Distributor: 88 Films
BBFC Classification: 18
Director: David DeCoteau
Starring: Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, Ian Abercrombie, Walter Gotell, Sarah Douglas, Aron Eisenberg
The tagline for Puppet Master III reads ‘When Good Puppets Go Bad’ which, if you were cynical, could be an indication of the quality level of the series, especially after the lacklustre second film. In time-honoured franchise tradition, Puppet Master III is a prequel to the first two films that concentrates on puppet maker Toulon and the events that lead up to his suicide which we saw at the beginning of the first film (although the date they established in that film is still different to what it is here).
In Berlin during World War II a scientist named Dr. Hess (Ian Abercrombie – Firewalker) witnesses a puppet show performed by Toulon (Guy Rolfe – Dolls), where the puppets seem to be moving without the aid of strings. Hess has been ordered by Gestapo leader Major Kraus (Richard Lynch – Halloween/Deathsport) to come up with a formula that will reanimate dead soldiers to use as living shields and Hess thinks he has found the answer. However, the nature of Toulon’s puppet show mocks the Nazi regime and Kraus wants the puppeteer arrested for treason.
During a raid on Toulon’s home his wife Elsa (Sarah Douglas – Superman II) is wounded and then shot in cold blood by Kraus, who then captures Toulon. But Toulon is helped by puppets Pinhead and Tunneler and escapes, vowing to avenge his wife with the help of his creations.
One look at the names involved in Puppet Master III gives an indication that Charles Band and the rest of the filmmakers were trying to up the quality and credibility of the series, and for all intents and purposes they succeeded as the film is probably the most interesting of the whole series (so far, at least). Not that it’s wall-to-wall A-listers but even if you don’t know any of the actors names you’ll know their faces – even Walter Gotell from the James Bond films makes an appearance as a Nazi General.
Guy Rolfe gives the best interpretation of Toulon yet, making him a more engaging and sympathetic character who loves his wife and his puppets, although it is B-movie legend Richard Lynch who is the most commanding presence (which would make sense as he is playing a Nazi officer) and draws your full attention when he is on-screen.
But, yet again, it is the puppets that steal the show and in this film Six Shooter is the formidable new face (or old, depending on how you look at it). A cowboy with six arms and six loaded pistols, Six Shooter has a permanently grinning face that just exudes menace and his addition to the gang gives the film a darkly comic edge that is a lot more prevalent than before. The film also alludes to the creation of Blade and who he is based on, and also how the Leech Woman came to be, which adds a little bit of depth – if that isn’t too big a word for this series – to the overall story.
Director David DeCoteau (Creepozoids) does a lot with a little as the set design is pretty good, managing to recreate Nazi Germany quite convincingly on the Universal backlot for a rather modest budget, most of which is on the screen. The puppet effects aren’t quite as smooth as in part two and are more akin to the look of the first film but the action is ramped up enough so you’ll barely notice. With 88 Films gradually releasing the rest of the series on Blu-ray then you’ll be able to build up a nice collection of these movies but, for the time being at least, Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge remains the strongest and the most fun Puppet Master movie.
Special Features: Audio commentary by director David DeCoteau & writer C. Courtney Joyner, original Videozone featurette, Killer Puppet Master montage, 1997 Puppetmaster action figure commercial, Trailer, Full Moon Trailer Park, reversible sleeve incorporating original artwork, collector’s booklet.
UK Release Date: 22nd October 2012