Puppet Master 5 (1994)

Reediting an existing film in order to split it into two separate films, is a well-known low budget filmmaking tool. Why stretch your budget when you could instead just sell (practically) the same film twice? Many franchises have fallen victim to the temptation. Critters’ otherwise excellent third installment was followed by the incredibly horrible fourth film. The same holds true for Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future’s Part II and III; where the critics loved Part III, but, from what I remember, school kids preferred II. Always go with the hover boards. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy almost bucked the trend, by filming three films at once, though you really only need to pay attention to the first two.

So it should come as no surprise that Charles Band and his Full Moon Entertainment had the same shenanigans in mind when Puppet Master 4 and 5 came around. Anyone wondering why the world’s top, and only, line of murderous puppet movies would forgo basing their fourth film around a new puppet, instead introducing said puppet, the Decapitron, 15 minutes before the story concludes. Not to mention the fact that the film’s villain gets away scot free; only losing his henchmen.

A successful series running on the basis that you leave your audience wanting more, not wondering why nothing was resolved.

(A great, first-hand, account of the reasonings behind, and pitfalls, of such a filmmaking technique can be found in Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn’s All I Need to Know About FILMMAKING I Learned From the Toxic Avenger. Where Kaufman recounts how he changed what should have been Toxie’s victory lap through the cinemas into a two-part abortion. Lloyd showing his distaste for both in Citizen Toxie: the Toxic Avenger IV’s prelude, where the viewer is advised to forget about the prior two installments.)

Predictably, all the action was in Puppet Master 4, meaning all the exposition ended up here. With more exposition then dropped on top, in the foolish attempt to pad out the movie while covering up the seams.

Short story stretched paper-thin and held together by bits of scotch tape: super scientist, and Andre Toulon’s chosen heir, Rick (Gordon Currie) has predictably been put in jail after most of Rick’s associates are found dead in the hotel (the Bodega Bay) that he was housekeeper of. Rick wants to get back there to reunite Blade with its fellow puppets. Rick’s boss, (Ian Ogilvy), who looks like Jeff Goldblum from an alternate reality where Jurassic Park didn’t make him a huge star, wants to sell the “technology” (actually ancient Egyptian magic) behind Toulon’s puppets to the Pentagon. The ancient Egyptian demon, Sutekh, who caused this whole mess 80 minutes ago, has transferred his life force into the body of a (wait for it) demon puppet, and entered our dimension in order to take revenge on Toulon, who’s been dead for 7-8 years now.

Dr. Jennings hires a bunch of decidedly unprofessional thieves to steal Toulon’s puppets. Thus giving the puppets a chance to fight humans again without compromising their “good guy” status. (Keep in mind that after Puppet Master III, Full Moon began selling action figures of the various puppets to its nerd/compulsive collector fan base. Cross-merchandising being another financial cornerstone for indie production companies to rely on.) All while the incarnate Sutekh runs around cutting people up and skull-fucking their souls out of their faces.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve now watched five of these films, and I can’t figure out how any of the puppets are supposed to kill you; with Torch and Six Shooter being obvious and natural exceptions, of course. Even Blade, armed with a knife and a hook, seems pretty harmless. He can cut you, sure, but so can your cat. And both are about the same size.

Have these people never wrestled with a fully clawed kitten? Sure, it can be painful, but certainly not life-threatening. Of course, as I was typing that, Rick was knocked unconscious by Dr. Jennings, who was wielding a flashlight. Not even a Maglite mind you! Just a crappy dime store flashlight that would work for three minutes before its Korean AA batteries lose their power.

Toulon’s puppets, too weak to fight off Sutekh alone, work with RIck and Jennings to rebuild Decapitron. Strange, since Puppet Master 4 ending with Decapitron fully functional, and 5 picking up immediately afterwards. Not to mention that this is the 2nd film where Decapitron, the new star, only shows up for five minutes of screen time. The Charlie Manson doppleganger thief gets more screen time!

I really want some insider to write a tell-all book about Full Moon Entertainment. So that they could perhaps explain why Decapitron gets almost zero screentime despite starring in two movies.

I sure hope it’s not due to Decapitron’s “special effects.” You see, Decapitron has a faceless, black head that is routinely swapped out with Toulon’s from time-to-time. (Yes, that’s right, Toulon’s spirit inhabits Decapitron’s body. Or at least one of its heads. Causing one to suspect that the basis behind Decapitron was that Guy Rolfe (playing Andre Toulon) wanted a shiny leather jacket, and wanted Full Moon to pay for it.) This is a power that is as shitty looking, as it is nonsensical, as the word “decapitate” implies that you’re cutting off someone else’s head, not your own. Especially if you are doing so in order to exchange your head for one that shots piss-poor green lightning bolts at Sutekh.

Who then shoots back with piss-yellow lightning bolts of his own, and quickly loses what would become cinema’s first, and hopefully only, puppet “sword fight.

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