Blade: The Iron Cross (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: A psychic journalist needs the puppet Blade to help her thwart a Nazi scientist's plan to turn thousands of people into zombies.

REVIEW: There have been eleven films in Full Moon's PUPPET MASTER franchise (PUPPET MASTER VS. DEMONIC TOYS and PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH aren't counted because they were made by different companies), and while some of the films have been slashers where the puppets were presented as villains, killing innocent people at the behest of an evil master, and some have been creature features in which the puppets have battled other pint-sized terrors, several of them have been chasing the success of what seems to be the most popular entry in the series, PUPPET MASTER III: TOULON'S REVENGE. Set in Berlin during World War II, that one was an origin story in which a puppeteer who had found a way to imbue his puppets with the lifeforce of dead friends and loved ones used his living puppets to get revenge on the Nazis who killed his wife. Full Moon recently completed what they referred to as "the AXIS trilogy" within the PUPPET MASTER series, and all three of those movies were set during World War II and involved people using the puppets to thwart the schemes of Nazis that had set up shop in California. After three movies of doing the same thing, you might think the company would be ready to do something different, but now we have the twelfth movie in the Full Moon series, BLADE: THE IRON CROSS – and while this one is being called a spin-off because it features just one of the usual crew of puppets, it's really another AXIS movie.

Directed by John Lechago (who has made three KILLJOY movies for Full Moon) from a script by PUPPET MASTER: AXIS TERMINATION's Roger Barron, this spin-off/sequel brings AXIS TERMINATION cast member Tania Fox back in the role of Elisa Ivanov, a young woman who has psychic visions in her dreams. As the film begins, Elisa's dreams are telling her that there are more Nazis plotting to pull off more awful schemes in California, and she's going to need the help of the puppet Blade to thwart those schemes and save many lives. The puppets are now in Elisa's care, but they're all lying dormant, and she has barely enough of the life-giving elixir to awaken Blade, she definitely couldn't use it to wake all of the puppets… although, she proves to have such a strong connection with Blade that she doesn't even need to give him elixir to get him moving, she can just share her own bio-energy with him.

"Bio-energy" is a very important thing in this movie, because it also happens to be at the heart of the villain's plans. The Nazi bad guy this time around is Ingenieur Erich Hauser (Roy Abramsohn), and the plot this mad scientist has conjured up brings to mind the likes of old serials and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Hauser has built an antenna that will radiate a "Death Ray", killing thousands of people. This antenna will then send out bio-energy that will re-animate those corpses as rampaging zombies. Yep, he's a Nazi making zombies, just like they were doing way back in PUPPET MASTER III.

Hauser is assisted in this endeavor by a good number of lackeys, which gives Blade some people to slash his way through, including a Spanish temptress played by Angelica Briones and a man who obscures his identity with a gas mask. In addition to Blade, Elisa also has the help of hard-boiled detective Joe Gray (Vincent Cusimano), who she has met while doing her job as a journalist, since her psychic abilities tend to lead her to crime scenes before the police can even get there.

Whenever a new PUPPET MASTER movie is being made, it always comes with the hope that it's going to somehow reach the same level of production quality the early films had. At this point, it seems like fans need to set those hopes aside, because BLADE: THE IRON CROSS feels just like the AXIS movies, not like the movies that came before. It's best to try to accept that this is where the PUPPET MASTER movies are at now, and if you can't enjoy them for what they are it's time to move on from them. Really, this movie never had the chance to be anything close to another PUPPET MASTER III, because it was made on a very small budget in just five days, with those five days of production being livestreamed online at Full Moon's website.

With the low budget comes the need for the film to pad out its running time with a whole lot of talking. Viewers tuning in just to see Blade cut people up will be rewarded with some cool, bloody slashings eventually, and there's even an awesome moment in which Blade puts the spikes in his eye sockets to use, but some viewers may find their patience tested as they have to sit through scene after scene of Elisa talking to her co-workers, talking to Blade, talking to Joe, Joe talking to the District Attorney (Todd Gajdusek), Hauser talking to his co-conspirators and lackeys, etc. The subject matter is quite strange, this movie goes in weirder directions than I would have imagined (and gets even weirder than I really understand in one moment toward the end), and there's some zombie attacks and gratuitous nudity in between the Blade action, but the characters sure are chatty.

Blade was brought to life through puppetry, animatronics, and quick shots of the character being played by a person in a costume (that's Alan Maxson in the costume), shots filmed in front of a green screen. This "costume in front of green screen" approach was introduced in AXIS TERMINATION, and I'm still not that enthusiastic about it. It does allow Blade to have more mobility, something that used to be achieved through time-consuming stop-motion animation, but it seems really weird and out of place to me.

The actors did well enough in their roles. Fox makes Elisa a likeable heroine, Abramsohn plays the over-the-top villain just right, and I enjoyed the film noir style Cusimano brought to the role of Joe Gray. Joe Gray may not hold a candle to TRANCERS' Jack Deth when it comes to this sort of character being in a Full Moon movie, but he gets the job done. 

Blade: The Iron Cross

I would say that BLADE: THE IRON CROSS is only for fans who have been keeping track of the PUPPET MASTER series, have seen the AXIS movies, and know exactly what they'll be getting when they put this one on. Some fans who followed along for a while but then drifted away because of the drop in production value may be drawn to this one simply because Blade is at the center of it. Those fans should proceed with caution, because this isn't like getting a Blade movie in the early years of the franchise, this is getting an AXIS addendum with only one puppet in it.

I didn't love this, I didn't hate it, I'm right in the middle on it, with a lean toward positive because the mix of outlandish concepts and bloodshed did entertain me. I have a soft spot for these movies and tend to enjoy them no matter how low the quality drops – only PUPPET MASTER: THE LEGACY, which consisted of clips from the previous movies and a nonsensical wrap-around story, is a total write-off in my book. I'll continue watching PUPPET MASTER movies for as long as Full Moon is making them. 

Regardless of what you think of the movie, at least BLADE: THE IRON CROSS doesn't demand much of your time. Its 70 minute running time makes it the shortest movie in the series.

BLADE: THE IRON CROSS is being released through the Full Moon Features channel and app (see on June 26th, and is set to reach Full Moon's Amazon Channel on July 6th.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.