Curse Of The Puppet Master (1998)

AUGUST 10, 2011


“Some folks’ll pay to see just about anything,” one of the many unlikable characters in Curse Of The Puppet Master says early on, and if I was a more optimistic man I’d assume it was a clever meta-joke inserted by the screenwriter about this and pretty much every other Full Moon movie that came along after their separation from Paramount. But based on every single other moment of the film (many of which are cribbed from Sssssss), if he had the ability to be that witty he certainly wasn’t using it here, in what may very well be the weakest of the series to date.

What the character is actually talking about is the fact that our hero puppets are now part of a sideshow attraction of sorts, with Six Shooter showing off his gun-slinging skills for an audience who doesn’t care much about safety (several folks stand directly behind his target, apparently having complete faith in this animated wooden puppet’s ability to hit his mark). I’m not sure what the other puppets can possibly do to entertain yokels (Thrill as Leech Woman, uh... never mind – let’s look at the two-headed dog!), so they get around it by not showing the attraction anymore. I’d say around 80% of the movie is just the new hero carving a new puppet or talking to the heroine, the daughter of the seemingly kindly old man who runs the sideshow.

Now, you might be asking – who the hell are these people? Where’s Rick? Well, they don’t say. I assume it takes place a few years later after the events of PM5, and Rick has either gotten sick of them or sold them to support his crack habit or something. At any rate they belong to this guy now, and it doesn’t take long to realize he’s up to no good (especially if you’ve seen Sssssss). But they still help him, so the idea of them being heroes is gone – this is more like the first two, where they kill a bunch of assholes and then turn on the guy they were working for and kill him. It’s unclear what their motive was here; they were seemingly having a good time killing the town bully and a couple of insanely overbearing cops (it’s the most splatter-y entry yet I think), but I don’t know why they turn on the scientist guy.

Especially since the film’s hero, Tank, is already dead. He’s a dimwitted mechanic who the scientist takes in once he notices his keen carving skill, hiring him to carve “perfect” pieces for his new puppet in exchange for room and board. That the puppet is a metal robot once it’s all finished is a plot hole best left unexplained, I guess, but what’s amusing is that even though he’s sort of presented as a mentally challenged man, he actually comes off smarter than the scientist’s daughter, who reminded me of the brain dead clone girl from Clonus on more than one occasion. At one point Tank says “I just don’t understand how the puppets can be alive.” A perfectly reasonable thing to say, but her reply is most certainly not: “Well I don’t understand how ANYTHING can be alive: a man, a tree, a fish...” What the fuck? Later, when Pinhead gets broken apart by the bully guy in an attempt to save her, she helpfully explains “He tried to save me and that’s why he’s dead.” No shit, lady! In fact, with her red hair and pleasant face, she in many ways reminded me of Erin, the dimwitted new receptionist on The Office, except instead of adorably naive she's irritatingly stupid.

And there’s an unforgivable lack of puppet action for the first hour, as they do nothing but sit around and occasionally wave an arm or something. I don’t think Leech Woman ever actually does anything to live up to her namesake (and I pity anyone who thinks they might have explained her reappearance in the first place), and Jester and Six-Shooter don’t get to join in much either. Granted, Blade, Tunneler and Pinhead are the series’ more prominent icons, and they should have the most fun, but why bother bringing the others in if they’re not given anything to do? They do offer a shot of all six of them in a line though; they aren’t doing much but as I wished for such a thing in one of the other reviews it was nice to see this minimal, non-urgent dream come true. I also dug the opening credits, which almost resembled a sitcom esque cast montage showing highlights for each character from the previous films (which in hindsight may not be the best idea, since the animation and what they are doing is better than what we get in the actual movie). Also, the movie leaves out Decapitron, so that’s worth a point or two.

Oh, and it looks/sounds like ass. I don’t know what they used to shoot it, but it’s one of their ugliest films to date, and Echo Bridge’s bootleg-level transfer doesn’t do it any favors. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much noise on a DVD in my life; even Mill Creek’s “four movies on one side” transfers are better than this. The sound isn’t particularly impressive either, but since the soundtrack consists entirely of the aforementioned woeful dialogue and/or Richard Band’s ever present theme song, I guess this isn’t a bad thing. But at this point I guess it’s kind of pointless to point out that their transfers are abysmal, though I guess it’s worth noting that the movie doesn’t really deserve better.

On the IMDb there are several threads attempting to fit this one in with the rest of the continuity, with theories as to how Leech Woman returned (“I think Rick found her and repaired her as well before selling them at auction” –events that do not exist in any of the movies, mind you), which just makes me kind of sad, because it means that there are folks out there who really do care about these movies/characters. And that’s fine; I may not be a big admirer but I will never admonish someone for being an uber-fan of any movie/TV/comic/whatever – beats being an asshole who doesn’t care about anything. But that they try to sort this mess out makes me think that those fans are forgetting/unaware that the series is in the hands of a man (Charles Band) who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anything but turning one dollar into two, and that any continuity that actually works is likely an accident. And by most accounts the series just gets worse as it goes (the only one I’ve seen post-this one is Vs Demonic Toys, which didn’t have Band’s involvement and is thus considered non-canon), which would make me worry but so far the Bridge hasn’t acquired those, and thus I haven’t been given any of them to review. With any luck I’ll never have to bother.

What say you?


  1. Yeah, this is when the series really started to go downhill. I haven't seen this one since it first came out, but if I recall correctly, the majority of the puppet action you see in this film is either reused footage from the previous films and any new footage is repeated over and over again. I'm pretty sure there's one shot of Blade that is repeated 4 different times. And yeah, they actually get worse after this one. I've yet to see the newest entry, Axis of Evil, but I'm sure it's terrible. Still, I was a huge Puppet Master fan when I was little, and though the films haven't really held up over the years, I'm still all about the first 5 (hell, I even named my band Decapitron. Feel free to check us out: ), so I'll at least give it a chance.

  2. Loving these reviews. It's been more than a decade since I indulged and so it has been nice to relive them without re-watching them... you poor bastard!

    I love how sometimes it's more like you're taking one for the team than you are longingly waiting to see the film.

    Come to think of it, this may not be the first time I've written that on this blog.

    Keep writing and I'll keep reading. LOVE IT!


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