Berlin, 1941. Dr Hess (Ian Abercrombie) is busy in his laboratory working on a project for the Nazis. Operation Death Corps is designed with the intention of developing a drug that will bring recently deceased soldiers back to fighting, battle-ready life.

Unfortunately, his partner in crime is Major Krauss (Richard Lynch). The pair donít get on Ė at all Ė and when the latter turns up at Hessí lab, the atmosphere is tangibly tense. Kraussí understudy, Stein (Kristopher Logan), observes as the pair argue and Hessí latest test subject goes doolally in a scene reminiscent of RE-ANIMATOR.

Hessí work evidently needs perfecting. And Stein, a keen puppeteer in his spare time, believes he knows where he can find it: at the local marionettes show, hosted by puppet master Toulon (Guy Rolfe).

Stein attends Toulonís latest kidsí show and is perturbed to discover it to be a light-hearted swipe at Hitler. He confronts the puppeteer after the show but is given the bumís rush: Toulon is a kindly old man who, along with his devoted wife Elsa (Sarah Douglas), just wants the best for his dolls.

Unfortunately for them, Stein hangs around and peers unnoticed through their window just long enough to discover why theyíre so close to their creations: these fuckers are alive, kept afloat by a mysterious green serum injected into them by Toulon!

Naturally, Stein rushes back to tell an incredulous Krauss. While he may be unconvinced, fellow scientist Hess is intrigued enough to ring their General boss (Walter Gotell) and obtain orders forcing Krauss to storm Toulonís home in a bid to find the secret behind breathing life into inanimate objects.

In doing so, the fundamentally decent Hess inadvertently gives the bastardly Krauss licence to kill Elsa and take Toulon prisoner. But, placed in the back seat of a Nazi squad car with his trusted puppets, itís not long before theyíve killed their driver and Toulon has escaped.

The General is furious. Hess is smug because he secretly admires the puppeteer. Resultantly, Krauss is desperate to get a handle on the situation: he orders the destruction of Toulonís theatre for a start.

When fugitive Toulon discovers this latter fact, heís devastated. More so, in fact, than when his wife was shot in front of him (although sheís been resurrected to an extent, by this point, as the doll that would eventually be known as Leech Woman Ö). And so, Toulon remains in hiding and orders his puppets to exact bloody revenge on those whoíve taken his life from him Ö

Where the preceding two PUPPET MASTER films followed the same formula rather closely, this third instalment Ė made mere months after the straight-to-video second offering Ė dares to break the mould and delve into the beginnings of producer Charles Bandís original story.

This affords director David DeCoteau to film in a bygone period, which he conveys by way of lots of Third Reich paraphernalia. Which, rightly or wrongly, is always certain to give me an aesthetic bonk-on. Still, the era is evoked nicely and the exterior shots of misty, dimly lit streets are indeed stylish.

Interior scenes are coolly lit but do have a vibe of 90s-era "Columbo" TV films. No bad thing, I suppose Ö I just thought it was worth a mention.

Characterisation is stronger here than in the first two PUPPET MASTER films. Rolfe makes for a much more sympathetic Toulon than those he picked up the mantle from (which may be the reason he returned to the role more than once after this outing), while veteran character actor Lynch is simply excellent as the smarmy true villain of the piece. Itís pure pantomime, the way each character is broadly played out and written: I like it.

The pace is brisk, the gore is mild but effective, and we get occasional boobies. The stop-motion puppet FX is great as expected, and itís nice to hear Richard Bandís original score play over the opening titles. But the real strengths of PUPPET MASTER 3 are its aforementioned strong actors (and their well-written, easily identifiable characters), a decidedly darker tone than its predecessors and the shift from portraying Toulon as a megalomaniacal psycho to a hard-done-to antihero. The period setting and subtle political subtext are just the icing on the cake of this superior series entry.

Another 88 Films hit, PUPPET MASTER 3 enjoys its UK blu-ray debut in uncut form on this most impressive Special Edition disc.

The film itself comes graced with a polished, colour-corrected transfer in 1080p HD which allows for far more detail and colour than previous versions have mustered. Clean, vivid and film-like (these films were all shot on 35mm), this is a great rendition of PUPPET MASTER 3 - proffering the film in a 16x9 presentation of its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

English audio comes in choices of 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, both of which are new DTS Master HD mixes. Each track is decent, though the latter doesnít heighten the sound design as I hoped it would.

An animated main menu page leads to pop-up menus which include a scene-selection menu offering 24 chapters of access to the film.

Band is on hand to present an optional 2-minute video introduction to the film. Cannily, he speaks from the set of the tenth PUPPET MASTER film. He extols the virtues of the new HD transfer, giving some insight into the care his company have taken in overseeing the new restoration Ė and even hints at forthcoming blu-rays for the likes of SUB-SPECIES, ROBOTJOX, TRANCERS and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.

An audio commentary track from DeCoteau and screenwriter C Courtney Joyner is good, providing plenty of thematic and anecdotal trivia for such-inclined fans.

The filmís original trailer is also remastered in HD here.

A 25-minute Making Of is presented under the banner of "Videozone" and comes in window-boxed standard definition. Itís a "behind-the-scenes video magazine", as a young-looking host Band puts it. Itís a good, cheesy, professionally assembled promo piece from the early 1990s.

Two rare toy commercials follow, both being short advertisements for Ė unbelievably Ė action figures once sold to tie-in with Full Moonís pictures. Lovely.

You want trailers for other Full Moon titles? Youíve got them, in the form of CASTLE FREAK, PUPPET MASTER 1 and 2, GINGERDEAD MAN 2 and 3, THE DEAD WANT WOMEN, KILLJOY GOES TO HELL, SKULL HEADS, TOURIST TRAP (needs a blu release!) and ZOMBIES VERSUS STRIPPERS.

Also included in this impressive set but not provided for review purposes are double-sided cover artwork (incorporating original artwork and a new, specially commissioned alternate cover designed by Graham Humphreys), and a collectorís booklet.

A diversion from the enjoyable two instalments before it, PUPPET MASTER 3 is a solid entry into a franchise I never before saw the point of. These new Special Edition blu-rays from 88 Films really are making me re-evaluate that initial reticence: Iím enjoying having my eyes opened!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by 88 Films
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
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