REVIEW: PUPPET MASTER

CAST

Paul Le Mat (American Graffiti)
William Hickey (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Irene Miracle (Midnight Express)
Jimmie F. Skaggs (Catch Me If You Can)
Robin Frates (Man’s best Friend)
Barbara Crompton (The Sisterhood)

imagesIn 1939 Bodega Bay, California, an old puppeteer named André Toulon is putting the finishing touches on a living puppet named Jester. A living oriental puppet, named Shredder Khan, stares out of the window for Blade. Meanwhile, Blade scouts the grounds of the Bodega Bay Inn that André is staying. Two Nazi spies get out of a car and head for Toulon’s room but Blade beats them there and André puts Blade, Jester and Shredder Khan into a chest with an Indian puppet, named Gengie, before hiding the chest in a wall panel. As the Nazis break down the door, Toulon shoots himself in the mouth with a pistol.MV5BZDM3Y2VjNDMtZTRmNC00MjQ5LTk3ZmItNjFmZDgwMGZlZjk5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk0OTM1NzU@._V1_50 years later, in 1989, psychics Alex Whitaker, Dana Hadley, Frank Forrester and Carissa Stamford make contact with an old colleague of theirs, Neil Gallagher, and conclude he found Andre Toulon’s hiding place. Each one of them experiences a different vision; Alex sees Neil pointing a gun at a young woman’s head, and dreams of leeches sucking blood out of his stomach, while Dana foresees her possible death. The psychics meet at the Bodega Bay Inn that Neil resides at and meet Neil’s wife, Megan, the woman from Alex’s vision. They also meet the housekeeper, Theresa. The psychics are skeptical that Neil took a wife but it is forgotten when Megan tells them that Neil shot himself. Theresa, Megan, and Alex leave the body, leaving Frank, Carissa and Dana. Dana stabs a long pin into Neil’s corpse to verify that he is in fact dead.puppetmaster10Each psychic experiences a vision; Dana tells Theresa not to go near the fireplace, Alex sees Neil wearing a mask while dancing with Megan in the dining room, and Carissa sees Neil assaulting a woman in the elevator. As the sun sets, Pinhead, who is another living puppet, climbs out of Neil’s casket. That night at dinner, Dana makes several remarks about Neil that causes Megan to leave the table. Alex goes after her and explains about the powers of the people in the group. Carissa is a psychometrist, and she can touch an object and give the object’s history, Dana can tell fortunes and locate things and people, and Alex himself has premonitions in his dreams and when he’s awake. All four of them were helping Neil in his research of alchemy, and during that time, Frank and Neil discovered that the Egyptians created a method of giving life to inanimate figurines, a power passed down to practitioners of magic, and Dana tracked down the location of Andre Toulon, the last true alchemist, to the hotel. But because he had not made contact with them in a while, Dana and the rest think he abandoned them and took whatever he was looking for himself, and they are there to take it and settle the score.puppet-master-dream-or-psychic-phenomenaWhen night falls, Theresa goes near the fireplace and is knocked out when Pinhead hits her with a poker. Someone moves Gallagher’s body to a chair, and causes Megan to become ill. Before going to bed, Dana puts protection spells around Alex and his room, forcing Blade to leave Alex alive for now. Carissa and Frank spend some intimate time together to open up a channel and make contact with Neil in their hotel room but two more living puppets, Tunneler and Leech Woman, enter. Tunneler kills Carissa by drilling into her face and Leech Woman vomits leeches onto Frank’s body, which drain his blood, which disrupts Alex in his sleep. Meanwhile, Gallagher’s body reappears in Dana’s room, and she puts a spell on him to put him at rest until she is attacked by Pinhead, who breaks her leg. Pinhead chases her and repeatedly strangles and punches her until she manages to knock him away, only to have her throat cut by Blade, using his knife-hand, fulfilling her fortune.puppet-master-pic-4Alex has a premonition of Megan taking him to Toulon’s room when nightmares of Megan having a gun put to her head by Neil and the other psychics being found dead block him from seeing the room, but is eventually awoken by Megan, who takes him into the room that Andre Toulon was in, and tells him that Neil found Andre’s secret to bringing inanimate objects to life. Alex has a vision of Neil shooting him and they go downstairs to escape when Alex senses the others in the dining room, and finds their dead bodies sitting around a table. They are stopped by the newly resurrected Neil. He explains that “metaphysically speaking”, he did commit suicide, but he used Toulon’s secrets to become immortal. He contacted them all so they wouldn’t take the secret from him, and he hopes to use their bodies for future human experiments, expressing disgust of working with the puppets and violently throws Jester at a chair. Seeing this attack on one of their own, the puppets revolt against Neil, brutally killing him in front of Alex and Megan. The film cuts to Alex saying goodbye to Megan and leaving the hotel. Now alone, Megan picks up Dana’s taxidermied dog, and in the following scene, the dog becomes completely animate, walking up the stairs with Megan, suggesting that she, too, has learned Toulon’s method. Perhaps, even that Dana’s spirit has taken over Megan’s body!puppets-puppetmaster-590x350I was surprised: it was good very entertaining. It inspired me to see the sequels, too, and they – most notably the third one – were good, too. It’s a little slow to start with, but once the puppets begin their attack story gets interesting, concluding with a gruesome ending.

REVIEW: CONAN THE ADVENTURER (1997)

MAIN CAST

Ralf Moeller (The Scorpion King)
Danny Woodburn (Watchmen)
Robert McRay (Legend of The Phantom)
Jeremy Kemp (A Bridge To Far)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Andrew Craig (The Toxic Avenger)

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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Ally Dunne (V.I.P.)
Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster)
Edward Albert (Power Rangers Time Force)
Arthur Burghardt (Transformers)
Mickey Rooney (Nationel Velvet)
Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2)
Brad Greenquist (Alias)
Andrew Bryniarski (Batman Returns)
Paul Le Mat (Puppet Master)
Matthias Hues (Star Trek VI)
Ali Landry (Eve)
Brooke Burns (Baywatch)
Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)
Eric Steinberg (Stargate SG.1)
Anthony De Longis (Masters of The Universe)
Angelica Bridges (Mystery Men)
Scott MacDonald (Jack Frost)
Claudette Mink (Children of The Corn 7)
Justina Vail (Seven Days)

xb3aghiq2wii23iaSyndicated television is often called the last bastion of poor writers in this modern age, much like the pulp fiction writers of years gone by were back in their day. This is not to say that syndicated television is always bad, just that the odds greatly favor such a global statement. The first example that comes to mind would be Black Scorpion but I’m sure you’re familiar with other shows like Sinbad, Robin Hood, and Lost World (an admittedly guilty pleasure). The 1990’s were the best years for fantasy shows in syndication due in large part to the success of Hercules and Xena; both of which proved profitable beyond the imagination of their creators. Is it any wonder that other producers sought to cash in as well? Such was the case with a single season show by the name of Conan The Adventurer, based on the writings of famed 1930’s pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, a young man from the desolate plains of Texas.

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Mr. Howard created the mythic hero Conan as a character that could help free him from the shackles of poverty.His character of Conan evolved from another, King Kull, set in the same age of Atlantis era of 10,000 years ago, in epoch known as the Hyborian Age. Conan was a thief, a liar, and a barbarian in every sense of the word. His code of conduct was generally considered less than chivalrous with a “me first” attitude befitting the wild imagination of his writer, a man caught in the trappings of his time. Howard’s own description of the character was: “Some mechanism in my subconsciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prizefighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.” The world-view of such a man can only be placed in the proper context by understanding the effects of where he lived and the conditions the entire country were in, making more understandable the type of anti-hero that later was popularized in the Marvel comic books and art of Frank Frazetta. I think the rise of the anti-hero in the 1960’s attributed much to reviving such characters as Conan, a being thought up in 1931 by Howard, who only wrote 22 short stories in his later years (before he killed himself). With this in mind, let me turn to the television series this review is about:

Keeping in mind that the original character was a thief, cutthroat, mercenary that did anything asked of him for a price and ignored all social conventions that didn’t suit him (similar to the original Hercules being a power mad rapist drunkard), the show started off on the wrong foot with me by suggesting his “destiny was to free the oppressed” in the opening monologue since there’s nothing further from the truth in the original stories or in the previous movies starring famed bodybuilder-turned-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Given that a kinder and gentler version of the character would probably be the only way to get the series made, I started off watching the episodes a bit disgruntled but content that a watered down Conan might be better than no Conan at all, I figured how bad could it be considering all the other shows I enjoyed (even as guilty pleasures).
Conan (1997)
The show focused on Conan’s quest to find, and kill, a wizard, Hissah Zul (that was responsible for the death of his sweetheart and the guy responsible for all the ills in the world. Each week would find Conan and a mish mash of odd companions  fighting the minions of evil and cheap CGI effects as they continued on a path to dethrone the wizard. I watched the generic exploits of the cast as they went through the motions and about midway through the series; I actually started enjoying it way too much.
Conan (1997)
So, after watching the episodes as presented in the set (which were out of order from the air dates) and then as they were originally shown, I found the plot to make at least a little more sense in the DVD order they were aired in syndication. Keeping in mind that most, if not all, of the episodes borrowed heavily from the Marvel Comics versions as opposed to the pulp works of Howard. The show tried to be in line with a modern sensibility imposed on the age old character, an uneasy fit at times. While the humor was often as dry as Dilbert in its own way, I think this was what was lacking compared to the movies. Regardless, it was nice to see a show long lost into the archives of some vault given new life for fans of the genre, if not the actual character himself, and I doubt Robert E. Howard would’ve lost any sleep over the way his characters were evolved.