JULY 30, 2011
I like when the sub-genres are right there in the title, don't you? Unlike the previous movies, Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge is actually pretty straightforward, telling the tale of Toulon getting revenge against the Nazis for killing his wife (and also, I assume, just the general fact that they are Nazis). We also learn that many of the puppets are infused with the souls of Jews (or at least, sympathizers) that were killed by Nazis for one reason or another, making their revenge all the more sweet. It makes more sense than having them kill psychics, at any rate.
And thus, as I was told more than once, this is the best of the Puppet Master films, as it tells a simpler tale and puts the puppets in a true heroic role. The problem with the other two films is that they were supposed to be the bad guys (until the climaxes anyway), but I couldn't stand any of the "heroes", making them rather uninteresting affairs. But I mean, who doesn't like to see Nazis getting killed? And when it's a puppet drilling a hole through one of their backs or dropping killer leeches into their mouth, all the better. I've seen enough of them get shot/tossed off railings to last me a lifetime, but this is the first time I've seen one get his Achilles slashed by a little toy doll.
Another thing that works in its favor is showing the origin of two of the dolls. I can't remember if we were told anything about their backstories in the other films, but it was a nice surprise to see how Leech Woman came to be (infused with the soul of Toulon's wife, gunned down by the Nazis). Blade's origin is a little less interesting; it's a Nazi doctor who eventually turns against his comrades and aids Toulon - it's a nice little character arc, but not sure if it was worth keeping Blade - easily the coolest puppet - out of the movie until the very end. We also get the origin of Six Shooter, a new puppet who wasn't around in 1 or 2 but apparently sticks around for all of the following installments. Not sure if his absence and/or reappearance in PM4 is explained, guess I'll find out later this week (I got the next couple films in the mail to review - god help me), but it would have been fine by me to see him get created/killed in this one movie as a one-off puppet. He LOOKS cool, sure, but all he does is shoot - the others' weapons are far more entertaining.
Also: real actors! Usually the Full Moon budgets only stretch to a day's worth of work from someone like Angus Scrimm or whoever, but Richard Lynch plays the film's main villain, a Nazi higher-up named Kraus (sadly, Hitler does not actually appear in the film and thus does not meet the business end of Tunneler), and he's always a great villain. "Mr Pitt" himself Ian Abercrombie is also in it for quite a bit, as the aforementioned turncoat doctor, and Guy Rolfe takes over as Toulon (third actor in as many films) and is easily the best one yet, giving the character a humanity that was absent in the other entries. Apparently he appears in a few more films, so I'm glad they (for once) stuck with one actor to play the role.
Hell, even Richard Band's score is pretty good this time around, and also used sparingly (well, sparingly compared to other Full Moon films). Sadly, it still suffers from one of the most obnoxious "trademarks" - an excess of washed out daylight scenes. I don't think I've ever seen such bright, borderline cheery NAZI OFFICES in my movie-watching life. Toulon's makeshift lab in the latter part of the film is pretty dark, and there's a nighttime action scene where the puppets free Toulon from Nazi capture, but otherwise everything always looks like high noon (with a few extra lights off camera for good measure). Even the climax looks like it might be interrupted by a bunch of folks heading off to the beach. This is a horror movie, for Christ's sake! Set some scenes at night, or at least throw some shadows into the mix.
Another thing in its favor, however, is some of the best animation yet. There aren't a lot of "Puppet POV" shots; instead we actually see them walking around quite often, and even sharing a few long shots with actors via splitscreen (I think?) instead of the usual composite shots. They still inexplicably remain stiff whenever they are picked up (at one point Abercrombie holds Jester and says something about how remarkably alive they are, yet the thing doesn't as much as blink). Six Shooter's antics are also quite fun to watch - it's like they finally figured out that people want to see puppets doing stuff, not assholes wandering around a hotel.
Oh, and it's ten minutes or so shorter than the others. Automatic win. Also, I looked at the Wiki entry to see if Six Shooter was around for the other (modern day) installments, and discovered that a few of the others are WWII-set as well. I know I'm all about watching a series in numerical order, but if you haven't seen any of the films yet, might be fun to watch them in chronological order by plot, which would make Retro Puppet Master the first film, followed by this one (with Legacy being the final installment, even though it's just largely a clip show from what I understand). If you do this, let me know how it works out for you.
What say you?