The return of Charles Band’s appealing little puppet monsters from the 1989 straight to VHS hit PUPPET MASTER sees them resurrecting their maker, Andre Toulon, from his grave in the opening scene. Anyone questioning where they have been able to get the fluid to bring him back to life, or where he obtains his subsequent ‘disguise’ (a marvellous combination of Claude Raines’ 1933 INVISIBLE MAN and Peter Lorre’s Gogol from the 1935 MAD LOVE) are missing the point of these endearingly barmy movies.
Another group of four paranormal investigators arrives at the Bodega Bay hotel where, in 1939 and the previous film, Toulon the puppet master killed himself before the Nazis could steal his secrets of how to give tiny animated blocks of wood life. The ‘experts’ look less like academics and more like surfers, so we can perhaps forgive them when their methods turns out to be a bit slapdash.
The puppets are after ‘brain fluid’ to help keep them going, and their first victim is hunky Patrick (Greg Webb) who is there with his sister Carolyn (Elizabeth McClellan). “He doesn’t handle alcohol well,” she explains to the others as Patrick stumbles off to bed having sipped a thimbleful of wine, although why she even allowed him to have that much if it ruins him brings into question her suitability as a sibling,
Patrick gets his head drilled open and Carolyn gets slightly upset. They all seem to agree, however, that the best course of action is not to call the police but instead to stick his body into the freezer and carry on paranormal investigating.
Mind you, no-one seems in the least bit surprised when Toulon turns up in his Gogol disguise (see pic) and explains that he owns the hotel. Meanwhile, out in the country at a wooden shack built out of beer crates, the puppets are busy. George ‘Buck’ Flower (veteran of some unbelievable 1970s rubbish including a couple of ILSA movies) gets his brain drained. His less than sylphlike wife throws a lady puppet into the incinerator before a puppet in a Nazi uniform with bullets for teeth burns her alive.
Carolyn is the reincarnation of Toulon’s lost love. Cue a flashback scene to Cairo (ambitious stuff here, Mr Band!) where a Caucasian Egyptian promises to show Toulon and his wife the secret of animating puppets. Back in the present, Toulon has constructed two human-sized puppets to house both his and his wife’s spirits once he’s perfected his formula to do the job. The Mr & Mrs Toulon puppets are supremely creepy, resembling as they do the Clockwork Wizards from DR PHIBES.
There’s a bit of a kerfuffle as there always is in these films, Toulon burns, but his “wife” escapes with the puppets with the intention of terrorising a local orphanage.
PUPPET MASTER II drags a bit in the middle, but overall it’s a supremely daft and enjoyable piece of entertainment. Toulon and his laboratory look like something out of the best 1930s mad scientist pictures, and the ending is deliriously crazy. The film is no classic, but it is a delicious time waster for those so inclined. And yes, I’m now looking forward to PUPPET MASTER III.
88 Films delivers a very nice PUPPET MASTER II package, with an introduction and commentary by Charles Band, plenty of trashy trailers, a featurette, and two toy commercials. And Graham Humphreys has done the new box art - what more could you want?