18th Aug2012

‘Puppet Master’ Blu-ray Review (88 Films)

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Paul Le Mat, Irene Miracle, Matt Roe, Kathryn O’Reilly, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Robin Frates, William Hickey | Written by Charles Band, Kenneth J. Hall | Directed by David Schmoeller

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Ahhh Puppet Master, a film which have seen countless times (at least over two dozen) since I first discovered it all those years ago at my local video rental store. Having owned the VHS (both ex-rental and sell-thru) and the UK and US DVDs – the huge DVD boxset is still one of my prize possessions – my love for the film remains unbounded. So imagine how excited I was to learn that the film that got me acquainted with Charles Band’s Full Moon and the fantastic, yet perilous puppets, was finally going to see the light of day in glorious high definition on Blu-ray courtesy of 88 Films.

Bodega Bay Inn, 1939. Puppet maker Andre Toulon (the fantastic William Hickey), a man with the ability to literally bring his puppets to life, commits suicide before two men (obviously Nazi’s given the time period), can reach him and interrogate him for his secrets. Jump forward to the present day. Yale professor, and psychic, Alex Whitaker (Le Mat), carnival psychic Dana Hadley (Miracle), along with fellow psychics Frank Forrester (Roe) and Carlissa Stamford (O’Reilly) are summoned to the now-abandoned Bodega Bay Inn by colleague Neil Gallagher (Skaggs). However when they arrive they discover that not only has their friend Neil married a woman named Megan (Frates), Neil has also committed suicide! Already struggling to comprehend what’s happened, the gang of psychics discover they’re stay at the inn may be permanent as they’re picked of one by one by Toulon’s motley group of puppets – Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, Tunneler and Blade.

Part slasher movie, part supernatural horror, it has been over twenty years since Puppet Master was originally released direct to video. Since then there have been nine official sequels and one unofficial sequel (lensed for the Sci-Fi channel). With a tenth film in the can and awaiting its debut later this year, a re-release of the original seems fitting – especially given that is has received the HD upgrade. But about that…

Having seen the film plenty of times already the story is nothing new to me but then I, like many fans, will not be buying this Puppet Master release for the story. No, the reason to buy this Blu-ray, at least for fans, is for the upgrade in the PQ. However, despite being correctly framed (for the first time according to those in the know), there are scratches and dots on the print throughout the film; there are also a number of issues with banding in some scenes. That’s not to say this isn’t a worthy upgrade – being remastered from the original 35mm elements has done wonders for the movies appearance and this, given the low-budget nature of the films production, is probably going to be the best it will ever look.

Special features on this release include the original trailer and the VideoZone episode that also accompanied the film’s DVD release in the US.

Puppet Master is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday August 20th courtesy of 88 Films.

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