Starring: Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Aron Eisenberg
“Herr Toulon has developed a method of animating his puppets without string. It’s as if they were alive.” (Lt Stein, Puppet Master III)
When you’ve got a film about killer toys you can only go so far with it before the concept loses all sense of terror.
The minds behind the Child’s Play films realised this by the end of the serious-but-iffy third film, following it up with the more comedy-focused Bride Of Chucky instead.
Full Moon, the studio behind the Puppet Master series, realised it sooner than this. By the end of Puppet Master II, in which the killer puppets are double-crossed by their evil owner, the audience is expected to start feeling sympathy for them.
Puppet Master III, then, takes things one step further and makes the puppets outright good guys. A horror film in which the killer dolls are the heroes? Who could the villains possibly be, other than Nazis or something?
Correct. A prequel to the first films, Puppet Master III is set in the 1940s and tells the story of puppet maker Andre Toulon (before he became an undead prick) as he avoids capture by the Nazis.
You see, the Nazis want Toulon because they want to find a way to bring the dead back to life as expendable soldiers, and they reckon he’s got a solution.
They’re probably right, you know. Toulon does indeed have a trick up his sleeve: a special potion which can be used to animate the puppets he builds.
However, when things get a bit tasty and Toulon’s beloved wife is killed by the Nazis, he goes into hiding to avoid being captured and having his serum and puppets seized.
Being a prequel, the line-up of puppets is different to the one seen in Puppet Master and Puppet Master II. The flame-shooting Torch has yet to be built, as has the leader, Blade.
New (or old) on the scene however is Six-Shooter, a six-armed cowboy puppet brandishing six guns.
We also get to see the creation of Leech Woman, who it’s revealed contains the soul of Toulon’s late wife.
Since much of the film involves Toulon hiding, this means the few puppets who are around don’t get as many chances to kill people.
However, that doesn’t stop them doing in a couple of Nazis, usually with either Tunneller’s drill head, Six-Shooter’s guns or Leech Woman’s leeches.
Other notable offerings in Puppet Master III include the stereotypical innocent fat kid who befriends Toulon but, too trusting for his own good, ends up unwittingly leading the Nazis to him for a final confrontation.
And then there’s that classic trope, ever present in bad movies, in which all the Germans in the film speak to each other in English with bad German accents, giving an interesting unintentional twist to the whole “if Britain hadn’t win the war we’d be speaking German by now” claim.
Its only genuine brilliance lies in the stop-motion puppet special effects courtesy of Full Moon effects regular David Allen, which look much better than they deserve to given the film’s clearly low budget.
Puppet Master III is as silly as you would expect, with horrendous acting and the cheesiest Nazi impressions you’ll see in a while. It’s worth a watch if you want to switch your brain off for 85 minutes, but Schindler’s List this ain’t.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
In the UK, Puppet Master III can be found on either DVD or Blu-Ray, both of which come complete with the original Full Moon Videozone making-of featurette that appeared after the film on the original VHS release.
In the US, it’s been released countless times but your best bet is to get it as part of either this Blu-ray collection of the first three films in the series, or this ridiculous 12-film DVD boxset which features nine Puppet Master films and three Killjoy films for five bucks.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER: