say pretty much the exact same thing he said at the end of the fourth film, and Ian (Return of the Saint) Ogilvy, Clu (Return of the Living Dead) Gulager, Maynard from Pulp Fiction, and the Mayor from Robocop 2 are in this load of old tits if you were even slightly interested.
2/10PUPPET MASTER VI – CURSE OF THE PUPPET MASTER
The sixth entry features another new Puppet Master (a mad scientist trying to turn people into dolls), a never-ending opening credits sequence which makes the film look like a '90s TV show, at least twenty minutes of utterly pointless dialogue, repetitive dream sequences, and lots and lots of walking around.
As usual, the dolls do their master's bidding until they realise he's a bit of a twat, and then they turn on him. The end.
2/10PUPPET MASTER VII – RETRO PUPPET MASTER
Another prequel, this time set in 1944 after the events of Puppet Master III, but also five years after Toulon's death if you remember the timeline from the original film. This time, Toulon (Guy Rolfe returning for the last time before his death) recounts the story of how, back in 1902, he made his original puppets. To his puppets.
Greg Sestero, four years away from his genre-defining, once in a lifetime role as Mark in Tommy Wiseau classic, The Room, plays the young Toulon with a terrible French accent and non-existent acting skills (yet there are at least four other actors in the film much worse than him), and the whole thing is resolved mercifully quickly with the aid of many, many flashbacks.
It's also worth noting that although this is the third of four Puppet Master films directed by David Decoteau, it's clear that he must have become more than a little embarrassed by his work by this point, crediting himself as 'Joseph Tennent' here, and 'Victoria Sloan” for the previous instalment.
4/10PUPPET MASTER VIII – THE LEGACY
It's a fucking clip show ffs.
1/10 PUPPET MASTER IX – AXIS OF EVIL
After a seven year gap (including a crossover film with the Demonic Toys franchise), the Puppet Master series returns with another truly feeble installment.
This time the action is set in 1939, and for the very first time since the original film, the series actually remembers which year Toulon died. After incorporating his death into the story (with the use of at least ten more minutes of flashback footage), the film nosedives the moment the story is expected to stand on its own feet, and isn't exactly helped by a shocking grasp of history either.
2/10PUPPET MASTER X – AXIS RISING
A lazy continuation of the previous film, the only memorable thing about the whole sorry mess is the kinky female Nazi with the tight trousers and splendid cleavage. Oh, and terrible CGI blood.
2/10PUPPET MASTER vs DEMONIC TOYS
With the Puppet Master series dying a slow and painful death, and his Demonic Toys franchise having never got off the ground, producer Charles Band decided to go down the Freddy vs Jason route by sticking them both together for a bit of extra cash, probably more out of desperation than anything else.
As it turns out, PMvsDT is actually a fairly decent comedy, even if I'm not entirely sure it was meant to be one. Sure, it's got some deliberately scripted laughs along the way, but much of the comedy can just as easily be attributed to the terrible acting/editing/writing.
Corey Feldman (33 at the time) plays a forty-something with a voice so gravelly that Christian Bale stole it for Batman, and has a daughter meant to be around twelve years old but is played by an eighteen year old who probably spent most of her spare time putting up with Feldman trying to get into her knickers.
The story is nice and simple – toy maker/repairer Feldman (complete with Keanu-Reeves-in-Dracula flour in his hair to make him look older) and his daughter are the last two members of the Toulon family, and have been trying for years to bring their puppets to life. A global toy company run by the sexy legs/cleavage combo of evil corporate boss lady, Erica Sharpe (Vanessa Angel from the Weird Science TV show) want the secret, and strike a deal with a demon to bring the company's toys to life on Christmas morning to kill lots of children. Or something like that anyway. I really wasn't paying too much attention by that point.
After not believing Feldman's conspiracy theories about companies manufacturing evil dolls, a conveniently sexy female cop is attacked by one of the toys, and soon falls in love with Feldman's floppy grey hair and stupid voice. Feldman then introduces her to goodie puppets, Jester, Pinhead, Six-Shooter, and Blade, and they all trot off to the bad guys lair to take on Baby Oopsie Daisy, Grizzly Teddy, and Jack Attack, eventually killing them and rescuing Feldman's eighteen year old twelve year old from an unnecessarily elaborate and slow-moving murder box.
Although basically just a terrible, low budget TV movie with only a tiny amount of blood and partial nudity, PMvsDT is as charming as it is inconceivably stupid, and is easily the only Puppet Master film worth checking out after the original and Part III.