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Film: Puppetmaster

"A box of little toys has just become a gang of little terrors. This is not child's play..."
— Tagline

Puppet Master is a low-budget, direct-to-video horror film produced by Charles Band in 1989 by Empire Pictures, but released through Band's then-new company Full Moon Entertainment (with distribution by Paramount). It is considered a Cult Classic and the company's breakout film, as eight sequels were made.

The series mostly revolves around a group of puppets created by Andre Toulon. Andre found a secret Egyptian spell back in the 1930s which can bring things back to life. He used it on his puppets and sure enough, they were now alive. Nazis discover the spell and trail Andre all the way to America where he successfully hid the puppets and killed himself. When the puppets are finally released, they'll obey a certain person under their command unless their new master takes things too far.

Needless to say, the series is campy, yet charming to most viewers and fan support has eventually led the first and latest films to be released on Blu-Ray in June 2010.

It was followed by a series of sequels and a crossover:
  • Puppet Master II: His Unholy Creation (1991)
  • Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991)
  • Puppet Master 4: The Demon (1993)
  • Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)
  • Puppet Master 6: Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
  • Puppet Master 7: Retro Puppet Master (1999)
  • Puppet Master 8: The Legacy (2003)
  • The Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004, crossover movie with Demonic Toys)
  • Puppet Master 9: Axis of Evil (2010)
  • Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012)

This film series provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: The Nazi puppet Kamikaze is a living bomb and also pre-dates the actual Kamikaze tactics by five years.
  • The Ageless: Applies to both the puppets and any human the spell is cast upon.
  • Anatomy Arsenal: A good number of the puppets.
  • Anti-Hero (type IV): Andre Toulon in part III, who uses his puppets to take bloody revenge on the Nazis.
  • Arm Cannon: Torch's flamethrower arm.
  • Artistic License - History: According to the two Axis films, America was involved in World War 2 in 1939—both Danny and his brother Don are eager to enlist and fight—and the Auschwitz concentration camp and Japanese kamikazes are both mentioned despite being too early as well.
  • Asshole Victim: The "Indiana Jones" kid in part II, Cameron in part 4, and Joey in Curse Of The Puppet Master
  • Back from the Dead: Neil Gallagher in the first and Andre Toulon in the second.
  • Berserk Button:
    • The puppets seem to turn on their masters if they become too evil.
    • Two times the puppets seem to turn on their master after he/she harms Jester.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Jester is the least grotesque and completely unarmed compared to his comrades. In most situations he just revolves his face and reacts to the situation, but when pushed he's a tiny killer like any of the others.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Blade has two weapon-hands: a sharp hook on the left and a knife on the right.
  • Butt Monkey: Jester seems to be this.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Though how it had to be acquired varied, the method to powering the puppets seemed to basically be brain juice up until Retro Puppet Master. From there it seemed to change to tiny amounts of Blood.
  • Characterization Marches On: The puppet's motivations change over the course of the series. In the first two movies they're evil, willing to kill innocent people to serve thier master's ambitions—Gallagher murdering his colleagues to prevent them from discovering he learned Toulon's secret, and Toulon harvesting people to brew more serum to reanimate himself and his "wife" into human-sized bodies—though the puppets have their limits on how much evil they'll tolerate from their masters. Toulon's Revenge reveals that all the puppets have been victims of cruelty and murder, reanimated into a second life to fight back, and from this point they fight to protect their masters from the servants of Sutekh (IV, V, and Retro) and antagonistic humans (Curse and the Axis films).
  • Clip Show: The majority of Puppet Master: The Legacy, with a Framing Device of an assassin killing her way to Toulon's secrets and demanding answers of his "pupil" Peter Hertz.
  • Continuity Nod: Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys makes reference to the Toulon puppets fighting the Nazis in WWII, as was the plot of part 3. Though it's a big part of the series history, this is special as it turns out to be one of the few times continuity is acknowledged in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys.
  • Continuity Snarl: The Bodega Bay Inn is the unofficial setting of the franchise and the puppets keep returning there under unexplained circumstances.
    • I / II: Toulon hides the puppets and kills himself at the Bodega Bay Inn in 1939, there they're discovered by Neil Gallagher in 1989. The sequel ends in 1991 with the puppets leaving with Camille.
    • III: Takes place in 1941 in Nazi Germany, both Leech Woman and Blade are created during this film, supposedly two years after Toulon hid them and died in California.
    • IV / V: The puppets are found by Rick Myers at the Bodega Bay Inn, the trunk seemingly untouched in decades. Nothing is mentioned about the second film's ending. He becomes the new puppet master and protector of their secrets.
    • VI: The puppets are now in the hands of Dr. Magrew and his daughter Jane at their doll museum, how they got there is unexplained.
    • VIII: The puppets are again back at the Bodega Bay Inn along with Peter Hertz, Toulon's young friend who escaped Germany with him. Rick from IV and V has been murdered between films.
    • IX / X: In 1939, an admirer of Toulon's finds the puppets hidden in the inn shortly after his suicide and takes them home to Los Angeles. There he battles the Nazi agents who hunted Toulon to California. As of 2012, Axis Rising is the final movie in the series, so the puppets remain in LA in 1939 with no suggestion as to how they return to the Inn to be discovered in the original film in 1989.
  • The Dragon: Blade is mentioned to be the de facto leader of the puppets, second only to their master/creator.
  • Dragon Lady: Axis of Evil has Ozu, an Imperial Japanese spy and saboteur working with the Nazi agents who tried to capture Toulon. Despite hiding in a Chinatown opera house, "because Americans can't tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese", she's always dressed as a Japanese geisha in a kimono, full-face make up, sandals, along with talon-like nails. Ozu spends the film arguing national and cultural pride with her Nazi "ally", cock-teasing him, and plotting to steal Toulon's secret for Japan. Danny even refers to her as Dragon Lady after he first discovers her plans, and she confronts him with a katana after her men are killed.
  • Final Girl
    • Megan in original.
    • Carolyn in second.
    • Lauren and Suzie in fourth, later Suzie become final girl in The Final Chapter.
    • Jane in Curse of the Puppet Master.
    • Elsa was this in Retro Puppet Master.
    • Beth in Axis of Evil and Axis Rising.
    • Alexandra in the crossover.
  • Five-Bad Band
  • Groin Attack: Tunneler drills Joey in the crotch in Curse of the Puppet Master.
  • Happy Harlequin Hat: Jester wears one.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dr Magrew in Curse of the Puppet Master after he turns Robert into Tank.
  • Hook Hand: Blade's left hand, his other is a knife.
  • Immortality Immorality: Neil Gallagher, though he was allegedly just as bad before.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Torch is named for his flamethrower arm.
    • The fate of Leech Woman in Part II.
  • Legacy Character: In Retro Puppet Master, it's revealed that Toulon had a set of puppets in 1902, when he learned the secret of life, that closely resembles the puppet stars of the franchise. The "retro" puppets are made of wood, generally unpainted, and have similar designs, outfits, and weapondry of the later puppets. Among the 1902 puppets are "retro" Blade, Pinhead, Six-Shooter, along with a version of Tunneler then known as Drill Sargent. The 1902 puppets are reanimated from his puppeteer troupe and friends murdered by the servants of Sutekh—their fate is unknown and left as a Sequel Hook at the end of the film. It's stated in Part III that the familiar puppets are reanimated by Toulon's friends who were killed at the hands of the Nazis. At some point Toulon crafted a new set of puppets based on his originals, sharing the same names, and for a new set of dead friends.
  • Living Toys: Animated by alchemical magic that was found in Egypt. Stolen, rather, from the demon god Sutekh who will kill to keep his secrets. The primary component is also a willing soul who wants to return to life after death. Toulon and Jane Megrew were both content to have the puppets entertain audiences.
  • Marionette Master: Basically, the title of the series and the running premise throughout—each puppet master has an agenda involving the puppets, the evil ones are killers for their own gain and the heroic ones want to safeguard the puppets and their secrets.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Toulon kills himself in part 1 and his spirit seems occupy Decapitron in parts 4 and 5. Convenient or deliberate?
  • Negative Continuity:
    • Oh GOD. Applies to how the puppets got away from Camille Kenney after Part II, how the puppets got from Rick Myers to Peter Hertz between Part 5 and The Legacy, how the puppets got back to Bodega Bay Inn following Curse of the Puppet Master, and most recently how they got back to Bodega Bay Inn between the events of Axis of Evil and the parts of the first film taking place in the present. Theories abound, but fans are pretty sure that the filmmakers just don't care. Interestingly Fanon prior to Legacy made some sense, assuming that Curse came after Part II so the puppets didn't have to make 2 off-screen trips back to the Bodega Bay Inn
    • Nevermind the whereabouts of particular puppets between films, such as Six Shooter being made in the third film, which chronologically takes place before both the first and second movies but never showing up in them and many other such oddities.
  • No Ontological Inertia: In II, Toulon's reanimated body disintegrates back into a moldering corpse as soon as he possesses something else.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Whatever Tunneler did to Carissa in the first movie. We know it involved her face, and she was still alive for a few moments after he stopped. When we see Carissa's corpse later on, her entire lower jaw is covered with leeches.
  • The Obi-Wan: Toulon's "ghost" residing in the Decapitron puppet to Rick Myers in the 4th and 5th films
  • Puppet Permutation: The plot of the sixth film, Curse of the Puppet Master. In the end, the antagonist succeeds.
  • Pyro Maniac: Torch is a cruel and sadistic puppet who burns people alive.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Retro Puppet Master ends with Toulon promising the story of what became of his original 1902 puppets for another day.
    • Axis Rising ends with Freuhoffer slinking off with a vial of the reanimation serum.
  • Series Mascot: Blade is the face of the series. Often times when you see a horror montage, collage, etc., with Puppet Master included, the other puppets + masters aren't gonna show up.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The series contains a green formula that gives the puppets life. In 1985, the same producer was responsible for the Re-Animator film.
    • The Blade puppet was designed after Klaus Kinski.
    • In the second movie, Toulon is constantly wrapped in bandages akin to The Invisible Man.
  • Slashed Throat: What a way to go for Dana Hadley.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome:
    • Megan Gallagher, owner of both the puppets and the hotel, off-screen between the first and second films.
    • Disappointingly, Rick Myers was murdered off-screen in Puppet Master: The Legacy.
  • Take That: Given how close their release years were, the films tagline seems a dig at the similar Childs Play series.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In the third film, the entire plot is kicked off because Toulon thought it was a good idea that put on a public show that made fun of Adolf Hitler. In Germany. During 1941.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Afzel takes his own life in Retro, seemingly just to unnerve his would-be assassins.
  • This Is a Drill: Tunneler's gimmick is his drill head, also shared by his retro version Drill Sergeant.
  • Torpedo Tits: Bombshell is modelled after the late Uschi and her uniform, with an armor-plated bra coming out of the blouse. The bra flips open to reveal tiny machine guns and a seemingly limitless ammo supply.
  • Translation Convention: In Puppet Master III.
  • Versus Title: Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys
  • Villain Ball:
    • In Toulon's Revenge, Major Kraus makes the bone-headed decision to murder the already-wounded Elsa Toulon after she spits on him. Her husband was in Gestapo custody outside believing that an ambulance would be coming for her, Kraus could have used her as a hostage to get the reanimation secret from him—even if treatment failed and she died of her initial injury. Instead he executes her off the bat, Toulon hears the gunshot and knows his wife is dead, leaving him determined to make his escape and plot revenge.
    • In the Axis of Evil, the antagonists have a field day playing Pass the Ball. We're spies in the middle of US on the brink of war? Let's change into our national costumes! What, you mean the middle of an open area isn't a secure place to discuss our plans, and we know this because we've been caught out before? Let's discuss further plans there! I'm tired of chasing the protagonists about; I think I'll stop and have something to eat... hey, this thing is wriggling like a leech; I'll make sure I eat it first.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The oriental puppet, Gengie, in the beginning of the first film. Although he was placed in the trunk with the other puppets, he was never seen again. Not even in the sequels.
    • There's also the maid of the Gallaghers in the first film. After being killed by Pinhead, she is revived by Neil Gallagher and shown briefly guarding one of the exits. After that, she's never seen again. You think a zombie maid would be a cause for alarm.
    • This applies to the human-puppetized Camille Kenney, who rode off into the sunset to kill kids at the end of part 2, the puppets in cages in the back of her truck.
    • And whatever happened to the Retro Puppets?

PumpkinheadSy Fy Channel Original MovieReturn of the Living Dead
    Creator/Full Moon FeaturesFollow the Leader
The Punisher (1989)Films of the 1980sThe Return Of The Musketeers
PumpkinheadFilms Of The 2000s-FranchisesPusher
PumpkinheadHorror FilmsQ: The Winged Serpent

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