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Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge Reviews

A prequel to the first two PUPPETMASTER films, PUPPETMASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE explains the genesis of the gruesome living puppets that are the series' distinctive hook. French puppeteer Toulon (Guy Rolfe), whose unusual background includes knowledge of medicine and certain more arcane arts, lives in war-torn Berlin with his beautiful and devoted wife (Sarah Douglas). They run a small puppet theater, and their skits include material critical of Hitler and the Nazi party. This brings them to the attention of vicious Major Kraus (Richard Lynch), who arrests Toulon and kills his wife. Toulon is saved because certain of his puppets have a most unusual feature: they can move without strings. The puppets are animated by the souls of Toulon's friends, victims of the Nazis, and include Driller, who has a lethal drill bit on his head; Joker, whose segmented face changes expression with alarming speed; and Six-Shooter, a cowboy with three sets of arms, a tiny revolver in each hand. Toulon's secret for animating them interests the Nazi doctor who is conducting a research project that will bring back from the dead German soldiers killed in battle. The ultimate goal: an unkillable zombie army for the Third Reich. Toulon escapes with the help of his puppets, and sets about killing those responsible for his wife's death. When his mission is accomplished, he escapes to Switzerland. In Toulon's possession is a new puppet, the fearsome, skull-faced Blade, whose features are based on those of the unfortunate Major Kraus. Though low-budget sequels are often out of steam by the third go-round (just think of the HOWLING films), PUPPET MASTER III is a surprisingly lively and entertaining picture. The cast includes Guy Rolfe, known to horror fans as the star of MR. SARDONICUS, Sarah Douglas (SUPERMAN II, CONAN THE DESTROYER), and the reliably vile Richard Lynch (BAD DREAMS, INVASION USA, DEMON and many, many others), whose erratic German accent in no way detracts from his maniacal performance. The period setting is unusual, and though the Nazis are treated as one-dimensional cartoon villains, props in a preposterous story of adventure and fantasy, one can hardly condemn PUPPET MASTER III for subjugating history to shallow ends while tolerating the same practice in the INDIANA JONES pictures. Despite the obvious lack o' funds, the overall production values are quite good, and the quality of the acting better than average. Much care has been lavished on the puppets, and their scenes are always adequate and occasionally remarkable. Six-Shooter's displays of marksmanship are particularly impressive, as is a shot of him climbing, spider-like, up the wall of a Nazi whorehouse. Leech Woman (so called because the disgusting creatures crawl from her lips), who was carved as a present for Toulon's wife but becomes the vengeful receptacle of her soul after Kraus murders her in cold blood, is also surprisingly effective. In all, PUPPETMASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE is a diverting piece of low-budget filmmaking. (Violence.)