There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Today we discuss Retro Puppet Master, an entry in the Puppet Master saga which, for some reason, I have never seen. Sometime after Curse of the Puppet Master, I got behind on the franchise and only recently realized that this childhood favorite of mine was still being made to this day. Unlike most of my entries in the Key Movies of My Life, this one will be about a film I have never seen, but from a franchise that is one of my favorites.
Today’s Key Movie:
Retro Puppet Master picks up immediately after the events of Toulon’s revenge where Andre Toulon and his Puppets are still on the run from the Nazi’s. While on his journey, the Puppets find the head of one of his original Puppets prompting Toulon to tell the story only hinted at, the origin of The Puppet Master. Starring Guy Rolfe, Greg Sestero and Brigitta Dau, This is Retro Puppet Master.
Why this movie?
As I mention above, I lost track of the Puppet Master franchise sometime after watching Curse of the Puppet Master. While I was vaguely aware that there were other films, I assumed they were remakes of what I loved as a kid and never gave them any thought. Little did I know, the franchise continues on to this very day beating the likes of Jason and Freddy in shear film volume.
Taking place in 1902 Retro Puppet Master takes us back to the moments only previously mentioned in the flashback sequences of Puppet Master 2 and 3 not only showing how Toulon gained the power of the Puppet Master, but also why Suhtek from the 4th and 5th entry is after this secret power. In it, we meet the young Puppeteer in the prime of his life as he his shows for the upper class in France, there he runs into a magician named Afzel who provides the young Toulon with the means to bring his puppets to life so that someone in the world can defend humanity against the coming elder Gods. What follows is an adventure with Andre Toulon learning the secrets of life while trying to defend himself from the evil and also win the heart of his beloved Elsa.
But as always, we ask the question,
Is it a ‘good’ movie?
Retro Puppet Master is a fun take on the Puppet Master story that, while a good story, doesn’t quite fit with the established mythos of the franchise. If you remember, it was established in Puppet Master 2 that Toulon and Elsa learned the secret of Life from a wizard while performing in Egypt. In fact, there was a major plot point where the wizard set fire to their stage in order to make up an excuse to talk to them. Whether this was the false memories of an undead Toulon or simply a really bad job at keeping continuity between films is left completely unanswered. I imagine it was a little bit of column B.
All that aside, Retro Puppet Master is a mixed bag. While it has a good story and decent visual effects, it suffers greatly with a weak cast and some rather wooded acting. Not to say that everyone is terrible but, watching this feels more along the lines of Lexx or even Xena Warrior Princess in it’s campiness where the film isn’t supposed to be a campy one. During the film, in addition to the living puppets, we are treated to a strange trio of Mummy Agents who cant seem to keep their accent straight as well as a city of characters who seem to have the same issue, yes, including Toulon himself. Actor Greg Sestero, who happens to have a French decent himself, never quite nails the accent, sounding like a strange blend of Sean Connery and Arnold Schwarzenegger for most of the film. Almost everyone in the film seems to be hyper aware that they are in a B-Horror film and do everything they can to ham it up in every way they can. This is not helped by the rather intrusive and silly musical cues that just accentuate the bizarre script choices throughout. The one exception to this is Guy Rolfe who returns as the elder Toulon for the final time in the franchise. Sadly Rolfe passed away in 2003 at the age of 91.
If I didn’t know better, I would think that Director David DeCoteau set out to make a parody of the franchise he had worked on for so long and, maybe that was the intent. I just wish I had known this going in as I was expecting a halfway serious entry in the Puppet Master franchise. The thing that really disappoints me is that the Retro Puppets of Retro Puppet Master are hardly even used in this film. While many of the films in this franchise take time for the action to get started, this one seemed to just forget that there was action needed in the first place. It is only in the last 15 minutes of the film that the Puppets do much of anything and, what they do isn’t all that impressive. With names like Doktor Death, Drill Sargent, and the like you would expect them to have some significant rolls in the story but we are lucky to see them pick locks. Interestingly, when we return to the elder Toulon telling the story, he mentions that the fate of the original Puppets is another story for another time. I just hope that story has a little bit more of them in it.
Overall, Retro Puppet Master is a missed opportunity to tell the definitive story of the origins of this beloved franchise. We don’t even get the classic stop motion this franchise was built on, giving the puppets a rather lifeless and empty existence. I will certainly keep this in mind as we go deeper into the later films of the Puppet Master franchise, hopefully there are some gems in there. I guess we will find out together.
OK, where do I get this movie?
If you enjoy campy B-Horror or just adore the Puppet Master franchise as I do, you can currently watch this one on the Full Moon Channel via Amazon Video, or just go to the source and pick up a copy here. I know I made it sound like a shit show, but for what it was, it was fun to watch. Thankfully there is also a rifftraxx available.
Late To The Game 9/23/2021
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!
The Puppet Master Logo is a trademark of Full Moon Video who holds all rights. LTTG blog claims no rights to this logo in any way form or fashion.