Puppet Master 4-6 (1993-1998)

Puppet Master 4

“Full Moon Entertainment presents”

FM was on fire since the last Puppet Master sequel. They’ve got a Jeffrey Combs sci-fi pic, the aforementioned Netherworld, more Trancers and Dollman and Subspecies movies, at least two dinosaur pictures, two kids movies, four or five more sci-fi movies, and Charles Band involved himself in a castle horror starring Adam Ant.

“starring Gordon Currie”

“THE Gordon Currie,” you might be asking, “twelfth-billed in Friday The 13th Part 8?” That’s the guy. He’d go on to appear in the intriguing but disappointing Waydowntown and play opposite Kirk Cameron in the Left Behind movies.

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“Screenplay by…”

Holy crap, five writers! This is gonna be great! Among them, four are mainly known from this and part five, but Douglas Aarniokoski broke out into directing, assisting Robert Rodriguez and Terry Gilliam before helming his own Highlander sequel.

“directed by Jeff Burr”

Experienced horror director Burr had recently helmed Stepfather II and Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. IMDB reviewers rave: “Okay!” “Worth a look!” “Good enough!”

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Judging from the glowing metal box during the credits, it seems Puppet Master might be trying to rip off props from the Hellraiser series. Oh and now they’re stealing the short glowing-eyed druids from Phantasm. “It is known that those in the upworld are close to discovering our secret, the secret Andre Toulon stole from us those many years ago.” You can tell we’ve got supernatural underground beasties here, and an attempt to get all mythological and use fancy english. Should be no trouble with five writers.

A girl in a lab is working on “The Omega Project” (not the jazz jam band, the “hot nude babes” website or the Japanese film production company – it’s something involving robot arms and colored blocks), receives a package containing a murderous alien puppet, then gets clawed to death. This is one of those movies where every time something happens, we’re gonna see the druids watching it in their magic pool of liquid. Same thing happens ten minutes later to her colleage in another lab. Are subterranean aliens hoping to harness the power of robotic arms moving colored blocks??

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Enter our star Rick, a laser-tag-playing robot programmer prone to talking into a microcassette-corder who lives in the ol’ hotel with his doll Hook, until a visit from his girlfriend Susie, her hot psychic friend Lauren and some asshole named Cameron, Rick’s robotics rival. The artificial-intelligence thing is a nice addition, but come on movie, another psychic in the same hotel? And did they shoot this through a mirror? What is all this glare on the lens? A Bob Vila joke right next to a SCUD missile joke – timely.

Cameron, R.I.P.
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The kids happen upon Toulon’s trunk as Puppet-Toulon lurks outside. They resurrect the killer puppets with Toulon’s formula, marvel at them for a minute, then go off to bed when lightning knocks out the power. Good idea! C&L pull out the series’ first ouija board while Rick plays laser tag (no shit) with Tiny and Drill. The ouija opens a gateway through which more alien demons appear and mangle Cameron to death.

Laser Puppet Master would have been a great title:
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Guy who plays a security guard appeared the following year in crappy Donald Sutherland flick The Puppet Masters – no relation!

The “magic to create life” is in a numeric formula on Rick’s computer. Decapitron’s head turns into a cameo by Toulon. Apparently the puppets are no longer mad at him from the events of Puppet Masters 1 & 2. I think at this point we’ve “rebooted” and are pretending those two didn’t exist. I think when Toulon, speaking through the unconscious third girl, says “you must transcend linearity,” he is telling us to forget about parts 1 & 2 and just go with it. Physics according to the movie: laser tag guns can wound alien puppets, light travels at around one foot per second, and even though puppets are made of cloth and wood they can still make kung-fu punching sounds when they collide

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Toulon dubs Rick the new puppet master, the evil alien is defeated (but not destroyed), and we proceed to part five, which I’m guessing was shot right around the same time.


Puppet Master 5

“Full Moon Entertainment presents”

In between parts 4 and 5: a Lovecraft adaptation, some sexy business, more sequels, and Shrunken Heads from Richard Elfman, director of Forbidden Zone.

Aaand we’ve got the same director and stars as part 4. Confirmed, shot at the same time.

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“Kind of a queer doll for a grown boy to have.” That’s Duane Whitaker, who appeared the same year in Pulp Fiction as one of the dudes who ties up Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames. Since then he’s been in both Rob Zombie sequels. A real movie star in a Puppet Master flick!

Dreeeeam seeeeequence:
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We join Rick at the police station where he’s being arrested for all the deaths from part 4, then it’s on to the first recap of the series, greatest hits from part 4 (there’s some laser tag, of course).

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Some dullsville setup: the new head of Rick’s robotics company is pulling some weapons-dealing trickery, hires the lamest thugs to break into the hotel and steal the puppets. Meanwhile, with no Phantasm monk assistants left, the giant underground puppet transfers his soul into a demon puppet in a drawn-out bit of hammery, saying junk like “drink deep from the fountain of evil, my child.”

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Ever since trying to gain some goodwill by fighting nazis in part III, the series has been going out of its way to bring Bad Guys into the series to become puppet victims, not just innocent psychics. It’s okay for Jester to nail one of the petty thieves in the balls with a meat hammer, but the demon puppet does all the real killing. These guys aren’t evil enough to deserve Death By Jester, just some slapstick. Hey, it’s Torch! Was he even in part 4? The Demon shoots ghost lasers at Torch until Six-Shooter wounds it. Aaaand Rick talks to his computer which is channeling the now-hospitalized psychic girl from part 4.

The filmmakers apparently confused computer code with German:
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Timely references: a gross country guy uses the phrase “achy-breaky”

Up to the 65-minute mark it’s kind of boring. The thieves’ deaths are all demon-scratches and red lighting, and as before, everyone makes a huge deal of Decapitron, who doesn’t even seem all that cool to me. Oh wait, I looked down to type this and now Doctor Whoever, the weaponry robotics bigwig, is fighting Rick with a giant wrench in the elevator. Oh good, Torch is unharmed from the laser hit, and he and his buddies don’t take kindly to the bespectacled man who just konked out their friend.

Decapitron is not cool:
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Epic (well, three-minute) puppet battle follows. All puppets survive, the demon doesn’t, happy epilogue. The movies are becoming disappointingly tame and formulaic. Fortunately they changed things up in the next movie, but unfortunately it’s the worst-rated in the series.

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Puppet Master 6

“Full Moon Pictures presents”

Our six favorite puppets are in cages while a new fake Toulon runs off and burn/buries another cage on a cool-looking night-and-fog set. Hope he buried Decapitron (update: no, it was the deformed puppet body of his former assistant, but Decap isn’t in this sequel anyhow). Lots of editing and fancy angles… we may be in the hands of a Raimi disciple.

The poster is for a mid-60’s Italian swords-and-sandals flick:
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“Curse of the Puppet Master”

So we’re done with the sequel numbering. A montage of puppet scenes from earlier movies plays over the credits, and it’s not for recap purposes like in part five – just good ol’ footage recycling.

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“directed by Victoria Sloan”

This is actually David DeCoteau from part III. Why would the guy who has only ever made bad movies use an alias for a bad movie? In fact, his previous Puppet Master entry was one of the good ones – you’d think he’d want some fan recognition. Maybe the DeCoteau table at the conventions was getting too hot. From the writer of Hellraiser Deader, ugh.

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“Another Magoo goes to college” says the fake Toulon to his daughter. So the lead’s name is gonna be Magoo, huh? And now a guy named Tank whom I recognize from the video box. Picked-on sensitive Tank (Josh Green, who made it to 42nd-billed-in-Pearl-Harbor before throwing in the towel) makes fancy wood figurines, gets hired by puppet-crazy Mr. Magoo, introduced to our gang, who are let out of their cages for dinner. Movie doesn’t look so bad but this is some clumsy-ass dialogue.

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Magoo bought the puppets at auction? So much for the long careful setup stringing the sequels together. Oh um Magoo (George Peck – best known as “man with luggage” in a Susan Sarandon flick) is being questioned by the cops about the disappearance of his previous assistant in an extremely drawn-out scene. Come to think of it, 30 minutes have passed and nothing has happened (pre-credits foggy mystery doesn’t count).

Magoo wants the boy to make a 444-piece puppet – that’s 2/3rds of the devil. Maybe it comes with a 222-piece accessory pack. One piece is the size of his hand – the puppet will be as big as the house!

“What is man except a being at war with himself.”
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Jane Magoo (Emily Harrison – the best actor here – who went on to play “girl” in a David Spade film) is back and there’s some kissing and what not. Tank roughhouses with hooligans. Mr. Magoo pep-talks Tank. The last 30 minutes of this movie had better be pretty cool.

A hooligan broke Tiny! Puppets are sent after the hooligan and we have our first groin-drilling of the series. I am liking the drunkenly tilting camera. An investigation follows and our puppet friends become cop killers. The effects in this movie ain’t worth a damn – no stop-motion or cleverness, just out-of-frame hands waving puppets around, and sometimes strings I can see.

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Magoo turns Tank into a way silly Max Headroom robot and the puppets, who were totally cool with all this a second ago, decide to kill him. Roll credits? I like the bonkers ending and the short runtime, but let’s face it, I’m just trying to stay positive over a turd of a movie.

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I am Puppet Master’d out, so there will be a very long delay before I move on to part 7…