Puppet Master Axis of Evil DVD Review
Directed by David DeCoteau
Written by August White
2010, Region 2 (PAL), 83 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 24th January 2011
Levi Fiehler as Danny Coogan
Jenna Gallaher as Beth
Taylor M. Graham as Don
Tom Sandoval as Ben / Max
Jerry Hoffman as Uncle Len
For those that aren’t familiar with the hugely successful direct-to-video franchise of Puppet Master, the films’ stars are a bunch of toys that come to life when no-one is around. There’s a cowboy called Woody and a space ranger called Buzz, who doesn’t realize he’s a toy. Wait, damn, wrong franchise.
The Puppet Master series began life in 1989, written by Charles Band and Kenneth Hall, and released by Band’s Full Moon Features. Each film has centered on the same group of puppets, created by an old puppeteer called Andre Toulon. With the aid of a special serum injected into the back of their necks, Toulon was able to bring his creations to life with no strings to hold them down. I’m a real boy!
Axis of Evil uses the same opening sequence as the original 1989 film, as Toulon is in Bodega Bay being hunted by Nazi spies. As the Germans break into his hotel room Toulon shoots himself, but not before he hides his puppets behind a wall panel. A young furniture maker from the hotel, Danny, is on his way to see Toulon when he hears the gunshot and sees the two men leaving the room. He catches nothing but a glimpse of one man and finds his aged friend dead in a chair. Wracked with emotion he somehow knows exactly where the old guy hid the puppets and retrieves them from their hiding place. Armed with only a bunch of demonic toys and a thirst for retribution, he vows to avenge Toulon’s death and weed out the German spies as part of his own war effort.
Where the original film shoots forward to 1989, Axis of Evil stays in 1939 with new character Danny and follows his story. Danny is disabled (read: has a slight limp. Most of the time) and this has stopped him from joining the army and fighting the “Japs and Krauts”. So to be handed a bunch of killer puppets and a reason for vengeance is a gift. America proves itself ahead of the game, having already entered into the conflict in this 1939 story, two years before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Putting historical inaccuracies out of his mind, Danny tracks down the Nazi spies, Max and Klaus. The two have teamed up with Japanese spy, Ozu, to set off a bomb and destroy a US munitions factory. Luckily for the Germans they both have perfect American accents, so they are able to infiltrate the factory as employees with ease. It’s a bizarre situation; two German spies working with a Japanese spy played by a Chinese actress who delivers lines with the intonation of a speech synthesizer. Ironically, when asked by Max why a Japanese woman would hide out in Chinatown she replies, “Americans can’t tell the difference.” Touché.
Despite the multitude of laughable points in Axis of Evil, it is still a reasonably enjoyable watch. I’m amazed that the original film has spawned nine sequels (trivia note: Axis of Evil is officially recognized as the eighth sequel as Puppet Master: Demonic Toys – or The Sequel Previously Known as Part 9 – is not a Full Moon Feature) and I’m sure I would have been less tolerant of this episode had I previously seen the entire series. Even though the film was made in 2010, it has a look and feel of an early 90s direct-to-video production. It brings back that indescribable feeling of making a blind rent at the video store, based on enticing cover art and the promise of something that will never be delivered. It’s complete and utter guilty-pleasures nonsense, but enjoyable nonsense all the same. My kind of toy story.
Video and Audio:
Video is less than stellar, having all the look and feel of early 90s VHS, without the need to fiddle with the tracking. The audio doesn't fare much better and, despite the fact that a 5.1 track is on the disc, I found myself checking that I hadn't inadvertently placed plastic buckets over my speakers.
One trailer for the movie and one behind the scenes featurette. Not a featurette for this film though, for the first Puppet Master so not really sure what relevance it has on the disc, other than filler.