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 go deeper into the unknown with the first ‘modern’ installment of the Puppet Master films, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. As I have mentioned before, Puppet Master was a franchise I simply adored as a kid and, as it happens, lost track of over time. Revisiting this series for my blog brought to light the fact that Full Moon is still producing these films and, upon discovering this, I was quite excited. To find more Puppet Master movies, no matter how rough they might be, is certainly a treat.
Today’s Key Movie:
Starting just minutes after the opening of the Original Puppet Master, Puppet Master Axis of Evil begins the story of what happened to the Puppets from the moment that Toulon was shot in 1939 (which really doesnt jive with the previous films of him in the 40’s) until we see them again in modern day. Stolen by Danny Coogan, who had befriended Toulon before his death, the Puppets and Danny somehow get involved with the Nazi assassins and a Japanese Agent as they prepare to sabotage a Bomb Plant. The dolls get involved, of course and, well, all hell breaks loose.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
While this film in particular messes with the timeline again, specifically when Toulon actually dies, the story itself is actually a pretty solid one. Using footage from the first film, it manages to seamlessly blend the events that started the franchise with a new untold tale of the Puppets fight against the Axis powers after their master’s death.
The story itself follows Danny, who essentially becomes the new ‘Puppet Master’ setting up the trail of puppet masters to come. The cool thing is that it returns the franchise back to it’s core where the ‘Puppet Master’ is not the one to be responsible for the souls of the puppets but the one charged to maintain and care for these diminutive beings. Charles Band and Director David DeCoteau really do a tremendous job with this entry using it’s lower budget nature to it’s advantage. As we all know, low budget does not have to mean ‘cheaply made’ or ‘bad’, in fact, being low budget can actually be a benefit as it forces the filmmakers to get creative with their work. Band and DeCouteau certainly know how to properly manage their way through limited funds and have created a really great entry into the eventual fifteen film franchise.
While the acting is not ‘oscar quality’ I have to say it was far better than I anticipated. Levi Fiehler really sells his role as a young man who is desperate to serve in the military but unable to due to his bad leg. You really get a sense of his frustration and despair, so, when he discovers how to bring the Puppets back to life, it is more of an opportunity for him to help the war efforts than just a chance for revenge as we have seen in past films. Sure, he does have some issues with one of the Nazi’s hitting on ‘his girl’ and ultimately he wants revenge, but that doesnt come until much later in the film and only serves to setup the next one. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag from outright terrible to passable at best with both really great scenes and some that just leave you wondering how that moment even made the cut.
That being said, this film does tend to fall into stereotypes a bit due to it’s time period. This makes some of the moments between the Japanese and Nazi agents a little cringey at times, especially with the Japanese ‘Kabuki agent’ played by Ada Chao, sure, thankfully they cast an Asian actor in the role but….it seemed like it was a bit on the nose when it came to her portrayal of the part, Almost old school James Bond cringey at times. There are even moments where they make it a point to show her ninja guards eating sushi because clearly that is all Japanese ninja’s eat. Sure, it made for a pretty great opportunity to use Leach Girl but still…. it’s a might painful.
Now, what about the puppets? This is Puppet master after all? Much like many of the other films, the puppets really don’t get going until around halfway through the film when Danny uses them to attack the Axis agents. We are also introduced to a new Puppet in the form of a Ninja Puppet that Danny uses to put his brothers soul in when things take a turn for the worse. His brother also happens to be really good at sneaking so…yeah, okay, a little more cringe factor there as well. Now, How Danny figured out the soul transfer thing is never explained but…hey, like I said this isn’t an Oscar contender.
Overall, Puppet Master Axis Of Evil is one of the better sequels despite it’s problematic moments with stereotyping. I only wish these films would get to the puppet action a little quicker. From the looks of it, that might be the case as this is only the start of a whole new franchise about the puppets during WW2. Next week we discuss the next part of the story with Puppet Master X: Axis Rising.
OK, where do I get this movie?
I subscribed to the Full Moon Video channel on Amazon Prime to watch all of these again as this is really the easiest way to do it. You can also go to the official Full Moon Web Site and grab these films on disc. Either way, if you like the Puppet Master series, this one isn’t horrible.
Until next week, check out the trailer for this film!
Late To The Game 10/7/2021
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.
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