Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Retro Puppet Master (1999)

As you are all aware, this is the Puppet Master movie in which a young Toulon is played by Greg Sestero, working with a horrible French accent. Wait, are you telling me that you were NOT aware of that? You didn't know that one of the stars of The Room was, at one point, Toulon AKA the Puppet Master? Well, to be fair, neither did I. Somehow, nobody told me about this, even as they knew I would be making my way through every instalment in this series. Seeing him piqued my interest, which then started to slide downhill fast when I realised that it wasn't just the influence of Tommy Wiseau that had shaped his performance in The Room.

Things start off with the elderly Toulon (Guy Rolfe appearing once again) talking to his puppets. He offers to tell them a tale about the very first time he made them live. And then things move back to show viewers the young Toulon (Sestero), a woman who falls for him (Ilsa, played by Brigitta Dau, who I am assuming is AKA Elsa, Toulon's wife we last saw played by Sarah Douglas in the third movie), and a sorcerer named Afzel (Jack Donner). Afzel is being pursued by servants of Sutekh, three mummies who have been ordered to kill him, and anyone else who gets hold of the secret of life. Knowing he needs to pass along the knowledge, Afzel teaches Toulon.

Once again pairing up director David DeCoteau and writer Neal Marshall Stevens, this seventh Puppet Master movie feels like a step up from the sixth, in some ways, yet also feels like a step down. It's good that we're back with the elements that feel more ingrained in the series (Toulon, the scenes that focus on the actual puppets, even the minions sent out to do the bidding of Sutekh), but setting it in Paris at the start of the 20th century causes a number of issues.

The biggest issue is the downright painful accent being attempted by Sestero, who is awful in the main role. His acting style is just too big and obvious, more fitting for a Troma movie (or some of the Full Moon Features that are more broadly comedic), but the accent is the final nail in the coffin. It will make you want to rip your ears off, stuff them in a croissant, and have them transported to Paris to be soothed by the accent of someone who is actually French. Dau is a bit better in her role, which allows her to be imperilled in time for the finale, and Donner has fun with his supporting role. Stephen Blackehart also has fun, portraying the leader of the mummified trio.

None of the main sequences work as well as they could, the editing is too clumsy (probably trying to cover up any shortcomings) and, as is often the case with prequels, the threat is greatly reduced because we know the overall outcome. And a small part of you may want to see some harm come to Sestero, if only to stop him speaking for a few minutes.

Having said that, the retro design of the puppets is a nice way to mix things up slightly, and having some mummies after our hero allows for some better fights than any that involved the small minions featured in the 4th and 5th movies. But that's not enough to make up for how bad Sestero is.


You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy a decent little set here.

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