Puppet Master 2 and 2 (Blu-ray)
Director - David Allen and David DeCouteau
Cast - Elizabeth Maclellan, Colin Bernsen, Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 1/1
Distributor - Full Moon
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 09/30/12
The Films (3.5/5)
Full Moon films were a seminal part of my developing taste as a horror fan as a kid. There blend of comic like atmosphere, violence, sex, and unadulterated fun made them a common rental on the weekends between my friends and I. Their films felt like the horror equivalent to a comic book more so than the slasher franchises that were populating cinemas at the time. They practically had their own little universe going with Puppet Master, Subspecies, and Trancers films not to mentions films as varied as Arcade, Bad Channels, Seed People, and so many others. The feeling that kids of the 60's got from seeing the Hammer logo before a film, was essentially my feeling for a good many years when the Full Moon logo passed across the screen.
A few years back Full Moon started issuing a few of their classics on Blu-ray. They started with the obvious Subspecies and Puppet Master. It has been just about a year since the Subspecies Blu-ray hit the market, and no further Full Moon Classics had hit the format leaving many a fan to wonder "Is that it?" Fortunately, it is not, and Full Moon has announced further restoration of their most classic films all the Puppet Masters, the Subspecies, and the Trancers series (the first Trancers probably needs it the most). The first 2 of these classics to head out of the gate are Puppet Master 2 and 3. Like many of the films in the Full Moon cannon these were shot back to back as a cost-cutting measure.
Puppet Master II (3.5/5)
An undisclosed amount of time after the events of the first film, a group of government parapsychologists go to the Bodega Bay Inn to research the claims of the now insane Alex Whitaker (the psychic from the first film). As it turns out since the end of that film the Puppets of Andre Toulon have resurrected their former master from the Shady Oaks Cemetery adjacent to the inn in the hopes that he can recreate the formula that brings them life. The formula requires brain tissue, and thus the group of parapsychologist arrive just in time to be the unwilling victims for Toulon's formula. There is one kink in the plan though, one of them reminds Toulon of his late Wife Elsa, and he wants her all for himself.
The first Puppet Master is not just the first film in the Puppet Master series, but also the first film from Full Moon as an operating studio. Obviously, Charles Band has been making B-Movies for over a decade prior to Full Moon with both Empire Pictures and Charles Band Productions, but Full Moon was a whole new ball game. Puppet Master, the original film was a great fun horror film, but looking back it felt more like a late 80's Empire Pictures film than a full blown Full Moon feature, watching Puppet Master 2 after all these years (I haven't seen the sequels since VHS), it reminded me of what I loved about Full Moon to begin with.
Puppet Master 2 feels like the quintessential Full Moon film. The film starts quite similarly to the first film with the primary characters entering the now defunct Bodega Bay Inn, and beginning their investigation, but once we are introduced to the resurrected Andre Toulon who gives off an vibe that is one part Phantom of the Opera, one part Invisible Man the film changes course, and gets into that fun and colorful Full Moon atmosphere that made all those weekend nights 20 years ago all the more memorable.
Puppet Master 2 is simply a fantastic ride. OK, at times the cast feels nothing more like Puppet fodder, but in a film like this that is perfectly OK. The Bodega Bay Inn as in the first film is a fantastic location, and much like Kubrick's Overlook Hotel in the Shining, or the Metropol Theater in Lamberto Bava's Demons it seems to become a character all it's own.
And speaking of characters, the Puppets, the puppets really are what make this franchise. I've never liked Child's Play for example, Chucky to me was never a fun character, but Toulon's Puppets are a blast. Puppet Master features the return of all the puppets from the original film, and we get a bad-ass new puppet in the form of Torch. Between the menacing vibe from the resurrected Toulon, and the miniature menace of his Puppets there is very few moments when they are on screen that aren't memorable.
David Allen takes over for David Schmoeller in the director's chair in this entry of the series. David Allen and his team were the Puppet FX Guru's in charge of the FX in the first film and throughout the series first 5 entries, so it was pretty much a no-brainer to tie this man down to the director's chair as Puppet Master 2 trumps the originals Puppet action in almost all regards. David Allen also manages to channel a very eerie atmosphere in the latter portion of the film that wouldn't feel out of place in the Subspecies series. Puppet Master 2 is seriously one of the finest entries in the Puppet Master series, and where the series really gets going.
Puppet Master III (3.5/5)
Puppet Master II ended with the evil undead Andre Toulon being destroyed by his own creations (sorry spoilers). So at least for this entry Full Moon decided to take a step back, and give us the Puppets origin story. Puppet Master III takes place in Germany at the height of World War II. Andre Toulon is a Puppet Master (obviously) putting on subversive puppet shows much to the delight of adults and children alike. Unfortunately, for Toulon there is a high-ranking Nazi official in the audience, who was amused by Toulon's techniques, but not by his content. After the show he approaches Toulon backstage about removing the Anti-Hitler content. Toulon refuses, and the man leaves, however while walking down the road adjacent to the dressing room he hears Toulon and his wife Elsa discuss the "feeding" of the puppets, and sneaks a peek through the dressing room window, and discovers Toulon's secret of puppet reanimation. He reports this secret back to his superiors, and brings them back soon after to recover the secret. In the confusion the Nazis kill Toulon's wife Elsa take the puppets, and Toulon by force. Of course this is just the setup, and Toulon, and his puppets will have their revenge on the Nazis before all is said and done.
I know that I had seen the VideoZone for this film when I was younger. I ate up Full Moon's VideoZones when I was younger, they helped complete the package for me. While watching Puppet Master 3, I thought it was one of Full Moon's many Eastern European productions shot in Budapest or Italy, color me surprised when I re-watched the VideoZone on this DVD to find out that it was shot completely in California with 2nd Unit photography done at the Universal Studios Back lot. And that is one of not only one of this films great charms, but just early Full Moon in general, they took low budget direct to video films, and made them look bigger than they were.
Now, I'll admit I have a tendency to suspend disbelief for a good many films, but at least the setting looked damn close to what I thought Nazi Germany would look like. Also, the film continues on with that same Full Moon atmosphere that I started feeling more prevalently in Puppet Master 2. Puppet Master 3 replaces David Schmoeller, and David Allen with Sorority Girls in the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama director David DeCoteau (making Puppet Master the franchise with the most David's directing EVER). David DeCoteau is a legend amongst low budget directors, and has shot a majority of the Puppet Master sequels since 3. He successfully helps set the tone and atmosphere of this film quite successfully, and helps offer a nice pace for this film which rarely drags in it's short running time.
I have heard over the years people complain about the changes in Andre Toulon's character throughout the Puppet Master series from a quiet Puppet Master looking out for his Puppets and escaping the Nazis in the first film, to a demented Dr. Frankenstein in the 2nd, to a kindly, but arrogant Puppeteer in the third. Having watched these films as a child, and watching them now these elements have always worked for me, as do the actors that portray them. However, special mention should be made to the excellent Guy Rolfe who played Toulon in this installment. He created a true multifaceted character in his Toulon, and I loved watching him every moment of his screen time.
Puppet Master 3 is an absolute blast of a film. It takes Toulon's Puppets back to their roots, and shows how Toulon ended up on the run at the beginning of the first film. For a 20 year old low budget film, it does a wonderful job recreating Nazi Germany. Also, Puppets killing Nazis.
OK, so I haven't seen the Puppet Master films since VHS, and 12 year old me wasn't going I have to see Puppet Master 2 and 3 in OAR just as the director's intended. I was just like oohhhh puppets killing stuff COOL! (and possibly Hooray for Boobies!). However, at thirty I have long been a believer in film preservation and making sure films are presented as close to the directors originally intended vision as possible, and that is why I am absolutely giddy about these Puppet Master releases, because from what I understand this is the first time in the history of these films on home video that they have been given the proper widescreen treatment.
Full Moon have presented Puppet Master 2 and 3 in their native 1:78:1 aspect ratios in a very nice AVC encoded 1080p transfer. It should very well go without saying that these 2 films have never looked better than they do here. I will go further to say that these are excellent Blu-ray transfers that far exceed the prior Full Moon Blu-ray releases. Both Puppet Master 2 and 3 have a nice amount of fine detail, black levels are solid, and there is a good amount of film grain. My favorite thing though is the colors on these truly pop, giving that gorgeous comic book tone that I remember so well from my childhood, and is brought vividly into High Definition here. There is some minor softness throughout, and the occasionally bit of print damage, but overall Full Moon have done a spectacular job with these restorations.
Full Moon have presented both films in with 2 audio options a newly remastered 5.1 track in English, and a 2.0 track. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to these things, so I went for the 2.0 track. This track sounded fantastic, the dialogue came through clean and crisp, music and effects were mixed well. I didn't detect much in the way of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Full Moon have put together a nice slate of extras together for both Puppet Master releases. Due to the death of Puppet Master 2 director David Allen, we have a commentary track with Charles Band flying solo, while on Puppet Master 3 we have a commentary featuring David DeCoteau and C. Courtney Joyner. Both films feature the same new exclusive introduction to the new by Full Moon head Honcho Charles Band. They both feature a Killer Puppet Master Montage, Full Moon trailers, and a Rare 1997 Puppet Master action figure commercial. Finally, we have the Full Moon Videozone Behind the Scene Video Magazine's that originally accompanied both films on their VHS tapes. This was the highlight of the extra features for me. I was addicted to these as a kid, as they were my first glimpse behind the scenes of the film making process, and they were entertaining to boot. Whether it's nostalgia speaking, but these are just as awesome, entertaining, and informative today, and I haven't seen them in close to 20 years.
Puppet Master 2 and 3 are some of the most fun entries in the Puppet Master franchise. The A/V restorations on these 2 Blu-ray's are simply glorious, and the extras are a great addition. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.