Like the Children of the Corn and Leprechaun movies, the Puppet Master franchise has quietly chugged along on the straight-to-video market for about 30 years. Since the first Puppet Master released in 1989 there’s been a total of 14 sequels and/or reboots. In fact, just last year, the latest spin-off movie, Puppet Master: Doktor Death, found its way onto VOD platforms. Admittedly, the Puppet Master series has a narrow appeal just based on its subject-matter and style. And it’s hard really picking out an objectively good entry once the series stretched out onto the video market. But early 90s prequel, Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge is surprisingly decent.
In 1941 World War II Berlin, the Nazis have tasked German scientist Dr. Hess with finding a way to re-animate dead soldiers to fill their ranks. When his experiments fail to produce results, Hess’ superior, Major Krauss, takes notice of local puppeteer Andre Toulon. His puppets look lifelike for a reason – Toulon has discovered a formula that gives them life. But when Nazi soldiers arrest Toulon, they inadvertently kill the puppeteer’s wife. After Toulon escapes with his puppets, he vows revenge against Krauss and his soldiers.
Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge Substitutes Puppet Action for Actual Scares
On most objective measures of film quality, Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge isn’t going to score high with critics. In fact, this early 90s horror prequel absolutely epitomizes the straight-to-video movie from the era. Whether it’s the dull picture quality and saturated colors or the lack of urgency in story-telling, journeyman director David DeCoteau competently executes a screenplay credited to three writers. Franchise fans have pointed out that Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge introduces some timeline problems previously established in Puppet Master. Cleary, someone didn’t do their homework. Arguably, however, the ‘Lazy Sunday’ stroll toward the climax presents a bigger problem.
What matters most to anyone invested in third entry of a low-budget horror series about killer puppets should be the puppets themselves.
While DeCoteau does a decent job moving things forward, Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge is neither scary nor suspenseful. Not much happens that should be shocking to anyone, not even diehard series fans. What matters most to anyone invested in third entry of a low-budget horror series about killer puppets should be the puppets themselves. In this regard, Toulon’s Revenge is pretty satisfying stuff with Six Shooter and Tunneler repeatedly stealing the show. Whether it’s silly stuff or not, one can’t deny that there’s plenty of fun to be had watching these animated mini-killers wreak havoc on despicable Nazis.
Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge Finds a Bit of Human Drama Amidst Puppet Action
Not surprisingly, it’s the animated puppets who are the big draws in Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge. Series fans likely have their favorite puppets and a prequel offers the chance to see one or two character origins. Though it’s a 90s straight-to-video horror movie, the puppets largely look pretty impressive. That is, the effect impress for what’s obviously a 30-year-old, low budget movie. In this prequel, Six Shooter and the Tunneler get the best spots. Both The Leech Woman and Blade get origins in Toulon’s Revenge. And fans of Blade will likely figure out his human lifeforce source fairly early.
Though it’s a 90s straight-to-video horror movie, the puppets largely look pretty impressive. That is, the effect impress for what’s obviously a 30-year-old, low budget movie.
Yes, human actors actually play living and breathing characters in this Puppet Master prequel. After the character resided in the background for the first two movies, Guy Rolfe brings Andre Toulon to life, transforming him into a sympathetic character. Don’t expect much emotional depth – this is a straight-to-video movie about animated killer puppets. But Rolfe – who previously starred in another killer dolls movie, Dolls – at least gives you someone with whom to sympathize. Veteran character actor and perennial villain Richard Lynch (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, The Sword and the Sorcerer) makes for a credible evil Nazi. And Seinfeld fans will recognize Ian Abercombie, playing Nazi scientist Dr. Hess, who would eventually go on to play Mr. Pitt.
Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge a Better-Than-Expected Entry to the B-Level Series
Puppet Master III Toulon’s Revenge is a quintessential early 90s, straight-to-video horror movie. Dull picture quality, languid pacing, veteran character actors – this is vintage 90s video horror. And for a third entry into a B-level franchise – and a prequel on top of it – this one’s surprisingly good. No, it’s not likely to turn casual fans onto the Puppet Master series. Younger horror fans probably wouldn’t be impressed. Still the practical visual effects are better than they have any right to be. In addition, the puppets themselves make for admittedly compelling characters so it is fun for series fans to see some of their origins.