Puppet Master 3 (1991)
WRITER: C. Courtney Joyner
DIRECTOR: David DeCoteau
STARRING: Guy Rolfe as Andre Toulon
Sarah Douglas as Elsa Toulon
Walter Gotell as General Mueller
Ian Abercrombie as Dr. Hess
Kristofer Logan as Lt. Eric Stein
Aron Eisenberg as Peter Hertz
Matthew Faison as Papa Hertz
Richard Lynch as Major Kraus
QUICK CUT: Before Toulon's puppets were bloodthirsty killers, they lived simple lives as living puppet performers in his show. But World War II changed all that, and changed Toulon, and things would never be the same again.
Andre Toulon - From our villain, and now our hero. A simple puppeteer with a dark secret. Which isn't that secret if you've seen the other two movies. However, once the Nazis take the life of his beloved Elsa, he turns to the dark side and seeks vengeance.
Major Kraus - The big bad, which is saying something when you've got Hitler out there somewhere. He's the overseer of the Death Corps project, to create undead soldiers that would give Germany an unlimited supply of bodies to throw at the allies. He doesn't do well with failure, and will do anything to complete his goals.
Doctor Hess - The main researcher in the Death Corps project, and for a Nazi, not half bad. He's just doing his best for the Fatherland, but he's not a bad guy, as even he has his limits. He thinks that Toulon's puppets are the secret to cracking his research, and is searching for the puppets and their serum.
Eric Stein - Kraus's driver, a low level soldier in the Reich, and a puppeteer like Toulon. His interests are what lead him to the puppet show, and sign the doom of many a person by what his actions turn the puppets into.
Peter Hertz - A young Polish boy who, along with his father, are trying to avoid detection by the Nazis before they can escape. He's another watcher of Toulon's puppet show, and is fascinated by them. He and his father end up being the emotional core of the movie late in the game, and try to inject a bit too much pathos.
THE GUTS - The movie starts by taking us back to Berlin, 1941. Not an unheard of time period for the series, but this time the entire movie is set there. That's a bit of a departure from the previous movies, and definitely makes this movie stand out.
We are first introduced to General Kraus, a Nazi smoking a cigarette, just in case you weren't sure if he was a good or bad Nazi, as he get out of a car to visit Dr. Hess Inside, they're doing experiments on keeping dead soldiers alive.
They give each other half-hearted heils, and wait for the latest attempt to die. He promptly obliges them. Kraus makes it very clear that Hitler is growing impatient for his Death Corps (Hee).
Just as the project is being declared a failure, the dead soldier leaps up and starts smacking people around the lab. Can you blame him for being cranky? So much for being dead again.
Kraus puts about half a dozen bullets in the corpse before it finally dies, and his driver rushes into the lab at the sound and stares blankly. Which someone decided was the perfect place to cut to the opening titles. Because what is more tense moment than a nerdy Nazi in glasses looking surprised?
We come back out of the blue text to a puppet show being put on by some guy who claims to be Andre Toulon, but is not William Hickey!! What the heck? That's not Toulon! That's not even undead Toulon from #2! But I digress, since this is an awesome Toulon. This is Guy Rolfe, the latest to be cast sas Toulon, and he's probably the most well-remembered version, since he played him in most of the movies. He is to me, at least. When I think of Andre Toulon, I think of this version.
Not only do we meet Toulon 3.0, but we are also introduced to this movie's new puppet since every movie needs one; Six-Shooter. I'm not going to question where he was before, since down the path of retcons lies madness. If you can't guess from his name, he is styled after American cowboys, except he has six arms? Not a lot of those in the wild west.
In the puppet show, Six-Shooter is squaring off against Puppet Hitler, so he's going for a stereotypical German versus American type battle. Six-Shooter draws on Puppet Hitler, and the fake dictator quakes in his jackboots. Oh yeah, this is gonna go over well with the Reich.
In the audience is Lt. Stein, and he's taking photos of the show since he notices the lack of strings on the very complex cowboy. He has some ideas of what this research could be used for.
After the show, Toulon entertains Peter and some other kids with Puppet Hitler and candy. Once they're gone, Stein comes in and describes himself as a fellow puppetteer, which is at least truthful, as far as it goes.
Stein admires Toulon's handiwork, and the puppet master lies and says its all motorization. While they talk, we see our old friends Tunneler and Jester lurking around and watching the conversation.
Once Stein leaves, the Toulons call the puppets out to get dinner, but little do they know that Stein is watching from a window outs...wait wait, rewind. Dinner? What do puppets even eat?!
As my question is answered with injections of the reanimation serum, Stein continues to watch and take photographs of the magical puppets. It's a good thing it's not a cliche for someone standing on a pile of boxes to clandestinely look in a window to fall over and draw attention. Because that is totally what happens to Stein, and it is completely unexpected.
Later that night, Andre gives his wife a puppet in her likeness, although that's probably stretching it a bit. Admittedly, they had the puppet first, but I'll come to that later.
The next day, Stein presents his findings to Kraus and Hess, primarily to report the seditious puppet show, but Hess notices the lack of puppet strings as well. The pictures of injecting puppets was probably a tip off to boot. Do you think they're pissed that Hess's entire project couldn't manage what one lone puppeteer pulled off?
Hess wants to speak to Toulon before Kraus and his nutbars break out the torture, but Kraus isn't that patient. Hess goes over his head and calls General Mueller and asks to arrange it so he can speak first. Somehow, Mueller is completely aware of Toulon, the puppets, and that they're off to grab him, even though we've only just now seen Hess and Kraus finding out from Eric's photos. Is he watching the movie?
The Nazis arrive at Toulon's theatre, and start grabbing puppets. Kraus gets his hands on the magical Mountain Dew, but as he's about to hand it over to Hess for later analysis, Elsa gets in the way of a bullet fired from a soldier. She would have survived that, but she spits on Kraus and he finishes the job. Which will lead to Toulon trying to resurrect her in the previous movie.
As they drive back to Gestapo HQ, one of the soldiers guarding Toulon in the other car makes the dumbest move of his life and picks up Pinhead to check him out. Cue strangulation.
Tunneler leaps down and drills through the driver's seat, all the way through that and into his back, and out the other side.
Toulon escapes the vehicle once it comes to a stop, and carries off Pinhead, and a completely clean, non-bloody Tunneler. I guess the uniform on him is stain resistant. And then some.
Kraus and friends return to the theatre to search for the puppet master, but they find the place empty. After smashing the head of Puppet Hitler, they burn the place to the ground.
We then see Toulon come backstage where Jester and Sixy are waiting for him and...um, why is the place not in flames? Or smoke? Or already burned down? Or even the slightest bit ashen? Andre takes his time to even break down and cry in a building we were just shown as being set on fire. Did they just burn down the tiny puppet stage?
While the Germans look for him in every building they didn't burn down, Andre finds a shelf of leeches, determined to somehow find a way to use them for revenge. What could he possibly use those for?
Rolfe takes a sinister turn here, as the light-hearted, caring puppet master he has been playing cries vengenace, you can see the building blocks of movies to have already come, and how Toulon became the person he did, as well as how his puppets turn from being just playthings and friends, to objects of destruction. The dialogue may be a little overwrought, but Rolfe delivers it so well, it is a very good turn of character. This is why he is the one, true Puppet Master.
Later at the morgue, the puppets break in, and Pinhead strangles one of the doctors to death, and Jester unlocks the door so Toulon can enter. The guy wasn't really involved, but I guess Nazis are Nazis, so he gets to die.
Toulon finds his dead wife, but they get interupted by another doctor returning. Pinhead pulls out the phone line while he tries to make a call, and after three movies, Jester FINALLY does something and stabs the guy in the leg with a scalpel. I guess he was of more use in his early days, and now he's just too old to do much else than spin his head around.
After Andre finishes up what he came for, I presume harvesting brain tissue, the master and his puppets return to...wherever their lair is. He injects the fresh batch of Mountain Dew into his wife's puppety likeness, and says this is the best he can do for her, for now. Which also leads nicely into his resurrection plot from #2.
Toulon then proceeds to fill his puppety wife with leeches. Yes, this is the official origin story for Leech Woman. So they had the puppet first, from the other films, and cast a woman who looked enough like her, but not enough that it looks like Toulon has much skill in carving! Oh well.
However, this leads to a series of questions. How much of her consciousness is inside there? How does she feel about having gigantic leeches crammed down her wooden mouth? Does he have to reload her every time? What does she think about being used as a murderer? Ok, getting revenge is one thing, but after that? Is she totally subservient to the puppet master? Toulon, maybe. But we know others have had limited, at best, control over the puppets. Which then leads me to question why they would become killing machines in the first place, since they appear to have a modicum of free will, so do they enjoy killing? It didn't seem to be in Elsa's DNA, but we only knew her for a short time. So many questions, and more and more come up as I go down this road and explore the nature and extent of their free will.
Yes, I am having an existential crisis over killer puppets.
ANYways, Stein drops Kraus off and does some work on the car. Work that is cut short when Jester appears and just sits there, while Pinhead does all the work. He kneecaps the poor driver with a wrench, and then bashes his nose in with it. The former Elsa then crawls up to finish the job with her first leech. It's a boy! It at least makes sense for her to do this, since she knows Stein is the one directly responsible for bringing the Nazis to her doorstep.
The doctor is hard at work on his Death Corps again, and his first subject immediately grabs a gun and shoves it in his mouth, firing the unloaded weapon into his head. This is apparently good news, since this test subject was suicidal and killed himself, so that's what he was focused on in his reanimated state. At least he lacked the rage of the earlier subjects, so Hess believes he can control these new reanimations. Hopefully not all of them are suicidal.
There might actually be something to that, and it might explain some of my myriad of questions. There might be enough brain activity to function, but not much personality left in there. More of an essence, enough to animate, but not to truly be. Basically a mindless drone to point and shoot. But there's still SOMEthing there, clearly. Ok, that actually isn't helping. Gotta stop pondering metaphysics.
The Germans find some more Mountain Dew, and presume that must be where Toulon is holing up. Kraus arrives to check the place out, and walks RIGHT by Toulon, poorly disguised as a blind beggar.
After finding a new place to hide out, Pinhead spies on Mueller and the Nazis, as the general dresses down Kraus and Hess for their repeated failures, and increasing body count.
They track Mueller to his favourite brothel, and Toulon sets Six-Shooter loose to climb up the walls like a spider. I doubt that would actually work with his limited reach for hand holds, but it's an eight limbed thing climbing a wall, I can let this slide. It's a fun visual, and a good play on what he is.
Sixy finds the general as he's about to leave, so at least Mueller got in one last go and will die happy. The puppet fires, and just how effective can those teeny bullets be? Annoying, maybe, but deadly?
The first shot misses, and Mueller fires back, taking off one of the puppet's arms. Unfortunately, that still leaves him with five more arms to deal with, and five more guns. This is actually a pretty good design for a murderous puppet. Less so for a performing puppet, but I digress.
Whether the bullets are deadly or not become a moot point as they drive Mueller out the fourth story window and he dies instead from his introduction with the pavement below. Toulon collects his minion after the executional and sneaks back off in his blind beggar costume.
Toulon returns to his hidey hole, and is coincidentally interupted by the boy that he entertained with Puppet Hitler earlier, and his father. It turns out the pair have been using the exact same place as a hideout themselves for some time. Paging Charles Dickens...
Back at the brothel, Hess goes all CSI and determines Mueller was shot, and finds the first, teensy bullet. Kraus asks the pertinent question of if the assasin missed, why didn't Mueller shoot back, and if he did, where's the body?
Hey, how about the question of why the bullets are the size of fleas? Kraus finally gets to that, but you would think that would be a big question right away. They then find the shot off arm, and put things together.
The movie then tries for some relevance with Peter's father telling Toulon about the trying times they've had against the Nazis while trying to avoid notice and escape to safety. It's hard to avoid a scene like this in a movie set during WWII, but it feels so out of place in a movie where puppets are running around killing people. It's at the same time a nice bit to try and raise the movie up above it's place, and equally awkward and off-key.
Kraus places a bounty on Andre's head, and decides he is to be executed on sight. Hess is naturally against this, since Toulon is the only one who can possibly crack the secret behind his formula for renaimating dead soldiers. And that is a strange thing to write.
Back in the Puppetcave, Toulon is working on a new puppet head, another familiar face to fans of the franchise. He talks to Peter about the puppets, and their future, and stuff that doesn't involve killing things.
The next day, Peter sneaks away to the not-burned-down theatre to get not-burned parts to repair Six-Shooter, but he gets interupted by Hess looking for any further information on the puppets' magic. His hiding spot is discovered after about five seconds, and a look at the iconic steamer trunk the puppets are kept in during other films.
Peter gets bribed by cookies, milk, and promises that Toulon won't be harmed, so he gives up the location of the Puppetcave to Hess. The doctor arrives just as Toulon is putting the finishing touches on Blade.
The two doctors sit and discuss the puppets, with promises of no one being arrested or harmed. Yeah, right. Actually, Hess probably intends that, but when you come with a soldier, even when he's just under orders? That can't go well.
We then learn who each of the puppets are, except for Tunneler for some reason, and that the key to them being renaimated *ahem* properly, is that they wanted to live, to go on fighting. Wouldn't that be true of many soldiers? Well, not the suicidal one, but in theory...
Meanwhile, Kraus is speaking to Peter's father about the reward he put on Toulon's head. Traitorous bastard. They arrive at the entrance to the Puppetcave, and Kraus sees the soldier he ordered to guard Hess. Peter's dad runs in to get the boy out before the sheisse hits the fan.
Once the boy and his dad are out, the soldiers get sent in. The first one doesn't last long as Pinhead makes short work of him with a brick to his face.
Hess actually grabs the soldier's gun and stands on the side of Toulon, firing at the incoming soldiers so the Puppet Master can make his escape.
Tunneler takes care of the next hapless victim by drilling into his ankles, and Leech Woman joins in the fun by spitting up her boys onto the poor soldier. Yeah, I kinda have sympathy for the guy. Sure, Nazi, but drilling and leeches? I'm not sure even he deserved that.
Kraus follows Toulon and the puppets out, trying to kill Elsa a second time, but they make good their escape. Kraus then runs into Peter's father, and blames him for warning the Puppet Master, somehow. They fight over the gun, and the father gets what he deserves.
A soldier catches up with them, but is quickly plugged by Six-Shooter. Just as he's about to die, he stabs Hess with a knife in his belt and sends the doctor to see death for himself.
Toulon takes everyone back to the theatre, which is STILL NOT BURNED DOWN. I thought the Nazis were better with fire than this? The movie then flashes back to 1912, and the previous movie's flashbacks, with the weird Egyptian and his green puppet that taught Toulon all he knew. No real point to that, movie...
Kraus returns to his office, where the weight of his failures surely weighs heavily upon him. He's about to call the fuhrer and explain, but the phone is dead. That's when Kraus sees Jester sitting there playing with scissors.
He goes to shoot the rascally puppet, but that's when Blade makes his introduction to the mythology at long last, by first slicing the Nazi in the leg, and then slashing his hand. Oh, this was worth the wait. A great comeuppance for Kraus, and a very good introduction for Blade. Very much an earned moment.
They've hinted at it throughout the movie, but they finally make it clear in this scene, that Blade is a caricature of Kraus, and I must say, this time? The casting is spot on. Kraus does look like a human Blade, even with the exagerated features and hollow eyes of the puppet. Which doesn't make sense since we saw Blade's head used for the puppet of the devil in the second movie, but oh well. I prefer this version much more.
And if he's supposed to look like Kraus, but he just killed Kraus, then who is it inside the puppet? Hess, or Peter's father? I rather like the idea of it being Hess in there. He finally discovered the secret the hard way, he gets revenge on Kraus, and there's not really any other choice, is there?
Pinhead clonks the bad guy over the head with a hefty ash tray after Kraus shoots Toulon in the arm. The Puppet Master tosses ropes with hooks in them over a convenient light fixture, and Pinhead uses the hooks to string Kraus up by his limbs and neck.
They place an axe beneath the human puppet, and Toulon sets a Nazi flag alight, which will eventually burn the rope. This would actually be a more potetic death if the Nazis had actually torched the theatre. Fire, puppets, come on!
No guards heard the screaming, the gunshots, the thumping, the falling, any of that...so Toulon sucessfully sneaks out with his puppets and makes his way to the train station. He uses the hat and coat of Kraus as a disguise, and even the man's passport as a means to escape the country.
Peter is putting the puppets away and we learn they have plans to travel to Switzerland and probably America. Since Peter was never seen again in the earlier movies or later, I guess he stayed with the Swiss.
The movie ends with a cackling shot of Six-Shooter, and the threat of Puppet Master 4: When Bad Puppets Turn Good.
Um, isn't that what we just sat through?
Video: Not bad for a Full Moon release. Could be better, and is a little soft as usual, but that's to be expected from a VHS era master. It still looks better than #2 did, and everything is pretty well shot and filmed.
Audio: Decent enough for the era it comes from.
Best Line: When asked if he enjoyed his time in Berlin, Toulon replies, "No, I have not. I had a very unpleasent experience." Understatement of the decade.
Blood Type - B-: The movie is pretty bloodless, compared to others. There's a little bit of blood, and Tunneler gets covered, but it's pretty seperate from any other scene, as shown by how clean he is seconds afterwards. What there is, is good, but it feels like an afterthought.
Sex Appeal: Completely supplied by Mueller's prostitutes.
Movie Rating: Oh, this is...surprisingly good. There's not really any gaping plot holes, the acting is actually really good. Especially Rolfe and Lynch. Even the lesser parts are well done. The script is solid and even though it has its share of stilted dialogue, the acting drags even that above the bar. It's well shot, the sets are great, and the locations are appropriate. Well lit...it's actually hard to find fault with this movie, as a movie. At least, as far as our usual fare goes. Four out of five extra arms.
Entertainment Rating: Going along with the quality of the movie, it is just as fun to watch. This is easily the best of the Puppet Master series, in my opinion. The first movie was cheesy and over the top with the visiting psychics, the second with zombie Toulon, but this one is almost serious. This was the height of the franchise, and it is sadly downhill from here. The original edges it out just a little for being the first, and a little more creative with the kills, and freer with the blood, but this movie is rock solid. The origins of the puppets are a good story to tell, and entertaining to boot. Six-Shooter is a good addition to the franchise as well, drawling chuckle and all. Five out of five dead Nazis.
Hennnh hennh hennnnhhh...