Puppet Master (Blu-ray) (1989)
Audio Commentary-Feature length, prod. interviewed by Chris Gore.
Introduction-(5:34) New intro. by Charles Band 1080p.
Featurette-Making Of-(7:19) "No Strings Attached" , SD.
Trailer-Nine trailers of films in series.
|Year Of Production||1989|
|Running Time||88:45 (Case: 85)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||David Schmoeller|
Full Moon Pictures
Paul Le Mat
Jimmie F. Skaggs
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
†††† I shall have to be more careful when choosing titles to review. I carelessly thought that I was committing myself to spending some time with the 1994 Donald Sutherland starrer The Puppet Masters, but what a difference the definite article and a final "s" makes! What emerged from the anticipated envelope was the 1989 "B" shocker Puppet Master, at times referred to as Puppet Master I. This movie was produced by Charles Band, whose career seems to have been entirely devoted to this genre. Originally intending his work for a summer 1989 theatrical release, the producer made the decision to go direct to video in October instead, Brand opining that this would be a more lucrative route. He was totally correct. The film became a cult favourite and has spawned no less than eight follow-ups, a mixture of sequels and prequels. The original Puppet Master established Full Moon productions, has become a cult favourite and is now seeing the light of day in this local Blu-ray release.
†††† The story is the product of a collaboration between producer Band, Kenneth J. Hall and director David Schmoeller, under the pseudonym "Joseph Collodi" - Carlo Collodi was the writer of The Adventures of Pinocchio . In 1939, at the Bodega Bay Inn in California, an old puppeteer, Toulon (William Hickey from Prizzi's Honor) is putting the finishing touches to one of his puppets. It just so happens that Toulon has the ability, thanks to an ancient Egyptian spell, to bring his little wooden creations to life. Two Nazis turn up at the inn to capture Toulon's secret, but the old man kills himself to escape the trench-coated intruders. We jump forward to 1989, and a psychic, Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Scaggs) has had visions connected to Toulon's death, and has gone to the Bodega Bay Inn to investigate. A group of Gallagher's co-psychics, led by Alex (Paul Le Mat, follows him and upon arrival are greeted by Neil's "wife", Megan (Robin Frates). Alex and his cohorts had no idea that Neil was married, and are suspicious when Megan informs them that Neil has suicided. For the remainder of the film a handful of "animated" puppets rages around the attractive inn slaughtering the intruders. This group of maniacal puppets includes Leech Woman, Blade, Pin Head, Jester and Tunneler, and some of the deaths are extremely painful to watch, in more ways than one.
†††† The human performances are at the level of daytime soap opera, with over-acting the order of the day. There is at least some enjoyment in watching the cheesy Matt Roe and Kathryn O'Reilly as a sex-obsessed couple licking and pawing each other with gay - sorry, straight - abandon. Poor Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti) looks very puzzled as to why he's there at all. The obviously hand-manipulated puppets are very unimaginative, and their "animation" extremely basic and awkward. The film actually looks better than the material warrants. Sergio Salvatiís photography is fine, except for the overuse of low tracking shots from the POV of various puppets. Kubrick used this technique sparingly and effectively in The Shining, but here it becomes tiresome. The setting is attractive, with handsome use made of exteriors and interiors of the inn.
†††† This is very minor filmmaking, but the film does have its admirers. There is much to learn about the series on Wikipedia, while already informed fans undoubtedly will be thrilled to finally see a widescreen print of this, the first of the Puppet Master films.
†††† Here we have the film presented, for the first time EVER, at the correct ratio. When Axis of Evil was being prepared for a Blu-ray release, Band decided to create a new master of the original Puppet Master for its 20th anniversary release in the high definition format. Band went back to the original 35mm negative and for the first time the film is presented at its intended ratio. Undoubtedly, then, this is the finest Puppet Master has ever looked. However, the source material is not without fault. There is some dirt and damage evident, and the reel cue marks have not been removed. It would appear that there has been minimal restoration of the material, but for fans of the film it undoubtedly will give great satisfaction to see the film looking as good as it does.
†††† Presented at the ratio of 1.78:1 in a 1080p transfer, the transfer looks more like a very good standard DVD than a Blu-ray disc. The image is generally sharp and clear, with reasonably good detail, although things get a little murky in the darker scenes. There is a modest amount of grain, much more evident in the occasional long shots of the coast. Colours are generally vivid and bright - with the reds highlighted in the killing scenes. - and skin tones are very good. Particularly attractive are the early exteriors of the inn, with the Nazisí gleaming green sedan and the sun bathed stucco walls. There is evidence of some digital enhancement, but nothing really bothersome. As I said earlier, the very large reel cues are still in evidence, and there is some minor dirt and blemishes scattered through the film. Basically though, the film looks pretty good, and its presentation will undoubtedly delight longstanding fans who can finally see the entire image.
†††† There are no sub-titles.
†††† There are two audio streams : English DTS-HD 5.1 encoded at 48 Khz and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround encoded at 48 Khz.
†††† The original Blu-ray release in America had audio issues, with the 5.1 track evidently missing from the first batch of discs. This Australian release contains the 5.1 track, but it offers nothing very impressive. Dialogue is front and centred, totally clear and without any sync problems. There is a great amount of looping throughout the film, particularly in the heavy breathing from the live actors and the puppets during POV shots. This becomes quite irritating. I noticed no crackle or hiss on the soundtrack. There is little directionality, but quite a lot of indefinite ambience from the rears, often totally exaggerated. The crashing surf is very dominant even during interior scenes. There is also over-emphasis of bass which deteriorates into distorted rumblings in some scenes. The music is the only aspect of the film which benefits from the 5.1 track, with the circus theme of Richard Band - brother of the producer - very effectively used throughout the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
†††† There is a modest offering of extras which will please the film's devotees.
†††† The menu is presented over a montage of sequences from the film, with music from the score.
†††† Presented in 1080p at the ratio of 1.78:1 the producer gives an interesting short introduction to the film and the establishment of the Full Moon production company. This is a new introduction made for this Blu-ray release.
†††† This is the original making-of behind the scenes featurette and is presented in standard definition at 1.33:1. There is a short interview with the director, David Schmoeller, actor Paul Le Mat, Charles Band and others. There is some interesting behind-the-scenes footage of the creation of the special effects and the puppetry.
†††† This commentary is presented in the form of an interview of producer Charles Band conducted by Chris Gore. Gore is described by Wikipedia as "a speaker and writer on the topic of independent film", and was the founder of Film Thread, the magazine and web site. The interview is quite recent, conducted just after the completion of filming Axis of Evil. One of Gore's early questions queries the inspiration for the film, and Band states that after the success of his 1985 The Dungeon Master, he wanted to make another film with the "cool" word "master" in the title. It's hard to dislike a filmmaker who is so bluntly honest about his art, or lack thereof. What follows is an engrossing discussion of the making of the film and its unpretentious maker. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and fans should love it.
†††† There is a raft of trailers of all the various films in the series. The early trailers are rather poor in quality, but by the time we get to the last the widescreen, high definition quality is excellent. The trailers are :
††††Puppet Master (1:58) : 1.33:1; Puppet Master II (2:08) : 1.33:1; Puppet Master III : Toulon's Revenge (2:16) : 1.33:1; Puppet Master IV (1:59): 1.33:1; Puppet Master V : The Final Chapter (1:55): 1.33:1; Curse of the Puppet Master (1:48): 4x3, 1.78:1; Retro Puppet Master (1:29): 1.33:1; Puppet Master : The Legacy (1:26): 1.33:1; Puppet Master : Axis of Evil (2:04): 16x9, 2.35:1.
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††† Given the sound issues on the U.S. release, and the bonus of a very good commentary track on the Australian, I would certainly choose the local disc.
†††† This film has its devoted followers, of which I am definitely not included, and the important thing here is that this is the best the film has ever looked in any of its public releases. Although not actually restored, and with some blemishes on the source material, the Blu-ray disc delivers a fine transfer of high DVD quality. There is a small, but valuable, offering of extras.
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|