• Puppet Master: The Legacy

    Released by: Full Moon Features
    Release date: August 22, 2017
    Directed by: Robert Talbot (Charles Talbot)
    Cast: Kate Orsini, Jacob Witkin, Guy Rolfe, Ian Abercrombie, Brigitta Dau, Richard Lynch
    Year: 2003
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    It’s easy to be defensive of Full Moon Entertainment’s films in general and of the company’s Puppet Master movies in particular. Made on miniscule budgets, Full Moon’s productions make up for a definite lack of money with creative storylines and an old-fashioned approach that harkens back to the Universal horror films of the 1940s. The films take an almost childlike glee in their various monsters, whether demonically realized dolls or Eastern European vampires, though their childlike nature is belied by moments of very adult violence. Unfortunately, Puppet Master: The Legacy isn’t the company’s finest hour. Rather, it feels like little more than a cynical cash grab, an amalgamation of past movies with only the threadbare components of a ‘new’ story to pull it all together (much like Universal’s stock-footage-laden The Mummy’s Tomb, 1942). Ostensibly the eighth in the Puppet Master series, it begins with a new puppet master, Eric Weiss (Jacob Witkin), taking up where original puppet master Andre Toulon left off. Little does he know that he isn’t alone; an agent named Maclain (Kate Orsini) has her sights on him and his secrets. After she bursts into his workshop, he tells the story of the sinister puppets and how they came to be, revealing in the process that his real name is Peter. As a boy in the 1940s, he was saved by Toulon’s dolls. Maclain reveals that she knows much already, having murdered the possessors of Toulon’s diary, which she has read. In fact, she’s seeking the secret of the puppets so that she can kill them for all time.

    Puppet Master: The Legacy certainly has a fitting title, given that it’s little more than a compilation that pares down several of the films that came before it into their most exciting moments. As a result, we get to relive Guy Rolfe and Richard Lynch’s best parts from those works. They certainly hand in terrific performances, even if we have seen them before, something that can’t exactly be said of Legacy’s original cast members. Witkins is serviceable if not great, but Orsini hands in a weak performance bordering on embarrassing. Therein lies the biggest problem with most Full Moon films. While the effects are generally excellent, the scripts good, and the direction considerably better than expected, the acting is variable. There’s usually a cast member or two hired for his or her name-brand appeal, but the lesser roles are populated by actors of more dubious ability. Not that it ultimately matters; most people watch these films for their effects, and those cannot be faulted. It’s easy to imagine these films being remade with bigger budgets, with the puppets brought to life by more fluid and far less realistic CGI. What makes the puppets so effective here is the use of practical effects. Animatronics bring a touch of realism to the proceedings, while the occasional stop-motion animation is used sparingly for more difficult shots and more often than not work beautifully. Occasional period costumes and surprisingly good use of location shooting add class to the average Full Moon production. The only problem is that there’s little that’s new in Puppet Master: The Legacy. Rather than being a legitimate eighth film in the series, it’s content to provide some minor filler between more suitable entries.


    Full Moon Features brings Puppet Master: The Legacy to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. The film itself is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. When the disc is popped in, a promo for Full Moon’s streaming service on Amazon immediately plays, after which the menu screen appears. Before the film itself can be played, the following note pops onto the screen: “Note that Puppet Master: The Legacy master is presented totally uncut in HD using the original 35mm negative but, due to the fact that some of that negative was lost over time, the original SD release and Digit-Beta videotape master were also used in order to fully restore the film. This release stands as the definitive version.” The weaker footage comes from the wraparound story, which also interrupts the flashbacks on occasion. Clearly upconverted from an SD source, these scenes contain jagged edge lines and a distinct lack of detail. The colors tend toward amber, in part because of the lighting, though the low-grade source of the materials doesn’t help. The footage that comes from past movies is culled directly from the transfers used for those films’ Blu-ray releases. Anyone who has seen a Full Moon Feature on Blu will know that the company’s transfers tend toward terrific, and the Puppet Master movies are no exception. The result is that most of Puppet Master: The Legacy looks fantastic, very filmic with an organic layer of grain and an excess of detail. Colors are strong; just look at the dark red—almost black—blood that flows during the ample kill scenes. The film is placed on a BD25, but given the relative lack of extras and the short length of the feature, there are no compression issues to report.

    Full Moon has opted for an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that’s a little more than adequate. Dialogue is consistently clear, even when sound effects or the score are in full play, and the mix is decent enough, if a little underwhelming. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options provided for the deaf or hearing impaired, nor are there any commentaries. Strangely, the disc’s onscreen info mislabels the soundtrack as Dutch, but make no mistake about it: It’s definitely in English with no other language options available.

    There are a few extras, including a short featurette, “No Strings Attached,” which runs a little over seven minutes, is in full frame, and is in standard definition. Billing itself as “a behind the scenes look at Puppet Master,” it was originally included on the Puppet Master (1989) Blu-ray. It traces the beginnings of Full Moon’s most popular franchise and features interviews with various members of the crew, from the director to the men working on the special effects.

    Finally, a round of trailers includes Evil Bong 666 (2017), Ravenwolf Towers (2016-2017), Puppet Master (1989), Puppet Master II (1990), Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991), Retro Puppet Master (1999), Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017), and Specters (2012). These trailers can be accessed individually.

    The Final Word:

    Puppet Master: The Legacy is the worst film in the Puppet Master series, thanks in no small part to the fact that most of its running time is made up of past films, all of them superior to what we see here. Still, the transfer on the parts of the film culled from other sources look fantastic, even if the new footage does not. Completists will want to add the film to their collection; casual viewers would do better to stay away.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!