Puppetmaster III: Toulon's Revenge Blu-ray Review
Directed by David DeCoteau
Written by Charles Band (original idea), C. Courtney Joyner, David Schmoeller (characters)
1991, Region B/2, 83 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 22nd October 2012
Guy Rolfe as Andre Toulon
Richard Lynch as Major Krauss
Ian Abercrombie as Dr. Hess
Kristopher Logan as Lt. Eric Stein
Aron Eisenberg as Peter Hertz
Walter Gotell as General Mueller
Charles Band's puppets are back, this time giving the Bodega Bay Inn a wide berth in favour of World War II addled Berlin. There we find the Nazis hard at work attempting to reanimate the dead. By which I mean forcing someone else to do all the legwork, as usual. It's little wonder mad puppeteer Andre Toulon committed suicide within the opening moments of Puppetmaster – those Nazi bastards are relentless taskmasters.
For all its faults, this third entry in the series gives us the Puppetmaster's best doll so far – a sad-faced Hitler puppet. While the führer is a lot more inanimate than fellow puppets Six Shooter and Blade, he looks fantastic. Full Moon is missing a trick in not making its sad-faced Hitler available to buy, as I'd be lying if I said that my already quite sizeable collection isn't crying out for a sad Hitler or two. Although given the unfavourable reaction to Tarantino's Django Unchained dolls, maybe it's for the best. With a comically downcast expression upon his face, Toulon's Hitler resembles the ronery Kim Jong Il in Team America, or Bruno Ganz in Downfall.
The odd-looking villainy doesn't end there either. Puppetmaster III also gives us one of the series' best human villains in Richard Lynch's General Krauss. Looking every bit the slimy Nazi, he has a great face for playing an evil Gestapo boss. He's not as great or eccentric as the bandaged/plastic Toulon in Puppetmaster II, but the veteran bit-part actor (you may not recognise his name, but his IMDb profile is enormous – and his Cut and Run is well worth a watch) gives the film its best performance. Even more so than the puppets at times (all of whom are back, including Blade, Six Shooter and Leech Woman).
But in spite of its period setting, characteristically malicious puppets, sad-faced Hitler doll and a great villain in Richard Lynch, Puppetmaster III always seems to feel far less than the sum of its parts. While the otherwise slow Puppetmaster deserves its place in horror movie history, and Puppetmaster II is repetitive but fun, this third outing is where franchise fatigue starts to set in. That's far too early, considering how many we have left in the series. As a prequel it works fine, although the first two films in the series were hardly strong enough to justify delving any further into the mythos. It's interesting seeing how Toulon's toys came to be, but there's never that sense of history that you get with the likes of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees.
Ultimately, I have never enjoyed a Puppetmaster movie as much as I should have. Even the first movie is too slow and clichéd to entertain a greater audience than fans of obscure horror and cult movies. The second is more entertaining, but suffers from being an imitation of its predecessor. For a third entry in a franchise, Puppetmaster III isn't nearly fun enough. At least A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th had the good grace to embrace the silliness as their respective franchises went on. This film is far from serious, but nor is it particularly entertaining either. It all just feels a little stilted and... well, wooden.
It's worth remembering though, that for all its faults, Puppetmaster III is a film in which a depressed looking wooden Hitler doll is blown to smithereens by a (sort of) sentient puppet called Six Shooter. There are scenes of period puppet carnage, goosestepping galore, and the return of the series' wonderful score. It's a decent, if workman-like close to the trilogy, and still a lot better than the franchise would become - the series hasn't descended to Corey Feldman levels of desperation yet. That'll be Puppetmaster vs Demonic Toys, in case you're wondering. It's best avoided.
Good or bad, Puppetmaster III is but a drop in the ocean. There are a further seven movies to work through once you've finished with this one. Go ahead, knock yourself out. But be sure to stop before Corey Feldman turns up. You have been warned.
Video and Audio:
Once more, a sterling job has been done with the Blu-Ray transfer. It looks and sounds fantastic. That spooky, haunting score is back too, sounding as wonderful as ever.
Aside from The Making of Puppetmaster III, all special features have been copied and pasted from the Puppetmaster II Blu-Ray release. There's the two 'rare' toy commercials, and even the same impassioned introduction Band gave for Puppetmaster II. Oh, those penny-pinchers at Full Moon. It's all part of the charm though.
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.