'Puppet Master' Movie Franchise

Premise: In this killer puppet series, a puppeteer uses an ancient elixir to animate his puppets -- including Blade (who has a hook and knife for hands), Pinhead (who has a tiny head and large, strangler hands), Leech Woman (who vomits deadly leeches), Tunneler (who has a drill on the top of his head), Jester (who has a rotating face that indicates his emotion), Torch (who has a flamethrower for a hand) and Six Shooter (a cowboy with six arms and six guns). The puppets tend to either obey their frequently changing master or they turn against him when he gets too big for his britches.

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Puppet Master (1989)

Puppet Master
© Full Moon

In 1939, elderly puppeteer Andre Toulon shoots himself in the Bodega Bay Inn to avoid capture by Nazi spies, hiding several of his living puppets in the wall before doing so. Fifty years later, psychics Alex, Frank, Dana and Carissa are gathered by former colleague Neil at the inn. When they arrive, Neil's wife Megan reveals he's recently killed himself. Neil had recruited them several years ago to study an ancient Egyptian practice used to give life to inanimate figurines, one that Toulon had mastered. As night falls, Toulon's puppets -- which Neil had secretly found and brought back to life -- kill Frank, Dana and Carissa. When Alex and Megan find their bodies, Neil appears, alive. He explains he's taken Toulon's experiments to the next level; he killed and resurrected himself so he can live forever. He says he killed the psychics because he feared they would sense that he'd discovered Toulon's secret and would come for it. Upon revealing his true nature and his plan to kick the puppets to the curb, the puppets grow resentful and revolt, killing Neil.

Puppet Master II (1991)

Puppet Master II
© Full Moon

A couple of years after the events of the first film, the puppets dig up Toulon's grave and pour a potion on the corpse, reanimating it. A few months later, paranormal investigators Carolyn, Camille, Lance and Patrick arrive at the now-closed Bodega Bay Inn to after learning about the puppets from Alex, who's been held in an asylum since the deaths of his fellow psychics. Their first night at the hotel, the puppets attack; Camille and Patrick are killed, but Lance catches Tunneler. When they dissect the puppet, they discover it runs on a mysterious serum. The next day, Toulon shows up bandaged in gauze claiming to be a burn victim who's inherited the hotel. He gets the puppets to kill Lance and Wanda to harvest their brain tissue, which it turns out is the secret ingredient in the serum. He creates a life-sized puppet and uses the serum to transfer his soul into it, announcing to Carolyn his intention to do the same with her, as he thinks she is the reincarnation of his dead wife, Elsa. At that point, the puppets suddenly realize he's evil, I guess, and decide to revolt, killing him.

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991)

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge
© Full Moon

Although the first film has Toulon committing suicide in 1939, this prequel has him alive in 1941 in Berlin, operating an anti-Nazi puppet show. When Nazi Erich Stein sees him injecting his puppets with the magical serum that keeps them animated, he notifies his Gestapo boss Major Kraus, who is working on a project to reanimate dead soldiers. Kraus attempts to kidnap Toulon and his puppets, in the process killing Toulon's wife, Elsa. With the help of his puppets, however, Toulon escapes and breaks into the morgue to steal Elsa's tissue, which he uses to animate a doll he modeled after her, giving birth to Leech Woman. The puppets set out for revenge, killing Stein and a general in charge of the animation project. Dr. Hess, a scientist whom Kraus is forcing to work on the project, has trouble getting the formula to work and seeks out Toulon through a young boy named Peter whom Toulon is sheltering. Toulon explains that the key to the elixir working is having willing participants; all of his puppets were once people he knew in life. Kraus's men track Toulon down and attack, killing Hess, but Toulon escapes and gets his puppets (now including Blade, who is brought to life with Hess's soul) to kill Kraus in his office. Toulon then heads off to Switzerland with Peter and the puppets.

Puppet Master 4 (1993)

Puppet Master 4
© Full Moon

Despite being an artificial intelligence "whiz kid," Rick works as a caretaker at the Bodega Bay Inn during the off-season. When his friends Suzie, Lauren and Cameron visit, they find Toulon's diary and the dolls and bring them to life. Cameron, jealous of Rick's success and seeking to use the serum for his own gain, convinces psychic Lauren to try to contact Toulon's spirt so they can determine the exact composition of the formula. However, the board connects them to a demon named Sutekh, who sends demonic puppets to the hotel to keep humans away from their secret of animation. They kill Cameron, but the puppets defend the other humans, killing all but one demon. Toulan appears, Obi-Wan-like, to instruct Rick to help the puppets animate a puppet called the Decapitron, which kills the final demon with an electric ray helmet. Toulon crowns Rick the new puppet master and asks him to protect the magic and keep it from evil hands.

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter
© Full Moon

Released on bail after the deaths of Cameron and his colleagues, Rick returns to the hotel. At the same time, his boss Dr. Jennings, upon hearing Rick's story of living puppets, goes to the hotel with three goons to steal the dolls and the serum. AND to complicate things further, Sutekh imbues a demonic puppet with his own life force and sends it to the hotel as well. The demon puppet dispatches the thugs, and Jennings is killed by Torch. For some reason, Rick needs telekinetically sent messages from Lauren, who's been comatose since the first film, to realize he should reanimate the Decapitron to defeat the demon puppet, which it does with the help of Blade and Six Shooter. (Jester, as usual, just stands around making faces. Wuss.) The spirit of Toulon appears to once again affirm Rick as the new puppet master who will safe guard the secret of...blah blah blah.

Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)

Curse of the Puppet Master
© Full Moon

A few years after the last film, the puppets now live with Dr. Magrew, who purchased the puppets at an auction for his doll museum. Magrew hires local gas station attendant Robert, AKA Tank, who displays a talent for carving, to help him make a living puppet. Robert becomes obsessed with the task, although he finds enough time to woo the doctor's daughter, Jane, to Magrew's dismay. The doc's dark side increasingly emerges as he secretly has the puppets kill a local thug who tried to rape Jane and the cops who investigates the death. Magrew then kills Robert and transfers his soul into the puppet he carved, dubbed Tank. The puppets, for some reason, become upset that Magrew killed Robert to make the puppet (Didn't they realize what he was doing, given he did the same thing to his last assistant?), and kill Magrew, aided by the newly formed Tank.

Retro Puppet Master (1999)

Retro Puppet Master (1999)
© Full Moon

Picking up in 1944 after the events in Puppet Master III (although that film supposedly took place in 1941), Toulon is on the run from the Nazis, spending the night in an abandoned inn. Blade discovers an old head of a puppet named Cyclops amongst his belongings, which spurs Toulon to tell the story of how it all began. CUE FLASHBACK! In 1902 Cairo, a sorcerer named Afzel steals the secret of animation and flees from Sutekh's minions, three reanimated mummies. The mummies catch up to him in Paris and attack him outside Toulon's puppet show. Dying, Afzel gives the secret to Toulon. When the mummies kill Toulon's friends, he uses their souls to bring his puppets to life. The puppets then kill the mummies and rescue Toulon's new girlfriend Elsa from their clutches. 

Puppet Master: The Legacy (2003)

Puppet Master: The Legacy
© Full Moon

In the equivalent of a "flashback" sitcom episode, this entry mostly rehashes old footage, tied together by the story of an "agent" (of what?) named Maclain who breaks into the Bodega Bay Inn to find the secret of animation. Instead, she finds a man named Eric Weiss with the puppets, who explains his real name is Peter, the boy Toulon helped in Puppet Master III. He plays a recording Toulon made detailing his exploits (FLASHBACKS!). Maclain reveals that she killed Rick (from 4 and 5) to get the diary. Eric/Peter shoots her, and dying, she explains that she didn't want to control the puppets; she wanted to know how to kill them. She says the souls of all the puppets are trapped inside and need to be put to rest.

Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004)

Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys
© Image Entertainment

This made-for-TV movie isn't officially part of the Puppet Master canon (not that the canon is terribly consistent), as it wasn't produced by Charles Band's Full Moon Features. It picks up in present day shortly before Christmas with the puppets now in the hands of Andre Toulon's great-grandnephew Robert Toulon. He and his daughter Alexandra succeed in creating the magic formula and bring to life Six Shooter, Blade, Jester and Pinhead. Unbeknownst to them, evil toymaker Erica Sharpe wants to steal the puppets; she's jealous of his ability to create obedient living puppets, since her own living dolls -- Baby Oopsy Daisy, Jack Attack and Grizzly Teddy of Demonic Toys fame -- don't obey. To create the formula, however, she needs Toulon family blood, so she plans on kidnapping Robert. Her bigger plan, though, is teaming with the demon Bael to sell millions of demonic toys set to come alive on Christmas morning that will net the demon millions of souls while allowing Erica to rule Earth. Bael also wants Alexandra's blood as repayment of a debt from when Robert's ancestor took the secret of the life-giving elixir without paying. Erica kidnaps Alexandra, and Robert and the puppets save her, defeating the demonic toys. When Alexandra isn't provided to him by Christmas morning as per their agreement, Bael drags Erica to Hell.

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)

Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
© Full Moon

In 1939, Toulon is staying at the Bodega Bay Inn after fleeing Germany. Danny Coogan, a talented young woodworker, works at the hotel for his uncle. When Toulon kills himself, Danny catches a glimpse of the two Nazi spies sent to capture him. Danny finds the puppets (including Ninja), which Toulon previously told him were alive, hidden in the wall in his room. He takes them home and, discovering vials of the potion, brings them to life. Later, Danny recognizes one of the Nazi assassins, Max, who's posing as a worker in the bomb manufacturing plant where Danny's girlfriend Beth works. He follows Max and sees him plotting to blow up the planet with a Japanese spy named Ozu. Max spots him and sends fellow spy Klaus to Danny's house, where he kills his mom and brother and kidnaps Beth. Danny transfers his brother's soul into Ninja and takes him and the other puppets to the spies' hideout. The puppets kill Klaus and Ozu's thugs, and a mortally injured Ninja is able to stab Max before it dies. However, Ozu manages to escape with Tunneler, Jester and Leech Woman stuffed in a bag.

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012)

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising
© Full Moon

Picking up where Axis of Evil ended, Ozu hands Tunneler (Contrary to the previous film's ending, Tunneler is the only one in enemy hands.) over to Nazi commandant Moebius, who apparently is roaming around Los Angeles in full military garb with a bunch of other Nazis. Moebius takes Tunneler to Dr. Freuhoffer, whom he is forcing to experiment on reanimating corpses, hoping the puppet will be the key to the doctor getting his reanimation device to work. Freuhoffer extracts the magical serum from Tunneler and, after realizing the serum isn't strong enough to resurrect a human, uses it to create a small army of living dolls: Bombshell (a buxom female Nazi, a la Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS), Weremacht (a werewolf), Blitzkrieg (a tank-like robot) and Kamikaze (a crude Japanese suicide bomber). Meanwhile, Beth, Danny and the good puppets sneak into the Nazi base, rescue Tunneler and vanquish the Nazi puppets. All of the Nazis are presumably killed when Kamikaze blows up the base. Beth and Danny let Freuhoffer go after he tells them he was being held against his will. However, he secretly takes a vial of the serum with him.