“I collect puppet stuff. I have a puppet workshop in my garage.”-Neil Patrick Harris
“I know what I look like – a weird, sad clown puppet. I’m fine with that.”-Rainn Wilson
“I’m out of Puppet quotes”-Johnny Zontal
When we last checked in with the Puppet Master series, stuff happened that is totally irrelevant to this entry because part 3 is a prequel. In general, I really hate prequels. What always ends up happening is they explain things that probably would be best left alone, and the ending is never satisfying, because they have to fit in to previously established continuity. Look at the Star Wars prequels, for example. Did we really need to know where Boba Fett came from? He isn’t really important to the overall story. He’s really just a guy in a cool suit. But there he is in the prequel as some little kid. And his origin ties in with the universe on a grander scale. Stuff like this shrinks the universe, and gives the sense that EVERY important event that has ever happened is tied into this small handful of characters. But enough about the Star Wars prequels. I’ll be here all day if I start nitpicking each and every problem with them. Plus, Red Letter Media already did it better. We’re here to talk about puppets. So, how does this prequel fit in to the established canon? Does it start driving wedges into previously established continuity? Let’s find out.
Puppet Master 3 opens in 1941 Berlin. A Nazi scientist played by Mr. Pit and his boss from the Gestapo, played by that dude in pretty much EVERY 80’s and 90’s genre movie who kinda looks like Rutger Hauer, are working on a way to reanimate dead people to have an army of undead supersoldiers. This is actually a pretty cool scene, although it slightly feels like it’s part of a different movie. It actually reminded me of parts of the criminally underrated Return of the Living Dead 3. The soldier they’re experimenting on briefly comes back to life, wrecks some shit up, and then dies again a few seconds later. Rutger Hauer declares this a failure, but Mr. Pit is more optimistic, and begins looking for ways to prolong the animation. This is a well done scene that opens the movie on a creepy note, and establishes the real villains of the movie.
Somewhere else, Toulon is entertaining children with a political puppet show, in which Hitler is being confronted by a new puppet, Six Shooter. Six Shooter is a cowboy with 6 arms, and holds a tiny gun in each hand. I guess in the context of the puppet show, he represents America? or at least the good guys in general. The show consists of the Hitler puppet saying something about how no one can stop him, and Six Shooter coming out and saying something like “put up your dukes!”, and doing that old movie thing where he shoots at Hitler’s feet, and makes him dance. That’s pretty much it. The children seem to enjoy it, though. Also in the audience is a dude employed by Rutger Hauer. Since lampooning Hitler in 1941 Berlin is something that was generally frowned upon by the Nazis, he goes backstage to give Toulon a nice big how do you do.
Ginger Nazi confronts Toulon, and says that he should probably be smarter than to make fun of Hitler. He kinda has a point. Toulon plays the artist card, and says that political satire should be encouraged in a healthy society. I guess he also has a point. A point that would probably hold more weight if his idea of “political satire” was something a bit more meaty than telling Hitler to put up his dukes in a puppet show for children. After Ginger Nazi leaves, he sneaks around back and creeps at Toulon and his wife through a window. He sees the puppets all walking around and hanging out, and waiting in line for Toulon’s magic puppet juice. As he is taking pictures, he falls off his little perch, and runs away.
Ginger Nazi reports back to Mr Pit and Rutger Hauer, and tells him that there is a guy with living puppets totally making fun of Hitler. Mr Pit is like “Living puppets? That’s awesome!” while Rutger Hauer is all “NOBODY MAKES FUN OF HITLER IN MY TOWN!” Rutger Hauer wants to drop everything, and go murder Toulon for his audacity, while Mr. Pit is trying to tell him “you know that zombie soldier thing we’re working on? Like that thing we were JUST talking about five minutes ago? I don’t want to tell you how to do your job or anything, but why don’t we talk to him and see if we can learn how he gets his puppets to walk around first?” He agrees to try not to kill Toulon until they get some information first, and the two of them go off to Toulon’s theater.
Mr. Pit and Rutger Hauer show up unannounced at Toulon’s theater, which is honestly kind of rude. They start confiscating the puppets and just generally wrecking shit up, which is even more rude. Somewhere in the commotion, Toulon’s wife, Elsa is shot and killed, leaving Toulon despondent. Even ruder. These Nazis, I tell you… they need to work on their manners. They take Pinhead and Tunneller with them as they cart Toulon off to a prison, where I assume he’ll be subjected to weird sex torture. Or something. I guess it’s irrelevant, because Toulon’s loyal puppets break him out of the transport by murdering their captors. Toulon goes back to his theater, only to find it completely ransacked and destroyed by the Nazis. He collects the rest of his puppets, and goes to the morgue to extract Elsa’s life essence to put in his newest creation… a female puppet he carved in her likeness before she was killed. So here we have the origin of Leech Woman. This makes sense, as the possibility of imbuing the puppets with human essence was played with in part 2, but if he knew Leech Woman was Elsa, why did he think that Carolyn was Elsa? And furthermore, why didn’t he show any real sadness when Leech Woman was destroyed? And even furtherermore, I know that revenge was on his mind, and Elsa seemed to be down, but is it really the best tribute to the memory of your soulmate to turn her into a foot tall puppet monstrosity who disgustingly regurgitates leeches on people?
Toulon goes into hiding in some bombed out building, but soon discovers that his new temporary home was already inhabited by a little fat weiner kid who was a fan of Toulon’s show and his father. They agree to let each other hide in the space, and are seemingly pretty buddy buddy. There sure is a lot of squatting in this series by the way. So, Toulon starts plotting his revenge on those silly Nazis who killed his wife and ruined his life. He sends Six Shooter to kill the General in charge of the whole operation. There is a particularly nasty sex scene in here, but the less I say about it, the better. Six Shooter manages to finish off the general, but loses one of his arms in the process. When they get back to the hideout, Weiner Kid offers to sneak back into Toulon’s theater to get the parts needed to make repairs.
Meanwhile, the Nazis found the loose arm at the crime scene, and figured out it was one of Toulon’s puppets that killed their boss, so they start searching for him. Mr. Pit finds the weiner kid in Toulon’s theater, while across town, Rutger Hauer is talking to Weiner Kid’s dad, arranging a deal where he would tell them where to find Toulon if the Nazis arranged safe passage out of Germany for him and his son. Mr. Pit arrives at the hideout, and he and Toulon actually start hitting it off as friends. Toulon explains that there is more to the formula to make reanimation. Each of the Puppets used to be a person he knew, and they all VOLUNTEERED to be turned into puppets after they died, so they could keep on living and hanging out with Toulon. I actually hate this revelation. One, it is implied in the first film that the puppets need a master. You know… because they are PUPPETS? Two, They were totally sealed in a wall for like 50 years. If they were actual people with actual human thoughts, that just makes that really uncomfortable. Three, it just makes the puppets seem way less cool, and also makes Toulon seem way less important in their decisions. I would have prefered them to be just animated toys. I can’t think of any person who would want to carry on as a tiny freakish abomination for eternity after they go. I don’t care how good a friend I am with someone… I’m not signing up for that.
So, as Mr. Pit and Toulon are busy bro-ing out, Rutger Hauer and his band of merry Nazis storm the ruined building where they were hiding out. The puppets start mowing down Nazis, allowing an escape. Along the way, Mr. Pit is stabbed, and with his dying breath, tells Toulon to keep fighting. Also, the wiener’s dad is killed somewhere in the fracas. Toulon returns to his theater, and is joined by the fat wiener kid who is now an orphan, on account of his father getting what was coming to him. Toulon and his little wooden friends decide that it’s time to end this, and set a trap for Rutger Hauer in his office. They end up going all Hellraiser on him, and impaling him with hooks, and hanging him from the ceiling. They set fire to the ropes, and he falls onto a halbred that they stuck in the floor beneath him. This is where Blade makes his first appearance. Because Blade is really Mr. Pit. Yep. All this time, one of the most iconic and awesome creatures in low budget movies… a dark and ruthless killing machine… was really an affable old Nazi scientist. This totally makes Blade about a billion times less cool. I can’t stop picturing him getting frustrated over not being able to see a magic eye poster, and making crazy, unreasonable demands of Julia Louis Dreyfus now. This was legitimately heartbreaking for me, and made me want to punch this movie in its dick and balls.
So, Toulon and the fat little wiener kid load up Mr. Pit and the puppets, and catch a train to Switzerland. At the station, someone asked if he liked his time in Berlin, and he did that cheesy movie thing where he gives an answer with a humorous double meaning. Like, “it was murder. But I found a way to kill some time”. That’s not word for word what he said, but it was something dumb like that. Does anyone ever actually talk like that? If I was having a casual conversation with a stranger, and they started making vaguely violent double entendres, I’m pretty sure I would immediately call the police. Only two types of people talk like that… fictional characters and fucking psychos.
So, they get on the train, and the movie ends. There is a lot to ponder here. First, there are several OBVIOUS issues with this movie. The most glaring has to be that they totally ruined the mystique surrounding the puppets. I don’t want to know that they were just normal folk before they were puppets. This really ruins any sense of menace I might have felt from them, and let’s face it… they were pretty fucking silly to start with. Also, there are even more snags in the continuity starting to surface. The explanation of events in this movie make Toulon’s behavior in the 2nd movie even more bizarre. And this might be a huge nitpick, but this movie takes place in 1941, but in the first movie, Toulon committed suicide in 1939. That doesn’t really make a huge difference in the story, but it’s still pretty dumb. Also, this has the typical trappings of prequels. There is too much exposition to fill in the blanks, and EVERYTHING needs an origin. Between the needless plot vomit, and spooky ambulatory puppets, I’m pretty sure James Wan spent his tender years furiously masturbating to this.
It’s not all bad, though. Of the three movies so far, this is probably the best paced. The puppet effects are also the best they’ve looked. There is one particularly awesome stop motion sequence where Six Shooter scales the side of a building like a spider. I guess all in all, I didn’t hate this movie, but I didn’t enjoy watching it NEARLY as much as I did Part 2. I really can’t get over how they
ruined Blade, though. I mean, crap. I can’t wait to see what they fuck up in part 4.