Part of the Full Moon Productions' system when creating such excellent props as the dolls for the Puppetmaster series is the advance plan of recycling such creations through sequels.
This permits, even on their tiny budgets, a little extra expense which will be recouped in not having to make anything so splendid for later films.
It was further intended to use the puppet designs for toy models & action figures to sell to fans, their images used also for comic books, even video games if chance arose, so they had to be cool.
To some extent, in fact, it was less important that the films were anything special than the puppets were great, marketable in & of themselves.
Puppet Master II (1991) was only in the original trailer given the subtitle His Unholy Creations. We soon learn that the puppets need to recharge their lives from time to time, with the ancient Egyptian potion that first gave them life.
Only Andre Toulon knows the secret of this potion, but he committed suicide way back in World War II. So the puppets conspire to resurrect Toulon, this time played by Steve Welles. He will condense the life-giving liquor from the brains of the killer-puppets' victims.
A new puppet joins the original group. Torch is a pyro with his right arm a flamethrower. Transient guest puppets include Mephisto & the Egyptian Goblin. We also learn that drill-headed Tunneler is an alcoholic; nice touch that that's even possible.
A group of psychic researchers are killed one by one, until Toulon realizes one of the intended victims, Carolyn (Elizabeth Maclellan), looks exactly like his long lamented wife Elsa.
Convinced Carolyn is the reincarnation of Elsa, he sets out to turn her into an immortal puppet. He simultaneously makes a puppet version of himself, planning that they will live together forever as wee monsters.
Bringing the character of Toulan back for a bigger performance was definitely a boon for this episode, though he's much more evil than he was for his brief presence in the first film, or in any episode really. Consistency isn't one of the strong points of the series.
His loony plans do provide for the possibility of series-favorite Blade becoming something of a hero who apparently believes Toulon has gone too far over the edge. It's our first intimation of the puppets becoming decreasingly evil as the series progresses.
Though not as atmospheric as the first film which had a finer director, it's even so a bit more imaginative in incident than was the first, & the puppets remain great.
The new director, Dave Allan, had animated the puppets in the first film, & clearly had a real fondness for them, & tried his best to make sure the sequel had enough oomph to do justice to the original.
Puppet Master III: Toulan's Revenge (1991) is a prequel to the first two films, set in 1941 Berlin. And never mind that the first film had Toulan committing suicide in 1939 California.
For the first time Toulan's motivations are rendered comprehensible, & he's definitely not the evil guy he was in the second film.
As we suspected from the first film, he was once just a gentle toymaker & puppeteer. When he uses his puppet shows to criticize Hitler & the Nazis, he gets the attention of the Gestapo, who soon figure out the puppets are more than ordinary.
This time Toulan is played by Guy Rolfe, who'd return in the role in the fourth & fifth films. In all four actors would play Toulan, & Rolfe was the best.
It does seem like an error not to have built the character around a single actor who would surely have had his own cult status, as Angus Scrimm achieved in the Phantasm films. Still, having him played by different actors in three films does no great harm the series.
The Nazis want Toulan's potion that can resurrect the dead, as they'd like to reannimate fallen soldiers to continue the war.
They break into Toulan's home & kill his wife (Sarah Douglas), whose essence will be used to create Leech Woman when Toulan sets out, with his miniscule band of living puppets, to exact revenge against the Nazis.
Toulan as Jewish avenger during the Holocaust is just such a cool premise. And puppets as tiny takes on the Golem is great as well.
The "origins" bits about each puppet is also cool for the development of a Puppet Master Mythos.
This is also the first time we meet Six-Shooter, the six-armed fast-draw cowboy & masked bandit.
Six-Gun immediately became serious competition for grim slasher Blade as most popular puppet, & was hereinafter regarded one of the "key" puppets even though not present in the first two films.
The Egyptian Goblin also puts in a second & final appearance in the series, discounting the mostly "clips" film Puppet Master 7: The Legacy (2003).
Though not animated by the potion, we also see an amusing Hitler puppet used in Toulan's satiric puppet-play. As an aside, Berlin entertainers of the era really did criticize the reich from their little theatrical stages, & most paid the ultimate cost for their boldness, so Toulan's story has all too real a context.
Each of the living puppets gets its own story & scenes, often involving killings. This provides for so much more variety than one would get from a set of gore scenes with an ordinary serial killer.
We're blessed with great moments for Tunneler who kills with his drill-head, Pinhead who kills with a garrot or an axe, Six-Shooter with pistols, Leech Woman vomiting leeches into the face of a Nazi, & so on.
It would underestimate the film to dismiss it as a slasher, though, since it has so much more going for it.
It's also more than mere camp, as the political environment is one of the darkest the world has ever known, giving all this entertaining mayhem is decidedly serious context.
Full Moon's focus on cost-saving often hamstrings their films, but borrowing a Universal set for Berlin & a few other methods actually make Puppet Master III look less cheap than usual.
The story is imaginative & enjoyable, with some villains you love to hate (especially Richard Lynch as the top Gestapo agent who oddly resembles the slasher puppet Blade), some moral ambiguity, some gorey brutality to shock, as well as being the most important episode for grasping how the puppets became the killers they became.
Puppet Master 4 & 5
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Puppet Master 1
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