Puppet Master II (1991)

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“We have only a short time left to distil the fluid. And then—then—think of it! Another half century as Toulon’s miraculous stringless marionettes!”

 

[aka Puppet Master II: His Unholy Creations]

Director:  David Allen

Starring:  Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Steve Welles, Nita Talbot, Charlie Spradling, Gregory Webb, Jeff Weston (Jeff Celentano), George “Buck” Flower, Sage Allen, Ivan J. Rado

Screenplay:  David Pabian, based upon a story by Charles Band

 

 

Synopsis:  In the Shady Oaks Cemetery behind the Bodega Bay Inn, puppets Jester, Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler and Leech Woman open the grave of their creator, Andre Toulon. Pinhead pours a green liquid into the coffin, and a figure stirs… A paranormal research team from the United States Bureau of Investigation arrives at the Bodega Bay Inn. To her annoyance, team leader Carolyn Bramwell (Elizabeth Maclellan) finds that her set of keys will not open the door. With a guilty twinge, Carolyn asks her recently-paroled brother, Patrick (Gregory Webb), to try breaking in, which he does without difficulty. Carolyn, Lance (Jeff Celentano) and Wanda (Charlie Spradling) carry their gear into the building. When Lance teases Wanda over her evident nervousness, she retorts that the last visitor to the inn, Alex Whitaker, saw something that drove him out of his mind. As Wanda and Lance set up their equipment, Patrick takes measurements of the rooms, reporting that none of the dimensions add up. Carolyn confirms that the place is full of secret passages, relating how the inn was originally built by an eccentric old woman expressly for the purpose of drawing supernatural entities. Meanwhile, professional psychic Camille (Nita Talbot) stops to ask directions to the inn of a farmer, Mathew (George “Buck” Flower), and his wife, Martha (Sage Allen). She finds them putting up an electric fence, and learns that some of their livestock has been killed and mutilated, the animals’ brains cut out. That night, Camille annoys the other team members by scoffing at their faith in their technology. As Lance steers Camille out of the room on the pretext of making coffee, Carolyn defends her inclusion in their study, insisting that she is no fake. Over dinner, Camille tells the others of her sense that a great violence was committed at the inn. Carolyn reveals that the last owner of the inn was horribly murdered, her brain being drawn out through her nose; and that the investigation of that murder also uncovered the prior disappearance of a team of psychics, and the mental collapse of the soul survivor. Patrick, who has been drinking heavily, sneers at and insults Camille, who withdraws, offended. The next morning, a contrite Patrick apologises to Carolyn. Carolyn tells him of the suicide of Andre Toulon, the great puppet master, who was pursued by the Nazis to America, and shot himself to avoid falling into their hands. A scream then rings through the inn; a terrified Camille insists that she saw two tiny, demonic figures, one with a knife. The others investigate, but find nothing. Camille declares her intention of leaving immediately, but she does not make it away from the inn… Puzzled by Camille’s disappearance, Carolyn phones the psychic’s son, Michael (Collin Bernsen), asking him to contact her if he hears from his mother. As Lance keeps watch over the team’s bank of monitors, he suddenly sees a doll-like object moving by itself. Lance and Wanda raise the alarm and rush upstairs, where the heavily inebriated Patrick is falling bloody victim to Tunneler and his drill…

Comments:  There are some things that I like about Puppet Master II – although not necessarily in a good way – and some things that I hate. Overall my impression is negative, though, chiefly because this first sequel gives us an Andre Toulon risen from the dead who WILL NOT SHUT UP. More on that anon.

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No kidding.

Evidently, no-one at Full Moon Entertainment was in any doubt as to why someone might be watching this first of a mind-boggling eleven sequels to 1989’s Puppet Master, perhaps the most successful of all the externalisations of Charles Band’s unhealthy obsession with small scuttling things. The puppets show themselves in the opening seconds, intent upon the neglected grave of Andre Toulon in the Shady Oaks Cemetery behind the equally neglected Bodega Bay Inn.

Of course, this plot turn implies that there was a functioning cemetery directly behind the then-swanky resort in 1939, when Toulon blew his own brains out rather than have the secret of his puppets fall into Nazi hands. (I’d’ve thought that the Nazis would have had more pressing matters on their hands in 1939, but what do I know?) Hard to think that the patrons of the Bodega Bay Inn would really have been offered a choice between water and cemetery views. Well, perhaps they just didn’t notice the boneyard out the back. After all, they didn’t seem to notice the foot-high self-ambulatory puppets…

Anyway, the puppets open up Toulon’s grave, and Tunneler pours into it an icky greenish liquid. Two decayed – and themselves fairly puppet-like – arms reach up…and cue credits; and as we listen to Richard Band’s calliope-ish theme music, another thing about these films I do like (it struck me on this viewing that there was a similarity between this and some of the Harry Potter scores, am I right?), we learn that special effects maven David Allen has been promoted into the director’s chair. From the point of view of the puppets themselves, this was a wise artistic choice: as they were in the first film, the little guys are extremely well realised, through a combination of conventional puppetry, stop motion, animatronics and some stand-in effects (i.e. Pinhead’s hands). However, while we understand the impulse to focus most of the production efforts on the puppets, this decision had the side-effect of leaving the human actors without the kind of guidance that, all too clearly, they were sorely in need of.

Speaking of whom, most of our human characters show up next, and we get the film’s first big guffaw as we are treated to a close-up of the logo that spells out for us the alleged qualifications of Our Heroes.

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The gang.

It will later be asserted that paranormal research is only funded to, “Keep a small segment of the public amused” (yup, that’s how government funding works, all right). I guess that explains why the almighty Bureau Of Investigation employs this bunch of bozos. Carolyn Bramwell, in charge, is the only remotely professional one in the crew, and that’s only because this film goes for the much-cherished “female scientist who learns to be a real woman” trope. With her are the loutish Lance, the team’s electronics specialist, and Wanda, whose qualifications are a complete mystery. (Actually, given that Wanda is played by Charlie Spradling, I guess that’s not strictly true.) The final crew-member is Carolyn’s brother Patrick, recently paroled into his sister’s custody, and immediately pressed into service by her when the keys to the Bodega Inn, given to her by her government superiors, don’t work, and she needs Patrick to break in. Charming.

Sequels that re-write their predecessors are nothing new, of course, and goodness knows Puppet Master left enough loose ends scattered around, but we are still inclined to raise our eyebrows at this film’s twisting of what we understood from the previous entry. We quickly realise that despite the familiar establishing shot of the Bodega Bay Inn, the entire geography of the building and its surroundings has changed between films, a reworking of which the backyard cemetery is merely the most obvious manifestation. More important is the unexpected outcome to Alex Whitaker’s participation in the first film: last seen having recovered from his experiences at the Inn, exchanging hugs with fellow-survivor Megan Gallagher, we now learn that, “Alex Whitaker did see something that drove him out of his mind.” Moreover, we later hear how “an entire group of psychics” disappeared; that Alex was subsequently institutionalised suffering “terrible seizures; premonitions”; and that the previous owner—presumably Megan, but not named—was gruesomely murdered. (Oddly, given this framework, there is no suggestion that Alex murdered the others.)

Our intrepid investigators begin setting up, and almost immediately, scuttling and fluttering noises are heard, and there is an odd bit of business concerning Wanda and what looks like a poor man’s reproduction of the Maltese Falcon, which is later found shattered on the floor, a greenish stain on the wall above.

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Nothing builds up your hopes for a film like a spelling error within its first 30 seconds.

As Wanda and Lance organise their equipment, Patrick takes measurements, confirming the presence of numerous hidden passageways, some of them very narrow, and Carolyn picks up the exposition baton (and the rewriting pen) by describing the Inn’s origins, wherein we learn that the what was previously presented as a perfectly normal, functioning resort-hotel, which just happened to acquire a mysterious guest, was in fact built (as per the apartment building in Ghostbusters) specifically to attract paranormal entities after the land’s owner was informed of the area’s “mystical aura” by “a fascinating Egyptian”.

Oooh! That’s funny: I just got the strangest cold chill down my back. Hmm…

Meanwhile, the rest of our human cast is showing itself. Professional psychic Camille Kenney (played by Nita Talbot, last seen around these parts in Amityville VI), invited to join the investigation by Carolyn, stops to ask directions from a farmer busy displaying his level of intelligence by putting up an electrical barbed wire fence while wearing no sort of protective equipment. From Mathew and his wife, Martha, Camille learns of a series of animal mutilations, the perpetrator having ripped his victims’ heads open and, well, as Mathew elegantly puts it, “Et their brains!” Martha sends Camille on her way with a warning about the Inn, where “Satan has a suite of rooms”, apparently, and where there are certain pervasive odours. “You ever smell roasted entrails, lady?” Martha bellows as Camille drives away.

Up at the Inn, the battle lines are being drawn between “science” and “feeling”, and even at this early stage we know that poor old science is going to take its lumps again, not least because after about six lines of dialogue we already have Carolyn pegged as full of professional regrets. Here she defends Camille, explaining her decision to invite her by saying, “She’s no fraud. I’m hoping she’ll tune into something that a scientist wouldn’t.” Yup, because we’re all so closed-minded and emotionally shut off. Poor pathetic things.

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A subsidiary of Generica, Inc.

The next day, Patrick pretends to make himself useful by scouting about and taking photographs. His wanderings lead with through the, ahem, “cemetary”, and to Andre Toulon’s open grave. (Where the headstone inexplicably reads “1941”, by which time, I’m very sure the Nazis would have had more pressing matters on their hands.) Later, over dinner, we hear about Alex Whitaker and the fate of the Inn’s previous owner, who had her brain extracted through her nose. “As in Egyptian mummification?” exclaims Camille.

Ooo-oooh!! There’s that chill again! What is that?

During this conversation, Patrick, drinking heavily, insults Camille before staggering off. Carolyn apologises for him, making a little speech about their drunken father, which I’m sure is meant to be all very poignant in light of events to follow, but just made me think of A Fish Called Wanda. (Wanda: “He had a really rough childhood. Dad used to beat him up.” Ken: “Good!”) The next morning, Patrick is properly apologetic, and invites Carolyn to exposit some more. She tells him about Andre Toulon’s fate, and he in turn remarks on the opened grave he found. They are interrupted by a scream from upstairs, and Camille runs downstairs speaking agitatedly about “two horrible little demons”. The investigators rush up to her room where they find—two disgustingly cutesy room-decoration dolls.

(Those things make me scream, too.)

Much snickering ensues, while Camille, in high dudgeon, announces her intention of leaving immediately. She advises the others to do the same, warning them that they are all in danger as long as they stay in the house. She is packing when the lights in her room dim, leaving only what I assume is meant to be a bust of Andre Toulon illuminated; and she is inviting it to speak to her when Pinhead and Jester sneak up on her. (It is one of this film’s strengths that Jester plays a more active role.) Pinhead grabs Camille by the leg and tips her over, and the unavoidable physical realities of the situation (damn you, Science!!) are danced around by having Camille hit her head so hard on the floor that she is left only semi-conscious, allowing Jester to gag her before Pinhead drags her away and essentially out of the film. Half her luck.

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More or less humiliating than death by demonic nappy service?

Camille’s, ahem, “disappearance” – “To leave all her things behind! She must have been more upset than I realised!” (not to mention the half-packed suitcase on the bed; bright, these scientists) – leads Carolyn to make phone contact with her son, Michael Kenney, during which the joint diagnosis is “eccentricity”. That night, Lance is manning the monitors when Wanda starts demonstrating her wide range of professional talents by serving coffee and then groping him. This, understandably, distracts Lance, but he does eventually notice on one of the monitors that a door that was closed is now open. (Why would you point a camera at the bottom of one unimportant door?) Lance rewinds the film, and he and Wanda gasp as they watch the footage of a small figure creeping into Patrick’s room. It’s Tunneler—and his top-secret tippy-toe walk here is quite hilarious.

Patrick has been hitting the bottle hard again, which is the next explanation for why someone would just lie there as a homicidal puppet climbs up onto his bed and starts drilling through his skull. Lance and Wanda burst in and drag Tunneler off, and Lance whomps him with a lamp base, but it is too late for Patrick.

(Pardon me for mentioning it, but if you’re trying to extract certain brain material, is drilling into someone’s skull really the best way of killing them?)

Aaaaaaand then we get one of my very favourite sections of the whole film. Evidently, one of the perks of working for the Bureau Of Investigation’s Paranormal Research Office is the right completely to ignore legal procedure, if and when it suits. Having had one of their members killed, and in the process captured and dissected a self-ambulatory puppet, and decided that, “It must run chemically, somehow”, as well as taking some hilariously primitive computer scans of Tunneler’s internal workings (and what, exactly, did they take those with?), you’d think that these paranormal researchers would consider their job completed, or at least that it was time to call for some back-up, right? Wrong. Not only do they not leave, they don’t see any necessity for reporting Patrick’s death to the proper authorities. Instead, they just shove his body into the Inn’s cold storage room and carry on without missing a beat.

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“Shh! Be vewy, vewy quiet! I’m hunting jerks!”

Carolyn is of course shattered by Patrick’s death, and all the more so because – gasp! – science is letting her down. “What is this thing? It’s gotta be subject to physical laws!” she cries in despair, poking at Tunneler’s innards. This scene is interrupted when the door swings open to admit—well, what?

Andre Toulon is the short answer, although the bandage-swathed, black-clad figure seems to be part Phantom Of The Opera and part Invisible Man, with just a dash of Darkman. In any case, he introduces himself as “Eriquee Chaneé” (a name that Lance will pronounce carefully as Chaney, presumably for the benefit of the thickos in the audience), in a way which creates another issue. I’m no expert on this franchise, but I got the impression from the first film that Toulon was French. His back-story here suggests that he was German. In either case, his accent is pure Lugosi—and we will hear a lot of it before the merciful rolling of the credits. In Puppet Master, the puppets were left to their own devices for most of the time, which was just fine and dandy. Here they interact with their resurrected master, who talks at them – and talks – and talks. And all of it in that stupid accent, and all of it in that florid pseudo-courtly way that screenwriters seem to think reflects “the past”. It’s brutal.

Everyone exchanges introductions – here Carolyn declares her team to be from “the U.S. Office of Paranormal Claims”, which makes them sound like accountants – and Chaneé declares himself the legal owner of the house, although he doesn’t happen to have any proof to hand. He further insists that he only returned to the house an hour earlier, having been in Bucharest. (A little Full Moon in-joke, we assume.) He invites the investigators to stay as his guests, insisting only that they stay away from his private rooms—where, of course, they will not wish to go, as Bluebeard once declared with equal perspicacity.

And no sooner has Chaneé withdrawn than another stranger arrives. (I’m not sure the Bodega Bay Inn was this patronised in its heyday.) This time it’s Michael Kenney, who has come to report that Camille is still missing. He and Carolyn immediately start making goo-goo eyes at each other, while she makes an attempt to explain what the hell’s been going on, before inviting him to stay. (Nothing makes me want to stay at a place more than a vacancy created by a little brain-drilling…)

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Puppetopsy.

Hey, remember Mathew and Martha? Don’t worry if not, they won’t be with us much longer. Martha wakes one night to find Leech Woman digging into Mathew’s open skull with her little knife (evidently, trepanning is simple and painless). Martha shrieks and fights back, and manages to take Leech Woman out on a permanent basis, catching her up and tossing her into the pot-belly stove—and, let’s face it, thereby doing the franchise a favour.

However, this is the beginning and end of Martha’s success, as a new puppet takes Leech Woman’s place: Torch, who has a WWI helmet, little glowing eyes, and a flamethrower for an arm (!). Martha has the shotgun trained on Torch, but – as people in movies will do – just stands there talking and gawping as he raises his arm… Blade then hacks open the skull of Martha’s toasty remains.

The worst of the Chaneé monologues start here, although initially they do at least serve the purpose of filling in the blanks in the film’s scenario. The secret of the puppets turns out to be a Mysterious Coloured Fluid kept – yup! – in a Conical Flask, the key ingredient of which turns out to be a certain portion of the human brain, something he calls the “digeneral lobe”. (Djeneral lobe?? I don’t know. Anyone got subtitles?) The puppets used the last of their fluid to revive their maker, and are now weakening as a consequence, the fluid needing renewal every fifty years. Jester in particular is suffering, and makes many unhappy faces as his strength drains away.

(I’m personally dumbstruck by the fact that, with only enough fluid available to bring a couple of the puppets to full strength, they used some of it on Leech Woman!?)

Torch and Blade return with what was carved out of Martha (did they not pick up that piece of Mathew’s brain extracted by Leech Woman?), only to have Chaneé reject it on the grounds that, “It’s been cooked! You must learn to utilise your talents more conservatively,” he admonishes Torch. Of course, one could point out that if you need your materials raw, building a killer puppet armed with a flamethrower might not have been the best idea.

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Nothing in the franchise became her so well as the leaving of it.

Clutching a scroll, Chaneé then launches into a speech about the animating the life-force, something that will be achieved by the combination of the brain tissue with “the timeless secrets of Osiris”…pronounced “Oss-uh-russ”.

Chaneé concedes that they have only a short time left in which to distil the fluid that will restore them all, but tries to motivate the troops by encouraging them to think of their future: “Another half-century as Toulon’s miraculous stringless marionettes!”

I dunno. Perhaps I’m lacking in team spirit, but I’m not so sure that prospect would inspire me.

The puppets tucked safely into their carrying-case, Chaneé crosses the room to gaze sadly at the picture of a woman; a woman who just happens to look a great deal like Carolyn Bramwell. “We are together again, my enchanting wife!” he sighs.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What did I say?? WHAT did I say!!??

Actually, I can tell you exactly what I said:

“…for decades afterwards, the reincarnation of an ancient love would become the prop of choice for far too many lazy screenwriters, unable to create a convincing relationship between two characters who are nevertheless supposed to be “in love”, or to think up another kind of link between the heroine and the bad guy, and with a random reference to Egypt tossed in by way of explaining yet another re-hash of this now tiresome cliché; so that these days, the mere use of the word “Egypt” in a horror film is enough to set the knowledgeable viewer shuddering in anticipation…”

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NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

And you’ll never get a better – or worse – example of that than right here. Overlooking for the moment that Chaneé did not so much as twitch upon first laying eyes on Carolyn, there is nothing in the flashback we’re all about to endure – oh, yes: you don’t think you’re getting out of a “reincarnated lost love” story without a flashback, do you? – to suggest that the relationship between Toulon and his wife, Elsa, is the kind of la grande passione that might end in this state of affairs. If anything, on the contrary.

And another thing! Ever notice how in these stories, it’s always the woman who gets reincarnated, and the man who dabbles in black art immortality? That’s odd considering that the origin of this particular chestnut is certainly H. Rider Haggard’s She, wherein an immortal woman met the reincarnation of her lost love in the form of Englishman Leo Vincey. I suppose the lesson here is that cinema has more staying power than literature: clearly, it was the gender-inverted version of this situation in The Mummy that embedded itself in the collective consciousness.

Anyway – I guess we can’t dodge this any longer – Chaneé sinks into a chair and gazes up at a poster from the 1912 Cairo Expedition, advertising Toulon and his “Miraculous Stringless Mephistopheles” in a production of Faust. (One nice touch: Mephistopheles is a clear prototype for Blade.) The biggest laugh of the film comes here as, during Toulon’s performance, the camera pans down to a couple of watching kids, bored witless by the whole thing. These two, by far the best performers in the film after the puppets, are played by Taryn and Alex Band, Charles’ kids.

As the dissatisfied audience begins to drift away, a mysterious figure watches from the back, and his eyes light up (the “Lugosi spotlight”, to go along with the Lugosi accent). The next instant, the little puppet theatre bursts into flames, as Toulon cries out in horror. The mysterious stranger later invites Toulon and Elsa to his – tent? stall? – and demonstrates for them “the most sensational secret that science has revealed since the unholy desecration of Ramses’ tomb”, a tiny figure that he keeps chained up under a kind of bird cage, and which goes via the official name of Djinn the Homunculus.

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I think they speak for all of us.

“It’s horrible!” exclaims Toulon—and as usual, at that exact moment I was thinking, “Aww, how adorable!”

The stranger offers Toulon the figure’s secrets, sneering that the “artificial enchantments” of his marionettes belong to, “Last century!” Ooh, ouch! “I am an artist, not a sorcerer!” retorts Toulon. The stranger persists, though, his eyes drifting to Elsa, arguing what a tragedy it would be if the great Toulon ended up nothing more than a “shabby carnival player”.

This provokes Elsa, and, hoo boy, if I thought Steve Welles’ accent was bad, it isn’t a patch on Elizabeth Maclellan’s attempt to sound—German? Romanian? Transylvanian? Damned if I know. Anyway, she and the stranger, eyeing each other suggestively, engage in the film’s most hilarious exchange:

Stranger:  “Think of the children!”
Elsa:  “Yes – think of them!”
Stranger:  “Think of the children!”
Elsa:  “Do it for the children!”

I imagine this scene was funny enough when the film was first released, but post-Helen Lovejoy, it’s a killer.

Oddly, we then fade back to the present, leaving us none the wiser as to why the stranger destroyed Toulon’s puppets, why he offered him the great secret, or what was going on between the stranger and Elsa. Possibly these things are addressed further on in the franchise, but at the moment it’s one big WHA—!?

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C’mon, who’s with me??

What follows is simultaneously the most notorious and the most inexplicable scene in the whole film, as our camera stumbles over a small boy on a camping trip, playing in the woods with his, ahem, action figure, which he…

…uh…

…strips to the waist and whips. Really. And then, catching sight of Torch, lurking in the bushes, he gives a cry of, “Cool!” and dismisses his poor action figure with a contemptuous kick to the side.

Hands up who thinks this is going to end well?

The only thing more unnerving then the action here is the dialogue: first uttering, “Die, Nazi scum!” to his toy, the kid goes on to announce to Torch, “I’m the big star of the movie! I’m Indiana Jones! I’m the director! Do as I say! Move!”

Who exactly this was intended as a shot at (Spielberg? Band? Allen?) is doomed to remain a mystery, however, because the little monster accompanies his words with a whip blow to the other little monster. Naturally, Torch raises his arm…

(On this viewing I came out of this scene with a great idea for a new Toy Story movie…)

Meanwhile— Carolyn and Michael are in town searching fruitlessly for Camille, and we get my other favourite part of this film. Now, as a scientist, I’m quite accustomed to having my career choice dissed by everyone from serial killers to professional naval lint pickers, but in this respect Puppet Master II might just take the cake.

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What does it say about a film when the gratuitous killing of a small child is the best part of it?

Michael takes Carolyn to sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and when she expresses appreciation, he agrees that, “It’s not found under any microscope.” Because, yep, that’s all that all scientists do, all the time: they sit there eight hours a day staring down a microscope. Particularly the paranormal researchers.

And what does Mr Kenney himself do for a living? He writes westerns—even though, “What I know about the real west wouldn’t fill half a page.” Nevertheless, Carolyn is shamed by this into the usual female scientist confession / justification / apology:

“I grew up as a competitor; pushed myself into a government job because I wanted the structure.”

Well, yes, that certainly explains why you ended up as a paranormal investigator. But wait! There’s more!

“Maybe I need to re-think it all! Do something meaningful, instead of putting scientific tags on nightmares!”

Having thusly revealed herself A Real Woman, and not just An Unemotional Scientist, Carolyn is permitted to cry over Patrick, and of course ends up in Michael’s willing arms.

Nevertheless, late the same night we find Carolyn working feverishly at the computer, declaring, when Wanda tries to persuade her to go to bed, that, “I have to solve this thing!” (It’s a well-known scientific fact that if you just bang on a QWERTY long enough, you can solve anything.) She does decides to take a break, though, and a painfully dragged out Chaneé / Carolyn /  Michael scene follows (please, God, make them bring back the puppets!), which concludes with Carolyn blurting to Michael, “I just feel so alone!”, which is evidently Nice Girl Speak for, “Sex, please!” So, at least, we conclude from what follows. But since Carolyn has established herself as both A Real Woman and A Nice Girl, she is permitted a discreet, woman-on-top, filmed-from-behind sex scene, and it is left to Wanda to provide some cheap thrills by flashing her boobs.

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Charlie Spradling: the girl who put the full moon in Full Moon Entertainent.

Blade and Jester return from another hunting expedition, and in the course of more needless rambling, Chaneé does comment on the fact (apropos of not much) that using animal brains, or pre-deceased human brains, in the fluid would be disastrous—leading to a funny little moment when Blade “silences” Torch with a knife gesture: what, did he think Torch was going to say something?

Chaneé orders the puppets to kill everyone else but Carolyn—particularly Michael. They learn at this point that Carolyn will be “joining them”, and don’t look best pleased. I don’t blame them.

Bloody murder later can only mean pointless sex now; and sure enough, Wanda has abandoned her duties to join Lance in his bed. As Lance showers, Wanda first lies topless on the bed, face down; then turns over; then gets up; then – slowly – puts a shirt on.

Well. That was gratuitous.

After a spat encompassing Lane “hosing off” after sex and Wanda coming upstairs before Carolyn’s return to her post, Wanda leaves. Immediately, she hears odd noises from the room behind her and returns to find Lance dead on the bed, his throat cut by Blade; the discreet cutaway presumably intended to disguise the fact that a full-grown, fully conscious man was overcome by a single puppet in a matter of seconds.

Wanda screams and backs away as Blade comes for her; and here we have one of the defining moments in the history of Full Moon Entertainment, as Wanda in her panic knocks over a lamp—

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We don’t need no stinkin’ re-takes!

Meanwhile, oblivious to all this, a post-coital Carolyn sees from a window that Chaneé is out of the house, and decides to search his rooms—first throwing around her shoulders one of those flimsy wraps that for some reason I’ve never quite been able to fathom, counts as a woman “putting something on”. The fact that Chaneé’s attic room is filled with puppets fails to tell Carolyn all she needs to know, and she continues to poke around. She has just discovered two adult-sized mannequins in the cupboard when, naturally, Chaneé catches her.

Carolyn’s scream wakes Michael – which Wanda’s scream didn’t; that’s what you get for showing your boobs – and inadvertently saves him from Torch, who has just entered the room. Puppet Master II does something unusual with its nudity here. First, when Michael tumbles out of bed, to their credit he is completely naked. Now, it’s not that I particularly want to look at anyone’s butt, but I do get very tired of movie sex scenes that end with the man getting out of bed wearing pants. Here, strangely, they flip the convention, with Michael nekkid – and having to fight a fire that way! owie!! – Wanda in knickers (no top though), and Carolyn somehow emerging from bed wearing a teddy, despite previous evidence to the contrary.

Michael extinguishes the fire before dragging his jeans on and rushing off to the rescue, and his civic-mindedness earns him a Hero’s Death Battle Exemption – actually, several of them – as after escaping the burst of flame in the first place, he now manages to take Torch out with a fire extinguisher before winning a wrestling match with Pinhead. He is fighting off Blade when the door of a dumb-waiter nearby suddenly raises up to reveal Camille’s dead body, which is being moved somewhere by Jester. Michael battles on anyway, and manages to toss Blade down the shaft before running up to the attic.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Carolyn is trussed up and being forced to listen to Chaneé’s ranting about Elsa, his own death, and the puppets resurrecting him. (For the first time, I sympathise with her.) “Then—then I saw you! It made all my suffering worth it!” he announces. Yeah… Face it, Steve: you’re no Boris Karloff.

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SCIENCE!!

Then – finally – Chaneé stops talking, and we get the most effective non-puppet scene in the film as Chaneé transfers his life essence into the male mannequin. First placing a glass funnel in the mannequin’s mouth, Chaneé drinks down the potion containing the extracted brain material, and then cuts his own throat…so that the blood gushes into the funnel, and then into the mannequin. As Chaneé’s dry husk of a body collapses, the mannequin stands up—and speaks in Chaneé’s voice. “Only a moment of pain, and then—immortality!”

Give it up, Steve…

While this has been going on, the puppets have had time to converge on the attic. They are just in time to witness the effects of those substitute animal brains – nothing major: Chaneé brays like a mule – and to be abused by him as, “Filthy swine!” And then Chaneé breaks it to them that after all their efforts, they won’t be benefitting from the fluid at all, because he’s promised the rest of it to Carolyn / Elsa.

“Of course, you will wither into dry wood…but you have given me back my wife!” he announces cheerfully.

Masterminds Of The World, #672 in a series.

Anyway, Michael finally shows up just as Chaneé is trying to force the remainder of the fluid down Carolyn’s throat. Chaneé holds him off by threatening Carolyn, and this distraction allows Jester to claim the precious final goblet. With the fluid safe, the rest of the puppets turn on their former master and give him the ass-kicking he so richly deserves. As Michael and Carolyn flee, Pinhead knocks Chaneé to the ground, and Blade rips his leg open (watery green goop gushing forth). Pinhead then swings Chaneé’s own walking-stick at his hand, which shatters at a blow, spewing forth still more icky green stuff.

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They really hate Michael…

So…Chaneé’s great plan for immortality involved transferring his life essence into something so weak and brittle, it breaks under the slightest assault? Oh, bravo, sir! A masterful scheme! [*insert slow, sarcastic clapping*] Actually, I’m not surprised. We are, after all, dealing with an exponent of Egyptian mysticism who can’t even pronounce “Osiris” properly.

Chaneé staggers up, looking sadly at his empty sleeve. Torch closes in and, well, that’s that, really. Except that – tradition dictating that anyone set on fire must plunge out of a window – Chaneé plunges out of a window.

The puppets, left to their own devices, start closing in on Camille’s dead body, and the female mannequin…

We visit briefly with Michael and Carolyn – she, naturally, has quit her job – before we get one of my favourite all time examples of the Pointless Kicker Ending, as a van painted with ads for “Miss Camille’s Happily Ever After Puppet Show” pulls over at the side of a lonely highway. It is being driven by the female mannequin, who is dressed as a party clown, and the puppets are on board. Checking a map, the mannequin determines that they should have “turned left at the crossroads”, the same mistake that Camille made at the beginning. (More consideration for the thickos.)

Speaking in an odd, stiff, almost-English voice, the mannequin announces their destination to be, “The Balderston Institute For The Mentally Troubled Tots And Teens” (!!!!). “Good therapy for the little brats! We’ll have lots of fun—and if anyone sees anything unusual, well, who’d believe a lot of institutionalised delinquents? All right: back to the crossroads!” And then they drive off in the same direction they were already travelling.

Says it all, really.

pmt91-end1b  pmt91-end2b
pmt91-end3b  pmt91-end4b
As plans for achieving immortality go, his went.

Puppet Master II is on the whole an improvement on its predecessor. As usual, it’s the human stuff that’s the problem. There’s a lot less padding in this film than in Puppet Master itself, which is to the good—or would be, if what they give us in its place wasn’t quite so much of Eriquee Chaneé’s soliloquising…and if the point to all this (using the term loosely) wasn’t to serve up a fourth-rate re-make of The Mummy. And if we had any doubt about that being intentional, it is banished with that final reference to “the Balderston Institute”. It is this subplot’s one tiny saving grace that Carolyn denies she is Elsa, and insists it’s just a chance resemblance.

But I guess the character material is simply something to be borne with; heaven knows, it’s not the humans – or even the undead – that we’re here to see. The puppet action is all excellently staged – barring, perhaps, the fight scenes, which are certainly the hardest to make credible – and our little stars are permitted to do a variety of actions, achieved through a variety of techniques. No complaints there.

Just the same…eleven sequels does seem a tad excessive…

It occurs to me than in some ways, Charles Band is rather like a junkie stuck in a vicious circle: forced, in order to fund his own addiction, to suck in and drag down the rest of us, too; and if what he’s pushing isn’t quite as harmful as what you might find out on the streets—it isn’t particularly good for us, either…

pmt91-kicker1b
“I say, we’ve been nominated for Most Pointless Kicker Ending! Well done, chaps!”

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8 Responses to Puppet Master II (1991)

  1. therevdd says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think the mannequin make-up in this movie is creepy as hell. Admittedly, I seem to have a thing about living/moving mannequins (I find Tourist Trap to be more effective on me than it objectively should be, for example).

    This was my first of the series; as such, I have a soft spot for it. Although, honestly, it’s one of the better ones in the series by any reasonable measure, for better or worse. While the two with the fantastic Totems are probably about even with it to my mind, I really only prefer one of the other entries over this one, but that’s a story for another review.

    Which I’m about to go read right now!

    Like

  2. Doug Hudson says:

    From certain angles Torch looks reminiscent of Bender (the toothy grin, the pointed helmet / antenna, etc.) Just a coincidence, I’m sure, but it does add some additional amusement–especially when Torch cocks an eyebrow at the whip kid!

    Like

  3. RogerBW says:

    I was thinking less Ghostbusters and more Winchester Mystery House. But that would have been too interesting.

    Another reason not to have that logo on the van: every nutter who sees it will want to tell you about how the ghosts are talking inside his head.

    Well… drilling into the skull lets you kill them and extract the brain matter in one convenient (if messy) action?

    Toulon was French, but his resurrection turned him German. Happens all the time.

    Like

    • Dawn says:

      I went on a tour of the Winchester Mystery house, and it is beautiful. The tour guide tried to play up the supernatural side as much as he could, but I just enjoyed the architecture. The only really strange thing about it is the room that you enter by one door, and can only leave by another door. I think they had their séances in that room.
      The rest of the house may be a little eccentric, but not really out of the ordinary.

      Like

      • Dawn says:

        Actually, I just read a book about ‘haunted places’, and that whole story is a myth, which was first stated in 1895, while she was still alive. The lady just liked to build and remodel (possibly to avoid inviting guests to stay). The author suggested that the idea of a rich single lady bothered a lot of people, so they invented a reason to call her crazy.

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    • lyzmadness says:

      drilling into the skull lets you kill them and extract the brain matter in one convenient (if messy) action?

      Except that he’s drilling exactly where we see Leech Woman cutting a piece out of Matthew’s brain…

      Like

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