Puppet Master is a horror film franchise which focuses on a group of puppets animated by an Egyptian spell, each equipped with their own unique and dangerous device (although not in all installments of the series are the puppets portrayed as threatening) and are represented as heroes, anti-heroes, and antagonists. Produced by Full Moon Features, the series was established in 1989 with the eponymous first installment, which has since been followed by seven sequels (in addition to a crossover with the characters of Demonic Toys), a comic book spin-off and numerous other collector's items. In 2010, its latest sequel, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
DevelopmentAfter the collapse of his film studio, Empire Pictures, Charles Band relocated to the United States and opened Full Moon Productions. Band's goal with Full Moon was to create low budget horror, science fiction and fantasy films which mirrored the quality of films with more generous budgets. After partnering with Paramount Pictures and Pioneer Home Entertainment, Full Moon began production on its first feature film, Puppet Master, which had a premise similar to an earlier Empire film produced by Band, Dolls. Originally intended for theatrical release in summer 1989, before being released on home video the following September, Puppet Master was ultimately pushed to a direct-to-video release on October 12, 1989, as Band felt he was likely to make more money this way than he would in the theatrical market.
Puppet Master proved to be a success, and the film's cult status has led to the production of nine sequels (of these nine films, one is a crossover with another Full Moon franchise, Demonic Toys). A documentary containing interviews with cast and crew members was also shot and included on VHS and Laserdisc pressings of Puppet Master, as a featurette titled No Strings Attached.
Loving all the matters would see the release of two sequels, Puppet Master II and Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge; the latter which served as a series prequel. Toulon's Revenge was the first installment to feature Guy Rolfe in the role of puppeteer Andre Toulon (in the films prior, Toulon was portrayed by renowned actor William Hickey and Steve Welles, respectively). Rolfe reprised the role of Toulon for three additional films before his death in 2003, after which he posthumously appeared in Puppet Master: The Legacy through extensive use of archival footage. In 1993 Full Moon began shooting another two sequels simultaneously, Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter, the latter which, as the title indicates, was intended to be the final installment of the series. After the release of The Final Chapter in September 1994, Full Moon opted to retire Puppet Master and announced that a spin-off trilogy entitled "Puppet Wars" was to be started in 1995 (see promotional arwork on right). The spin-off trilogy was cancelled leaving the series to continue its legacy through merchandising and a growing cult following.
Due to demand from video retailers for a new installment of the series, four years after its retirement the Puppet Master franchise was promptly revived by the production of a sixth entry, Curse of the Puppet Master, in 1998. This was the first installment not to have David W. Allen involved with special effects. As by this time Paramount had ended its deal with Full Moon, to conserve costs the film was put together using using a combination of rod and string puppets, as well as archival footage. In September of the following year, a Puppet Master spin-off featuring the Totems of the fourth installment was released, titled Totem, and that October, a second prequel (taking place at an even earlier time than Toulon's Revenge) was released, titled Retro Puppet Master. This entry was an anomaly to the series, in that the main theme composed by Richard Band, brother of Full Moon's Charles Band, was completely absent, and it with its PG-13 rating, Retro Puppet Master was the first film in the series not to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. The original idea for the seventh installment of the series was to take place following Toulon's Revenge, with Toulon and his puppets escaping Germany by train, after which they are confronted by Nazis and demons. This idea was abandoned because the Kushner Locke Company thought it would offend the German audience, but it will form the basis for the ninth installment of the series, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil. On June 12, 2009, Band announced that he would post video updates of Axis of Evil on Full Moon's website. Four days later on June 16, the first update was made available, verifying the film's roster of puppets to be included, as well as the principal cast members, Levi Fiehler and Jerry Hoffman. In 2010, Axis Of Evil was released on DVD and Blu-ray.
As of 1999, Retro Puppet Master is the latest original, feature-length Puppet Master film produced by Full Moon. An eighth entry, Puppet Master: The Legacy, was released in 2004, however only a fraction of the film contains original footage; the remainder is archival footage used to summarize the series thus far. The same year, a crossover film featuring the animated playthings of Full Moon's Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series aired on Sci Fi Channel, however neither Full Moon nor Charles Band had any involvement in its production (although the usual Puppet Master screenwriters are credited with penning its script). As such, the puppets used in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys are all noticeably replicas produced for the film.
In 2005, Charles Band alluded to a possible Puppet Master television series, called Puppet Wars.and expressed interest in seeing a video game adaptation of the franchise developed. In June 2008, Band announced that a tenth installment of the series is planned, tentatively subtitled Axis of Evil. In March 2009, it was reported that Band is also interested in remaking 1989's Puppet Master in 3-D. Similarly, the original film was reissued by Razor Digital in 2007 in DualDisc format, featuring both standard and stereoscopic versions.