Sunday, November 18, 2012

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising

Back in the day I was obsessed with Charles Band’s low budget horror and sci-fi film company Full Moon Pictures. All the movies released on their label went direct-to-video, and even though they were cheap and hokey they were entertainingly schlocky little curiosities. There were plenty to choose from like Subspecies, Dollman, Trancers, Seedpeople, Doctor Mordrid, Demonic Toys, Castle Freak and their crown jewel, Puppet Master and its endless sequels. Over the last 15 years their movies have declined in quality and watchability. I’m sure they still have their fans, but after seeing such crap as Head of the Family, Arcade, Shrunken Heads, Hideous!, The Creeps (which I saw in 3D at a traveling roadshow hosted by Band himself) and the final nail in the coffin known as Trancers 6, I gave up on the company and never bothered with them again.

I recently purchased a BluRay set that contained HD versions of the first three Puppet Master films, and there were advertisements for a new film in the series called Puppet Master X: Axis Rising. It looked sleazy and silly, but it also reminded me of the company’s glory days in the early/mid-nineties. I decided to give it a rent.
Picking up where the previous film (Puppet Master: Axis of Evil) left off during WWII, wannabe soldier Danny (Kip Canyon) and his girlfriend Beth (Jean Louise O’Sullivan) learn that Toulon’s puppet Tunneller has been taken by the Nazis. The power hungry Commandant Moebius (Scott Anthony King) and his vixen sidekick Uschi (Stephanie Sanditz) have kidnapped a prominent scientist, Dr. Freuhoffer (Oto Brezina), who they want to create a way to reanimate dead soldiers to help the Reich win the war. After giving him the puppet, Frauhoffer uses what he learns from it to create a whole new set of dangerous living Nazi puppets that he hopes will appease his abductors.

Yeah, it’s Cheeseville, WI. But it’s entertaining and that’s all I asked of this film. There is zero story or plot, just excuse after excuse to see the puppets do their thing. The sets are all the same location, only redressed to look like an office or a laboratory or a meeting hall. The costumes are lame, the dialogue is ultra-hokey and the acting is shamefully bad. But this is what I loved about the Full Moon films of old and it was nice to see a flick from them that wasn’t about creepy incest, morbid freaks of nature and gratuitous awkward nudity, which is what turned me away in the 90s.
Having not watched a film in this series since 1998s craptastic Curse of the Puppet Master I’m not exactly current on the series’ storyline, but I was able to catch on pretty quickly regardless. While there isn’t much going on that I would call “amazing” it managed to keep my attention due to how bad some of it was, from the horrible German accents most of the villains use to the over-the-top racism of one of the new puppets, Kamikaze. Think of a Japanese man with bright yellow skin, buck teeth and slits for eyes who wanders around with a bomb strapped to his chest while constantly mumbling “Hi-yah!” and you’ll get the picture.

There were two moments that made this whole movie worthwhile for me: The revelation of a female Nazi puppet’s secret weapon and a couple of puppet fights. There will be spoilers here, so be warned. The busty Uschi is killed by Moebius when he catches her making out with the elderly Dr. Freuhoffer (another hilariously awful scene), and the good doctor promptly injects her consciousness into a puppet with her likeness called Bombshell. Once reborn, the doctor introduces his newest creation to Moebius for a demonstration of her abilities. Once I heard Frauhoffer mention her “special talents” I said aloud “Please let it have something to do with her tits”, and a second later her metal bra dropped to reveal twin guns that annihilated a number of targets. The smile I was wearing was from ear to ear. Bombshell has a few fights with Leech Woman that weren’t fist fights, but full on cat fights! I’m talking bitch slapping, hair pulling, scratching and high pitch squealing. Amazingly hysterical!
Some of the unintentional comedy comes from the cheapness of the production, like when Danny attends a ceremony where he is presented with an award from a General that he claims is “rarely bestowed upon a civilian”, but there’s absolutely no one there to see it besides his girlfriend and the cranky Seargent Stone. Stone, another source of comedy. Actor Brad Potts just doesn’t seem to be able to keep a straight face while reciting his period dialogue, so whenever he calls a woman “toots” or some other old ass derogatory term the editor cuts away just as a smile starts to form on his goofy looking mug. The campy over sexualized antics of Uschi are tops as well. Watching her continually trying to seduce the fragile old doctor while her cleavage constantly threatens to burst her shirt open had me in stitches. I also got a laugh out of the introduction of one of the Nazi puppets. There are four of them: a robot tank called Blitzkrieg, Bombshell, Kamikaze… and a werewolf. Yes, a random werewolf called Wehrmacht. All of them were war themed except that one and it caught me off guard. Really off guard. So much so that I almost choked on the falafel I was eating due to laughing so hard.

This film falls nicely into the “So Bad It’s Kinda Awesome” category. I can’t honestly say that it’s a good movie, but if you look at it from a certain perspective there is a lot to enjoy here. It’s silly and purely awful on most counts, but that’s the fun of these flicks. Their flaws have a certain charm that is irresistible to those that can appreciate it. I happen to be one of those people.

3 out of 5

Note: The ending promises another sequel. I can’t wait.

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