11 of Richard Lynch’s “Greatest” Hits (to the Balls) – 8. PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON’S REVENGE (1991) Review
I really don’t know what Charles Band’s fascination with the little things that kill is, and quite frankly, I don’t really want to. Dolls, Dollman, Doll Graveyard, Bad Channels, Ghoulies, Blood Dolls, Demonic Toys, and the list goes on and on. Add to that one of the more famous Band-produced franchises: Puppet Master. Puppet Master features, what else, killer toys.
Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge is meant to be a prequel of sorts to the first two Puppet Master films, though if you’ve seen the first two films, you’ll know the continuity is off in some places. But that’s to be expected from Band: killer toys and lack of consistency. Note: you don’t have to watch the first two films to watch this one, nor does watching them raise the emotional factor of this film. Directed by B-movie familiar and Band-regular, David DeCoteau, Toulon’s Revenge is about Andre Toulon, the puppet master, getting revenge… on Nazis.
The film opens in Berlin, 1941, with Major Kraus (Richard Lynch), accompanied by his driver, Eric Stein, visiting Mr. Pitt I mean, Dr. Hess (Ian Abercrombie) in the middle of the night. You see, the Nazis, who dabbled in all sorts of strange shit, are now attempting to develop a serum/drug/whatever to reanimate the dead. Unfortunately, that’s not as cool as it ultimately sounds because Nazi zombies don’t really feature in this movie.
After the familiar Puppet Master theme music over the opening credits, we cut to famed French puppeteer Andre Toulon, giving a performance in some hall somewhere, to a crowd that’s a little bit too enthused. After all, his puppet show involves a mockery of Adolf Hitler and his destruction at the hands of Six-Shooter (a puppet that literally has six arms with six shooters)… in Berlin… in 1941… Yeah, that can’t backfire in anyway.
Other than an overly enthusiastic faux German kid, it is unfortunately our friend Eric Stein, a budding puppet lover who, afterward, visits with Toulon and warns him that his puppet show might be seditious, and definitely treasonous. Toulon ignores him. Stein ostensibly leaves, but sticks around to spy on Herr Toulon and his wife, Elsa (Sarah Douglas). Stein discovers a shocking secret: Toulon’s puppets are alive, and that Toulon is feeding them some sort of life-enhancing drug.
So he reports this to Richard Lynch, Kraus, whatever, and Dr. Hess. Unsurprisingly, Lynch, a high-ranking Gestapo dude, wants the Toulons arrested for treason. Hess, on the other hand, believes that Andre Toulon could be the key to the Nazis perfecting their own living dead and, over the course of the film, comes to respect the work of the great puppeteer. After his wife is killed by the Nazi scum, Toulon conspires to take revenge against the evil Nazis.
Which is the first problem of the story. I don’t even know how to describe the stupidity of the scene where Elsa is killed. Hess, a man of science (or, mad science, if you will), holds up a vial of Toulon’s doll-animating drug and begins to ask what’s in it or some shit, when Elsa just randomly screams “NO!” and charges Hess, knocking the vial out of his hand. Then she’s shot. What the holy fuck? Why even charge the guy like that? Would you stupidly charge police officers who were about to arrest you? I mean, I know they’re an unjust regime, but you’ve got to be either ballsy or crazy or stupid or all of the above to stage a puppet show mocking Hitler… in Berlin… in 1941. And then stupidly charge at a high-ranking Nazi doctor. I can’t say that they brought it on themselves, because these are Nazis we’re talking about, but they’re pretty fucking stupid.
So basically Toulon wants revenge because of his wife’s and, ultimately, his own stupidity and hubris and arrogance. That’s fine and everything, I guess. But these are Nazis. I mean, I find it kind of hypocritical that this supposed Hitler-hater and people-lover (judging by how he resurrects his friends as puppets) couldn’t just go after them because they were Nazis, and not just because the Nazis happened to kill your wife, which may have actually been justified from their point-of-view. If he decided to go after the Nazis for justice, it’s a bit easier to sympathize, rather than revenge after your wife got killed in about the stupidest way possible.
As per the acting, it’s actually not bad for a film like this, but that’s probably because the three primary roles – Toulon, Kraus and Hess – are played by three great actors. Guy Rolfe, who would go onto portray Toulon in a number of sequels to Toulon’s Revenge, approaches the role with a certain stoicism; he neither seems like a maniac hell-bent on revenge nor the man who continuously weeps for his wife. He keeps his emotions in check. Another shocking tidbit: Guy Rolfe was eighty fucking years old at the time of Puppet Master III. Watch the film and tell me that guy looks eighty.
Richard Lynch plays the stereotypical Gestapo officer. What I like about this performance is that, despite being the generic Gestapo guy, he doesn’t play it up as evil. He plays it like a man dedicated to his job, and just his job. His allegiance seems not to be to Hitler (watch for the scene where his enthusiastic ‘Heil Hitler’ salute drips of sarcasm) but to himself. His single-minded pursuit of action and the result of action (reaction) are what’s interesting. Oh, and he dies. It’s a pretty brutal death scene, too.
Ian Abercrombie is Dr. Hess, and while there were times where I just couldn’t help imagining Mr. Pitt as a Nazi (thanks a lot, Seinfeld), he does a fine job. Again, Hess doesn’t come across as a typical mad scientist, even though he is obviously a practitioner of it. He comes across as any scientist in pursuit of something grand, for better or worse. Human nature is intuitively tuned into solving shit, finding things out, discovering the impossible, and Hess is a prime example of this. It’s this pursuit of the ultimate that ultimately kills him in the end. Only, he’s revived as a puppet.
I think it’s also interesting to see where some of the puppets originated from, chiefly Blade, whose appearance two years earlier in the first film somehow couldn’t preclude him from having an uncanny resemblance to Richard Lynch. There’s some debate, if you can believe it or not, as to whom Blade really is: the Major or the Doctor. And while it’s made explicitly clear that Toulon intended Blade to resemble the Major, Kraus, but many people believe that Blade’s personality is actually the Dr. Hess’. Toulon says in the film that his puppets were his former friends. Still, there’s the camp that still thinks that Blade is Richard Lynch in both likeness and soul.
That’s about it. I mean, it’s pretty stupid that these assholes are being killed by puppets. I love the scenes where a person is actually physically overpowered by one of these things (a puppet using a weapon might be a different story). But, hey, you ought to expect that from a killer doll movie. Other than that, it’s really just a generic revenge plot, elevated by decent actors. The puppets aren’t even really the focus of this story, even though a lot of attention is placed on them. There are a good number of death scenes, and while they’re not bad, they’re not really anything to orgasm over either, though there’s a somewhat inventive scene featuring Six-Shooter (the puppet) and a General, Mueller (Walter Gotell).
Oh, B-movie queen and pornstar, Michelle Bauer, appears very briefly, topless. That’s two extra points.
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- July 17, 2012 / 5:04 am