Retro Puppet Master (1999)

While “Puppet Master 3” was a prequel to “Puppet Master” parts one and two, “Retro Puppet Master” is a prequel to the entire series. Rather than being chased by the Nazis, a young Toulon is facing off against mysterious undead agents working for a demonic force that wants his life serum. In “Retro Puppet Master,” the writers pay tribute to the original movies by re-casting Guy Rolfe as Toulon. Still running from Nazis, he camps out for the night in a cabin and regales his puppets with how he originally began his journey.

In “Retro Puppet Master” we meet a young Toulon who entertains his village with his puppet shows, and happens to come across an old man being beaten by thugs in an alley. When Toulon and friend Elsa take the man in, he learns that he is a three thousand year old Egyptian Sorcerer named Afzel who has taken the secret of life from the servants of an evil Egyptian God named Sutekh. The budget is too low to ever actually see the God in the flesh, but he does revive a trio of ancient mummies, all of whom come to life to do the God’s bidding with their own magical powers. Toulon gains the trust of Afzel who is prepared to endow Toulon with the potion for reanimation, but Elsa is kidnapped. With the new sentient puppets at Toulon’s disposal, he comes to the rescue of Elsa with his deadly creations.

Coincidentally enough, Greg Sestero of “The Room” infamy, who plays the young Toulon bogs down a lot of “Retro Puppet Master” with his bland and often catatonic performance. He doesn’t know how to convey the urgency of a young man given immense power, and feels bored playing this role most of the time he’s on screen. Hearing him try to muster up an accent is also a hoot. That said, “Retro Puppet Master” is still a creative prequel with a lot of foreshadowing to future movies. It’s neat seeing how the David DeCouteau and the writers envision the original models for Pinhead, Blade, and Six Shooter. It’s a damn shame we never got to see more of Dr. Death since he’s a very memorable one and done puppet.

I can only imagine how bad ass his contemporary design may have been. There is the promise of more looks at how the puppets evolved, it’s just disappointing Full Moon never fully realized the potential for mid-quels chronicling the journey of Toulon and his puppets. We were instead force fed glorified clip shows posing as sequel. In either case, “Retro Puppet Master” is the last very good entry in the “Puppet Master” movie series, and I hope we get this dark fantasy element back someday.