Retro Puppet Master (1999)


Jeez, I don’t want to watch every great movie I’ve acquired this year within the first week of my Endurance Test, but I also don’t want to sit through the remaining Puppet Masters this soon. So tonight’s flick, World Without End, isn’t as fantastic as last night’s Re-Animator, but is way better than some of the dreck I have planned. Mainly because it has giant spiders with psychedelic fur.

Fuck it, Full Moon do your worst. I don’t want to call bullshit right off the bat, but Retro Puppet Master opens with a PG-13 warning. Granted the Puppet Master series wasn’t exactly known for its gore, but still. I keep hoping that someday one of the films will have something to recommend about them.

Retro Puppet Master starts off with Toulon (Guy Rolfe) scavenging some food while reminiscing about Cyclops, his earliest puppet.

Retro Puppet Master - %22magic%22 powers

Oh my God, I’m not even five minutes into the movie and already I’m being assaulted by the worst special defects I’ve ever seen! Somehow I don’t believe that the ancient Egyptians had such fantastically trimmed facial hair.

“Yes, I will die, but not today.”

The punchlines are actually worse than the effects!

Retro Puppet Master - Blade, %22Pin%22head, and Dr. Death

Okay, this movie has the words “Puppet” and “Master” in its title, but I’ve seen very few puppets. Instead we have magic missile fights and the demon Sutekh from Puppet Master 4 & 5 that wants its secret to puppet life protected. I hate my life and the movie has just started

Maybe I’ll pass the time by listing the things I hate here. Okay, for starters, the reboot attempted in Curse of the Puppet Master has been totally abandoned. Instead we’re using a bit of the aforementioned demon plot from 4 and 5 with a dash of setting from fan favorite Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge.

Retro Puppet Master - Nazi-Mummies

Meaning Toulon is acting as a young puppeteer in pre-WWII France, being chased by an Egyptian demon who has mummies dressed as SS agents for underlings. Yes, you read that last line correctly. Mummies disguised as SS agents.

How could Robert Band make such great music, yet Charles Band such horrible movies? Fate’s just not fair.

The mummies/Nazis then employ French hoodlums to find Toulon. How many puppet shows did pre-WWII France have going at one time? My grandmother has told me stories about living in Britain during the bombings, and of being mortified of V-2 rockets, but she’s never mentioned easing her discomfort by watching horribly voice-acted puppet shows.

I’m pretty sure she’d either slap me or force me to take a drug test if I asked her about it.

Retro Puppet Master - Retro Puppets

Much of the problem here lies in Retro Puppet Master’s script. The first automated puppet isn’t created until 30 minutes in. The rest of the puppets. i.e. the real reason anyone is watching this, don’t receive souls and thus autonomy until the movie’s 2/3rds finished.

Who wants to watch once murderous puppets actually act as puppets?

Perhaps even more frustrating is how the movie doesn’t follow its own script. The mummy/SS agents are tasked with killing the thief who stole their demon master’s secret for animating puppets 3,000(!) years ago. So they murder a bunch of Toulon’s puppeteers and then the thief commits suicide in front of the mummies.

This is what Six-Shooter looked like before Toulon learned the ancient Egyptian secret called "talent."

This is what Six-Shooter looked like before Toulon learned the ancient Egyptian secret called “talent.”

Perfect, you’d think, the movie is now over! Oh no, because now that Toulon knows the secret, he’s a target too. So he imbues the essence of his puppeteer co-workers into their puppets. Trapping them forever into roles we’re not even sure they enjoyed. They were all young, maybe some were going to university?

Not to mention the obvious disparities in quality amongst the puppets. One guy becomes “Dr. Death” who carries a miniature scalpel, while another becomes Cyclops, the puppet with one eye. Who, by the way, is presumably Toulon’s one-eyed assistant who, due to his handicap, couldn’t fight off the mummies. As it’s difficult to shoot straight with no depth perception. Unlike Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, where the crippled boys dream “power” is just being able to walk while everyone else becomes superhuman, here the one-eyed boy is doomed to forever be one-eyed.

Retro Puppet Master - Blade & Dr. Death

Christ, Toulon’s favorite hobo who gets murdered outside one night becomes Pinhead! Couldn’t the homeless kid become useless Cyclops, thus leaving one of the series regulars to, you know, a regular worker of Toulon’s? Hell. Retro Blade looks like a murderous hobo! Use him!

Retro Puppet Master sole merit is, strangely enough, its detail. Stab a mummy and sand pours out of the wound. That made me smile. Everything else made me groan while wishing I had opted for World Without End.


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