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Puppet Master

USA 1989
produced by
Hope Perello, Charles Band (executive) for Full Moon
directed by David Schmoeller
starring Paul Le Mat, William Hickey, Irene Miracle, Jimmie F.Skaggs, Robin Frates, Matt Roe, Kathryn O'Reilly, Mews Small, Barbara Crampton, David Boyd, Peter Frankland, Andrew Kimbrough
story by Charles Band, Kenneth J.Hall, screenplay by Joseph G.Collodi (= David Schmoeller), music by Richard Band, puppet effects by Dave Allen, cinematography by Sergio Salvati

Puppet Master

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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50 years ago, puppet master Toulon (William Hickey), who has somehow managed to give eternal life to his puppets, killed himself, shortly before a couple of hitmen could save him the trouble. However, before his death, Toulon has managed to hide away his (living) puppets in the hotel he was staying at, so noone could find them.

Now, a group of psychics - Alex (Paul Le Mat), who sees the future in his dreams, telepathic Clarissa (Kathryn O'Reilly), her scientist boyfriend Frank (Matt Roe) and fortune teller and white witch Dana (Irene Miracle) - are called to exactly this hotel, where one of their associates, fellow psychic Gallagher (Jimmie F.Skaggs) has just passed away. However, everybody seems to agree that something is not quite right, and soon enough, our little group tries to find out what's exactly wrong ... the poor bastards, because by now Toulon's puppets have already been set free by whoever it was, and the puppets go on a killing spree. Plus at various occasions, Gallagher's corpse is just found sitting around wherever just to give everyone a jolly good fright.

In the end, only Alex has not yet been killed when Gallagher's widow Megan (Robin Frates) remembers a diary her hubby kept on reading close to his death, Toulon's diary, and when Alex and Megan start reading it they soon find out that Toulon has found the secret of eternal life, and Gallagher has decided to exploit this knowledge. And wouldn't you know it, soon enough, Gallagher turns up pretty much alive again and almost indestructible, and he tells Alex and Megan he only killed the others (or rather had the others killed) so they don't give him away, and now he prepares to kill Alex and Megan too ... but he makes one big mistake: when gloating about his immorttality, he insults the puppets, and the puppets don't like that and in the end, they tear him apart ...


By and large, Charles Band's production outfit Full Moon is known mainly for its inexpensive (and often shoddy) direct-to-video genre pics. In this respect, Puppet Master is a big exception. Sure, it's still cheaply made, but great, flowing camerawork (courtesy of Sergio Salvati) and cool puppets and puppet-effects (courtesy of David Allen), plus a visually compelling direction, a fittingly surreal script and very nice sets give this film a certain polish put it a notch or two above Full Moon's usual output and actually turn Puppet Master into a rather enjoyable little shocker. What keeps the film from being a full-blown classic though is on one hand its rather mediocre actors, on the other hand director David Schmoeller's obvious inability to create a proper spooky atmosphere, which really destroys what could have been the best moments of the film (like when the thought dead Gallagher shows up for the first time, very much alive, or when the puppets turn on Gallagher). Still, even if you don't like direct-to-video-horror à la Full Moon, this one is definitely worth a look ...


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD