Thursday, February 12, 2009

Puppet Master (1989)

Director: David Schmoeller

Starring: Paul Le Mat, William Hickey

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Evil comes in all sizes!

Plot: André Toulon is a puppet maker and the best of the kind. One day he happens upon an old Egyptian formula able to create life, so he decides to give life to his puppets. The Nazis seek to use this knowledge to their advantage and in desperation, Toulon commits suicide. Some years later four psychics get on the trail of a former colleague who suddenly commits suicide, and they decide to investigate the mansion he killed himself in. Along with his widow, they uncover the secrets of the Puppet Master.

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Yes, with no strings attached. Ahahahahahaha. Ugh.

I caught this when it first came out on VHS. It's been nearly 20 years and it still holds up as a great little horror film. PM is a great idea for a movie if you've got some creative film makers to execute it just right. The only reason why you'd want to see it is for the killer marionettes, right? That's what brought me to it. That and I've always been a big fan of Hickey and Le Mat.

It's 1939 and film opens on a resort hotel that looks like it's in Europe. Nazis bust in to get the puppet master, Andre Toulon (Hickey), and his puppets. Then it cuts to modern day and they main characters are headed for one location - that same hotel, but guess what? The hotel wasn't in Europe after all but on the coast of California! SO WHAT THE HELL WERE NAZIS IN DOING IN CALIFORNIA IN 1939?!? Someone please explain that to me. The only thing I can think of is that they're way undercover. It still doesn't sit right with me.

The opening theme by Richard band has stayed with me for 20 years. Not many composers will do that to you but Band's theme is a haunting carnival waltz that, albeit reminiscent of John Morris' music from THE ELEPHANT MAN, really sets the tone for the film to follow. As for the rest of the synth score, it's hit and miss. I'm not a big fan of most electronic scores because they are often used because it's cheaper than an orchestra or they're done by some rock musician who took the gig because it paid.

How this blind-folded guy goes on believing this doll is his girlfriend (who was just there) is one of those WTF moments.

I grew up in the Southern US so when someone's sportin' a bad Southern accent it really hurts. Irene Miracle's (playing Dana) accent is so bad that Arnold Schwarzenegger could probably do a better job with a ventriloquist dummy.

But the stars of the movie are the puppets and we get plenty of puppet action. Lots of fun kills. Lots of puppet first person camera angles. They've even thrown in some stop-motion animation and you know how much I like that. Any, and I mean ANY, movie that has SMA in it gets major points for going the extra mile and showing an appreciation for a near-dead art form.

I would have rather the movie been set in Europe in the late 30s but that's my thing. I enjoyed this just as much as my first experience with it in college while working at that mom & pop video store. It's cheesy fun with puppets and it delivers what you would expect and hope for...murdering puppets starved for revenge.

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