20th Oct2012

‘Puppet Master 2 & 3’ Blu-ray Review (88 Films)

by Paul Metcalf


The releases of the Puppet Master films on Blu-ray can be taken two ways really, you can choose to remember the nostalgic nature of the titles and the first time you watched them, or you can compare them to the films that are put out now or even films that were being released at the same time and rip them apart. I like to base my reviews on how I feel, and I will admit that nostalgia does take over but also the quality of the disks themselves. Now that Puppet Master II and Puppet Master III are being released by 88 Films and Charles Band is looking to re-master his back catalogue in high definition from the original negatives, I’d say that horror fans are in for a treat.

Puppet Master II follows on from the first movie, with the puppets re-awakening the long dead Andre Toulon to provide them with the potion they need to survive, one that is only created from human brains. This of course is where the new team of psychic researchers come in, they have the brain juice for the potion. It’s quite a simple story, but filled with plenty of death scenes featuring the puppets themselves, and a hint of a love story as Toulon believes he may have found his bride who died many years before.

Moving to Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge we take a trip back in time to when Toulon was alive and running puppet shows during World War II. His anti-Nazi performances don’t go down too well, and when his puppets are seen to move by themselves suddenly the Gestapo and the Nazi scientist Dr. Hess want to know the secret behind his special dolls. When Toulon is captured his wife, Elsa is murdered and as Toulon is driven away his puppets come to his aid, allowing him to escape and devise a plan of revenge on the Nazis.

The first thing that is most noticeable with these releases is the picture quality, I can’t say I noticed it that much in the first Puppet Master, but these two are definitely looking the best they have ever been. This works against them at times though, for example in the third film when Six-Shooter climbs up the side of the whorehouse you can see the wires used to move him up against the wall, and in the second film one of the characters who should be very much dead is finding it very hard to actually put on a good performance. It’s the increase in detail that allows this to be seen, this is probably something they thought they could hide in the early days. This is forgiven though, because in the end these films don’t have the magic of CGI to remove the wires, and as fans it’s safe to assume that we don’t want them to intrude into the films to remove these errors.

The commentaries that are included on both releases are also very informative for the watcher. On Puppet Master II for example Charles Band gives us more of a discussion about the history of his films and how he used to go on road shows for the fans, obviously interesting to hear, and he shows a love of the puppets, especially Torch which is actually nice to hear it shows his love for his art. Puppet Master II’s commentary is more of a traditional director and writer affair where we are given a perspective about the making of the film.

The Puppet Master films have their fans, mostly the people who grew up renting out the VHS versions (or buying them of course) and almost growing up on the tales of the evil little monsters, who even did good sometimes. It shows the popularity of the puppets when there are ten films based on them and their world. Nostalgia does play a big part in this I’m sure so people who are just now experiencing the films may look at them and thing “well this is typical eighties straight to VHS horror”. It’s easy to look down on them and be cynical, maybe even snobbish but they still have their place in classic horror. For fans though it’s interesting to see the back story of creations such as Blade and the Leech Woman (we see these being created in Puppet Master III) and interesting to see where puppets first appeared (for example Torch in the second film and Six-Shooter in the third) it’s arguable that these puppets have their place with the likes of Freddy and Jason, they are little icons to fans.

Charles Band states on the introductions to these two films that he’s looking to put most of his films onto Blu-ray direct from the 35mm negatives, and looking at these two releases it does show that we are in for some special releases. There are many fans who want to see more classic horror, especially from the seventies, eighties and nineties and now we are finally getting them, in glorious high definition. They may not be the best movies ever and do have varying levels of enjoyment (I for one enjoyed Puppet Master III a lot more than Puppet Master II) but one thing they do provide is fun.

Puppet Master II and Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge are released on Blu-ray 22nd October courtesy of 88 Films.


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