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The Puppet Masters (1994)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Stuart Orme

Starring:
Donald Sutherland/Andrew
Eric Thal/Sam
Julie Warner/Mary
Keith David/Alex
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Alien parasites that latch onto your backs, stick a spike in ya and control ya like a puppet begin their world invasion in the Midwest and its up to a group of government Agents to nip them in the bud before they take over the globe. Where's Mulder and Scully when you need them?
THE LOWDOWN
Before there was THE BODY SNATCHERS (Jack Finney’s novel was put out in 1955), there was Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 book THE PUPPET MASTERS. Being that Body Snatchers got its movie adaptation put out first in 1956 (with the 3 reinterpretations: my fav Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Body Snatchers (1993) and The Invasion (2007) to follow), it got all the love in terms of the “alien controls/mimics humans” subgenre. And although Heinlein’s novel was echoed in Bruno VeSota’s The Brain Eaters (1958), an Outer Limits episode in 1964 and in a Star Trek episode in 1967 called Operation: Annihilate! (which I addressed here) it took till 1994 for it to get a proper film adaptation. The critics didn’t dig Stuart Orme’s take on the novel at the time and the box office returns were lower than my sperm count and life-savings, but re-visiting it again today; I got to admit, it made for an enjoyable and undemanding horror watch!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a film that didn’t f*ck around like this one did. I mean the action kicked in within the first 5 minutes and just kept going. At about the halfway mark, I turned to my bud and told him; “Shit, if this flick can keep up this pace till the end” I’ll be f*cking impressed. And it did! There was not a boring moment in THE PUPPET MASTERS as it tossed its salad in the air and wouldn’t stop juggling it till its end credits splat the screen. Am talking alien slug mischief, varied action set pieces, icky medical experimentation, Donald “great man” Sutherland looking drunk and letting his cane do the acting for him… the works! Moreover, the affair definitely benefited from its badass cast at the helm. Eric Thal had the looks and the chops to make it happen (What happened to that guy? Why isn’t he a huge star today? Oh yeah, he’s dating Charlize Theron i.e. living the good life!), Julie Warner looked stunning and played off Thal perfectly while Keith David and Will Patton were on hand to jack up the scenery with a much welcomed touch of class. Nice! On a technical standpoint; the special effects were simply amazing (loved the open lipped-vagina-ish looking creatures with their ejecting spikes by FX ace Greg Cannom), Colin Towns Jerry Goldsmith-light score amplified the urgency and threat of the Tomfoolery onscreen while the directing style was granted, fairly basic (lots of static wide shots and medium shots) but yet served the story well none the less by allowing me to see and get taken in by the madness at hand. Another thing that played in its favor is that it kept screaming The X Files on steroids to me, with Eric Thal as a quasi Fox Mulder and Julie Warner as a pseudo Dana Scully. The X-Files hit the tube a year earlier (in 1993) so it is feasible that THE PUPPET MASTERS could have taken a cue from it (shit the film's tagline is "Trust No One"... sounds familiar?). In a perfect Arrow world this would have been a THE X-FILES movie. All of the token X-Files elements were there and it just "felt" like the show! I just couldn’t shake the parallel and being that I am a huge X-Files fan it was all good in my hood (i.e. my living room, drive-byes happen every Monday for those interested, bring your own beers and bullets). So did I have any problemoes with this fucko? Yeah...

One of the film’s main strengths also wound up being one of its key weaknesses; bitch was too damn tight ("Enter sexual quip here")! Although that resulted in a furious pace, it also suffocated the story, as it rarely took the time to go beyond the surface with its characters, their relationships and the Sci-Fi scenarios at hand. The seeds were there but alas this one was in too much of a hurry to water them and help them grow (WTF was up with that analogy? I suck!) Smelled like the result of an editing room cage match to me. And was I alone in finding it odd that random peeps that were separated from the parasites would kill themselves but when one of the principal players went through the same ordeal, he/she teared up, and then it was all swell and dandy? Bothered me a tad. Finally, the flick sported one ending too many, that last bit was trivial and obviously tacked on to up the “wow” value of the picture (and maybe beef up its trailer with more stunt stuff) cause really, that final sequence was completely pointless and kind of cheapened the whole. Flick should have ended when its story ended. Oh well… I’ll live…

All in all; THE PUPPET MASTERS could have been more than a relentless rocket ride that bombarded me non-stop with horror nades till its last frames. But for whatever reason it wanted NATHING to do with going further than the fun-times level. Hey, all good. I’ll take it! So ya gonna let this master of puppets pull your strings, twist your mind and smash your dreams or what? Ya should!

GORE
Light blood here and there and nasty looking creatures aside, jack and shit.
T & A
We get Julie Warner looking yum in a bra and the ladies get all kinds of fit like an hoax Eric Thal shirtless and a butt shot!
BOTTOM LINE
THE PUPPET MASTERS was an unrelenting sit down with a solid cast, quality special effects and action, action, action the whole way through. Yes it could’ve slowed the frick down and take the time to delve deeper into its situation and characters. Yes I caught one plot hole and that tacked on ending was one too many but at the end of the day the question was: Was I entertained? And the answer is YES, in spades at that (whatever that means)! If ya dig The X-Files and are in the mood to switch your brain to OFF and enjoy the show – The Puppet Masters is for you! Now sing it with me now: “Come crawling faster, Obey your master, Your life burns faster, Obey your master, Master!”
BULL'S EYE
If ya don't blink you'll see Yaphet Kotto in a role that was obviously lost in the cutting room.

Nine writers worked on the script. The credited writers: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and David S. Goyer. And the uncredited: James Bonny, Richard Finney, Michael Engelberg, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and director, Stuart Orme.

Donald Sutherland also starred in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
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6:56PM on 07/31/2011

Great movie

This is interesting. Terry Rossio writes about how he worked on the screenplay and how disappointment the end result was. Great reading.

[link]
This is interesting. Terry Rossio writes about how he worked on the screenplay and how disappointment the end result was. Great reading.

[link]
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1:42PM on 07/25/2011

Love always

I'm so glad you reviewed this one! The Puppet Masters is one of my all time guilty pleasures (up there with First Power, Silver Bullet and The Fog). While the story was nothing original, I really enjoyed the cast. This was one of those films for me, that the actors had a big part to play in my enjoyment. I think I'll go watch it again soon :)
I'm so glad you reviewed this one! The Puppet Masters is one of my all time guilty pleasures (up there with First Power, Silver Bullet and The Fog). While the story was nothing original, I really enjoyed the cast. This was one of those films for me, that the actors had a big part to play in my enjoyment. I think I'll go watch it again soon :)
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7:35PM on 07/11/2011

Good if uninsipired movie.

I bought this movie on DVD last year. I haven't seen it years at that time. It was pretty entertaining. Three leads... Sutherland, Thal and Warner are good in the movie.

But the picture suffers from some weak visual effects, especially the supposedly exciting conclusion. Some of the supporting characters are wasted in this like Richard Belzer "TV's Law and Order", Marshall Bell "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:Freddy's Revenge", Andrew Robinson "Hellraiser" and Yaphet Kotto "Alien".

The good
I bought this movie on DVD last year. I haven't seen it years at that time. It was pretty entertaining. Three leads... Sutherland, Thal and Warner are good in the movie.

But the picture suffers from some weak visual effects, especially the supposedly exciting conclusion. Some of the supporting characters are wasted in this like Richard Belzer "TV's Law and Order", Marshall Bell "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2:Freddy's Revenge", Andrew Robinson "Hellraiser" and Yaphet Kotto "Alien".

The good supporting players in this film are Will Patton "Armaggedon" and Keith David "John Carpenter's The Thing". The creature design are great. I think this flick in one way, suffered from too many different ideas from other screenwriters (Most of them uncredited) and there an lack of energy in this movie at times. Especially since this picture was produced on a tight budget.

For all it's flaws, it is still worth a look. For me, it makes an fascinating double feature with the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" with Sutherland in the lead role.
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9:09AM on 07/11/2011
Nice review, Arrow. You should make this a double feature with Scanners. Yeahhhh.
Nice review, Arrow. You should make this a double feature with Scanners. Yeahhhh.
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