By JAMES BURRELL
Released to video store shelves in the fall of 1989, the direct-to-video cult classic PUPPET MASTER introduced audiences to a group of homicidal marionettes which murder a group of psychics staying at a secluded California hotel. Crafted during the Second World War by elderly puppeteer and alchemist Andre Toulon (William Hickey) and brought to life with an ancient Egyptian formula, the puppets – which include the knife and hooked-handed Blade, the drill-headed Tunneler, brawny Pinhead, revolving-faced Jester, and leech-spewing Leech Woman – are reanimated decades later by an evil psychic and turned into tiny assassins who use their cunning abilities to dispatch their victims.
A hit for producer Charles Band and his production company, Full Moon Productions, the film would spawn a financially successful direct-to-video sequel, Puppet Master II the following year, which would introduce the popular flame-throwing puppet, Torch. The pint-sized killers (brought to life by Academy Award-nominated stop motion animator, David W. Allen) proved to be incredibly popular with horror fans and Full Moon would continue to make numerous films (prequels, sequels, a crossover with another Full Moon property, Demonic Toys, and a reboot) throughout the years. To date, 14 entries in the Puppet Master franchise have been released.
In addition to the prolific film output, numerous Puppet Master-themed collectibles have been released over the years, including figures, bobbleheads, plush dolls and prop replicas. Most recently, NECA has unleased four figures as part of their Ultimate action figure line: the Blade & Torch and Tunneler & Pinhead 2 Pack figure sets. Standing between 4 to 4 ¼ inches tall each, and featuring ultra-articulated bodies with sculpted clothing, the highly detailed figures come with a slew of accessories (such as alternate limbs and weapons) and are housed in elaborate window boxes that open up to resemble Andre Toulon’s puppet case.
The Blade figure is dressed in his trademark black trench coat (the lower portion is made from a soft, pliable plastic) and fedora and comes with two interchangeable heads and tiny knives (with and without blood spatter paint apps). I love that NECA went with the less common spike-shaped “bullet eyes” for the figure, as they look fantastic here. The helmet-headed Torch has a movable jaw to open his bullet toothed-mouth and comes with a “flame” accessory that can be attached to his hand. While the flame attachment looks great, the weight of it can cause the Torch figure to tip forwards, so careful repositioning of the toy will likely be necessary to make it stand.
The Tunneler figure comes with two heads featuring different facial expressions and both regular and “bloodied” cone-shaped drill tops, an additional interchangeable hand, a miniature pickaxe, and gun; and Pinhead is packaged with alternate gripping hands, a wrench, hooks with rope, and a fireplace poker. A beaker of the mystical, green “rejuvenating” elixir is also included.
The sculpting, intricate detailing, and paint application is beautifully done, and it’s great that NECA is giving fans two smaller-sized figures for the same price as one of their regular 7-inch Ultimate figures. Here’s hoping for additional releases down the line, such as Jester, Six-Shooter, and Leech Woman.
SRP for the PUPPET MASTER Ultimate Blade & Torch and Ultimate Tunneler & Pinhead 2 Pack Figure Sets is $29.99 USD each. To create your own twisted puppet show, head over to Puppet Master | NECAOnline.com, or check out your local comic store or favourite online retailer.