Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge
Review By: Gringo

It's that time again. I felt like having a headache, so I took the next natural step; watched a Puppet Master movie. But this was no ordinary tale about demonic six-inch tall kill-beasts on a quest for brain juice and general mayhem. Oh no! Little did I know that Toulon's Revenge (in which Toulon seeks revenge - I think. It was very confusing to work out what exactly was happening), the third in the series about the murderous miniatures was alarmingly average. It was shockingly neither bad nor good, although it did occasionally take a journey into Confusion Land with the one consistent theme of the series; come up with as many conflicting and unbelievable plot lines in each movie as possible. However, unlike the first two movies which were an exercise in appalling acting, duff (mmm...Duff) scripts and shoddy special effects, they seem to have increased the budget by at least $10 for the third installment. It's not great. It's not even good. But it's far better than movies number one and two, and for that reason alone I'll try to be somewhat more positive in this review. Besides, there are another four or five movies to go in the series, and I can't be bitter in each and every review of them. Can I? Mystery!

You may remember that in the first Puppet Master movie, we learnt that Toulon - the master of puppets in question - had found a secret, ancient potion that brought his toy puppets to life. There was no more having to perform crap puppet acts for obnoxious children anymore, as Toulon instead ordered his puppets to do a lot of killing. During that movie, the character played by Paul LeMat (the one no-one remembers out of American Graffiti) went insane. After that, along came a sequel in which Toulon was brought back to life with the aforementioned potion. More killing ensued. In this third movie - set in Germany in 1941 (big hint: World War II was going on then) - the writers and producers decided to wipe their backsides with the scripts for the first two puppet epics. The result? They made something that is wholly inconsistent with its predecessors and itself riddled with all the hallmarks you'd commonly associate with similar cheap, shoddily made horror movies.

Then again, if you've not read my reviews for Puppet Master and its first sequel (and if not, well done! Wise move!) you probably won't care about inconsistencies in the plot. By contrast, I have seen the first two movies - hence the reviews - and the rest of the entire damn series, so I feel I have some right to criticise the series. I'm also very pedantic, so that helps when writing these reviews. Anyway! On with the story! Being set in Germany, 1941, you can probably guess that the movie involves the Nazis in one way or another. Toulon is at the time still a struggling puppeteer who makes his money with shows featuring two-inch tall Hitler characters and other puppets. They all move without strings (due to that whole life-giving potion thing) and yet bizarrely, no-one seems to care. That is, until Lieutenant Eric Stein shows up! Captivated by the puppets (yes, captivated!), he sneaks backstage at the puppet show and photographs the string-less puppets. Obviously excited from never having seen a wooden toy before, he races back to a random Nazi castle where maniacal Dr. Hess and sinister Major Kraus are suffering from an overdose of stereotypes. Here's the catch - they're working on a project to bring dead soldiers back to life to use as human shields. Exciting!

Meanwhile, in another insane plot twist, it tuns out that Toulon's puppets are all friends of his who were murdered by the Nazis. Okay, I'll admit it. This makes a little bit of sense. That's why he's so protective of them and vice versa. However, it completely negates the fact that Toulon turns on the little wooden freaks in Puppet Master II and ends up getting killed by them. In case you haven't got a headache already, just to add to the confusion we're introduced to a new puppet; Six Shooter. Super-big clue: that's him in the picture above. This isn't a man with extraordinary ejaculatory talents, instead it's a six-armed puppet dressed like a Wild West cowboy. Except two inches tall. But does the puppet embody the spirit of one of Toulon's friends? That would make sense, so the answer is NO. It's just a tribute by Toulon to the Wild West movies he loves so much. Even stranger thing, Six Shooter wasn't in either of the first two Puppet Master movies - yet in this prequel he's brought to the centre of attention. Did he run away from home in between the movies? Toulon might have forgotten puppet friends are for life, not just for Christmas.

Enough madness! Getting back to the exciting, amazing intrigue story - well, no, it's not really, but at least five seconds of thought have gone into the plot with this movie unlike the one second (combined) for the first two - Hess and Kraus head on down to Toulon's wacky workshop. Once there, Kraus shoots Toulon's wife Elsa dead because she spat in his general direction. Toulon escapes and goes into hiding. What does he do to make a tribute for his wife? He creates a puppet called Leech Woman, who is revealed in Puppet Master II as a miniature whore that kills people by projecting leeches (naturally) out of her mouth onto her victims' skin. So nice of you, Mr. Toulon! There's an annoying subplot of sorts involving an irksome fool called Peter, who is also hiding from the Nazis, but I had stopped paying any real attention by this point, so that's as much as you'll learn about it. Rather than keep listing what happens, I'll save you the trouble of going to your local video store and actually renting this damn movie. The puppets kill off all Kraus, Hess and several other Nazis. Toulon and Peter escape on a train. A fat Nazi soldier gets naked before being shot and then falling out of a window. Oh, the treats this movie has in store for the unsuspecting viewer!

I've already stated the reasons why I rate this movie higher than its two predecessors. Despite being another cheap scary movie, it is far less irritating and relatively watchable; something numbers one and two could never hope to be. There's some value both of interest and comedy in seeing some freaky puppets take mallets to people's faces (fast delivery!) and the like, but after a while the special effects reveal that they're not very special. Whilst I wouldn't know where to start in getting a puppet to walk across the screen, I don't own a Hollywood-based movie production studio. I don't know exactly what point I'm trying to make by writing that, but it's probably something along the lines that the company behind the Puppet Master movies could have tried harder. I'm not the sort of pompous ass who would refuse to enjoy or like a low-budget movie on the basis that it doesn't have a single recognisable cast or crew member. After all, my love affair with Ninja Academy (not literally, you wacky sex-crazed people!) continues. But whilst I found that movie enjoyable, I don't feel the same way about this series of murderous puppets. They seem altogether lazier productions.

So where does Toulon's Revenge leave the rest of the puppet franchise? Are the puppets good or bad? Clearly, they beat up and murdered a variety of Nazis, so they're good in my books. Not that I own a Book Of Good, but if I did, the puppets - in movie number three - would be in it. Then again, killing people is wrong, as we've been told in the first two movies, where the puppets were demonic murder-monsters who thought about nothing more than annihilation of everyone they came into contact. I'm confused. Although that happens quite easily, my state of perplexity was enhanced ten-fold (or maybe even eleven-fold! The mystery is in the numbers!) after watching Toulon's Revenge. However, I have a solution to prevent people's brains exploding as they try to piece together the various story strands and patch up the ever-increasing plot holes. The puppets should be seen simply as mindless thugs who want nothing more than to rule the world. The world, I tell you! They try to achieve this purpose through evil attacks on humans, but because of their size fail miserably. If the puppets really wanted to try world domination and were serious about over-throwing the humans, they should have bred birds. Birds with teeth!

Whilst I didn't mind this movie, I detest practically all the others in the series. I don't know what it is about low-budget horror that seems to make the genre spawn sequels like an insane reproducing wastrel, but I'd like it to stop. Please. See, I asked nicely. As if two movies hadn't already forced home the idea that PUPPETS KILL AND ARE VERY BAD, they kept on making entries in the series, on and on, worse and worse. At one point in this celluloid confusion, Toulon says to his puppets "No mercy, my friends, no mercy". It is so very apt given the endless parade of sequels that marched forward after this movie. Not content with having made three already, Full Moon Pictures (I'm adopting a name-and-shame policy) released another three or four Puppet Master movies, all getting worse as they went on. I've said it twice before and I'll say it again; the seventh movie, Retro Puppet Master is abysmal. It's bad enough that I sat through the entire puppet canon, but add the effects of the final movie in the series - so far - to that and you've got badness multiplied by infinity. Which is a lot.

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