[Sidenote: I’ve discussed this film before with its director David DeCoteau here. So if you want some additional background info, feel free to check it out the interview]
Puppet Master 3 is, in my opinion, the best film of the entire franchise. I’m not alone in that opinion either; go check out the love this film has from its fans on sites like imdb.com or Rotten Tomatoes. It’s no surprise that it comes from one of my favorite genre directors, David DeCoteau, and I’ve often stated that I feel this is his best film. While it does have the fan expectations and trademarks one expects, the killer puppets, it does provide a very human story about Andre Toulon. With excellent performances by Guy Rolfe, Richard Lynch, and the whole cast really, the film is elevated to something more than just a direct-to-video genre flick. To me, Puppet Master 3 is a real movie; this film has meaning and purpose. Whether that was intended or not, it’s how I’ve always viewed Puppet Master 3 since I first watched it.
Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge, is a prequel (the first of many this franchise has). Instead of the murderous puppets in service of an insane master, we have the tale of a loving and gentle Andre Toulon (Guy Rolfe). Set in Germany at the dawn of the Second World War, Andre Toulon uses his animated puppets to entertain children but also make political commentary about Hitler. His activity comes to the attention of Major Kraus (Richard Lynch), a gestappo officer who is currently seeking a way to re-animate dead Nazis. Thinking he’s found that answer in Andre’s puppets, he murders Toulon’s wife, Elsa, and attempts to capture the formula. “Toulon’s Revenge” is, more-or-less, justified; Major Kraus is a cruel, evil man and deserves what he gets. Toulon and his puppets are the heroes.
It is significant that we have this change from the puppets as murderous villains into the tools for justified vengeance. The ending of the film promises the return of these characters in “When Bad Puppets Turn Good.” While we never got an official film with that title, the general idea of “Bad Puppets Turn Good” that started with Puppet Master 3 continues through most of the other films in this franchise. Indeed, the tragic figure of THIS Andre Toulon is the standard, putting its predecessors in a rather awkward position with regards to character continuity. The evil Toulon we see in Puppet Master 2 can’t be the same one here, but we never do get a reason behind that. Toulon was a good guy, fled from tragedy in Germany, then killed himself in a moment of helplessness when the Nazis caught up with him in Bodega Bay. Where did the later evil come from? As you’ll find out later, continuity is not the strongest point of this franchise.
Puppet Master 3, being the same years as part 2, was Full Moon at its height – financially, critically and artistically. The Full Moon catalog of the early 90’s has some wonderful films. Recognizable names came out of this era: David S. Goyer (writer: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) wrote Full Moon’s Demonic Toys in 1992. Matthew Bright (director: Freeway, Freeway 2) wrote Full Moon’s Shrunken Heads. And, Puppet Master 3‘s David DeCoteau is among my favorite working directors – but I’ll have plenty more to say about later as DeCoteau directed more Puppet Master films than any other director.