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Full Moon Musings on Puppet Master: Axis Termination, Legacy & Laserblast


By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Hardcore fans are most likely hoping Charles Band’s latest film, Puppet Master: Axis Termination is not spelling out the end of his franchise. This subset of movies brings the pulp-era adventures to completion, perhaps leading into the first movie of the series. There can be more made, as there’s an approximate gap of 40 something years before Puppet Master (it takes place 1989 while the Axis films are during WWII), as the little ones need to find their way home to Bodega Bay Inn. Only time will tell if this producer/director will feel inclined to make more, or is cutting them loose for other filmmakers tell their tale.

With this film, Blade and gang are trading masters yet again. Danny and his girlfriend are not at the helm. Instead, the nefarious Dr. Ivan (George Appleby) gets to be in charge. He needs the boys to help thwart the plans of Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay) and Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen). These Nazi antagonists have a foothold in Southern California and the war this group of Allies and Nazis are waging is an occult one. Their mission is to discover the key to reanimation. To create a new tiny sized army is the goal, but can either do it?

As with most trilogies, it’s best to watch all three films back to back to appreciate the larger plot unfolding. Full Moon Entertainment decided to release Axis: Termination in three parts, dividing it up into episodic moments to emulate a style typically offered in radio where you must tune in next week. Thankfully, for the impatient, a compiled treatment will make its broadcast premiere on HULU and Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network on Halloween Eve. Afterwards, an official announcement will be made for when it will be available on video. Those who opt to pre-order/buy the ultimate gift box, Toulon’s Trunk from the company website, will see all eleven films, get a bonus disc, a mini Blade figure and booklet in a custom wood and metal-clamped box. It also comes signed by Charles Band too!

The star attractions, the puppets killing their enemies, are always fun to watch and this director knows how to play this look up.

While Termination is not going knee-deep into the mythos like in the build-up to Sutekh’s appearances — which started from the second film to fifth (written by David Pabian, Courtney Joyner, Steven E. Carr, Todd Henschell, Keith S. Payson, Jo Duffy, & Douglas Aarniokoski and produced by Band) — the background video montage during the opening credits had me hoping. To have a look at the connections with Egyptian mysticism ala Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been golden.

I’m hoping The Scrolls of Osiris are not gone. Just who is to obtain them next can be another movie. From a spy fantasy terror drama to pure adventure might be next for Blade and team under the Full Moon (aka Charles Band) mantle. The thought of another group working on a reboot has me worried. The Littlest Reich is set to bring back the terror in full force. The early teasers look good but sadly, this remake may not truly offer the puppets in a way I have come to fearfully adore.

Thankfully, the late Summer release of Puppet Master: The Legacy on Blu-ray fills a gap some viewers of this franchise may have forgotten. This eighth entry tells the tale of Eric Weiss (Jacob Witkin) who, as a boy in World War II Germany, was rescued from a grim fate at the hands of the Nazi’s by kindly toymaker Andre Toulon. Fascinated by this gent’s supernatural ability to breathe life into his carefully crafted figurines, Weiss spends his entire life attempting to unlock Toulon’s methods but, just when he’s on the cusp of creating a living doll, a rogue agent named Maclain (Kate Orsini) breaks into his lab and tortures the apprentice puppet master to reveal the secret and trace how the magic came to be. I’m of a firm belief the idea evolved out of how tiny funerary figurines known as the shabti are meant to serve their master, the deceased, in the afterlife. Although they do not make for perfect protectors, they are servants — helping perform tasks.

This release is considered the ‘definitive’ version, and it uses different sources (combining 35mm, SD and Digi-BETA masters) to offer a fuller story. Much of the grain and differences from these tapes are not very noticeable when viewed from a proper viewing distance in a modestly sized screen. The shorts bits of added content help fill out the story and perhaps the better selling point is the documentary, “No Strings Attached,” which looks at the making of the early films from behind the scenes. To know how the puppets are animated does not ruin the illusion, and some of the facts revealed are interesting. Some are already well known, like with how effects master David Allen honed his chops before getting an Academy Award for Young Sherlock Holmes, but other reveals are just as good to know. Most of the interviews are cut from early recordings than new. For the completest, I feel the Blu-rays are worth seeking out. To upscale them up to 8K, the latest in video technology is overkill. Band is getting the 35mm prints of many of his early films to high definition and releasing them as soon as they are done. He said, “The key ingredient to any of these transfers is to have Jeff Jones, a fantastic colorist. He has been doing most of our work for the last 4-5 years. When he’s busy, I wait because he’s the only guy I trust.” (for the full interview, please click here).

This company’s latest re-release includes Laserblast, one of the earliest movies Band produced. This title deserves praise for the new commentary track from him and his brother, Richard (the main reason for owning) talking about the early days of their career and why these works still hold value. Instead of reviewing the film where there is many an opinion, the stop-motion sequences with the aliens look even crisper! This cult film is deserving to be in any B-movie enthusiast’s collection.

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