30 July 2010 | udar55
History lesson fail!
The tenth (!) entry in Charles Band's long running series is really rough and cheap stuff, but actually better than the last few sequels (which says a lot). The film opens by incorporating the original's 1939 prologue where the puppet master Andre Toulon (William Hickey) kills himself at the Bodega Bay Inn. New footage has limping Danny Coogan (Levi Fiehler) stumbling onto the scene just as the two Nazis who ransacked Toulon's room are leaving. Danny was apparently friends with Toulon and knows where the hidden puppets are and takes them. He returns home to Chinatown in LA and is upset that he can't join the war effort to take on the "Japs and Krauts" (heh, heh...more on that in a bit). But he soon finds he can do his part stateside when he discovers one of the Nazis working undercover at a local munitions factory.
This series has been running for 20+ years and I think it pretty much sum up producer Band's career during that time period. The first three are decent little movies with the proper exploitation elements. Then Band opted to do them on the cheap and each successive film got more and more cut-rate until you finally had the obligatory clip show with 15 new minutes of footage entry (PUPPET MASTER: LEGACY). This one tries to bring it back to the level of the first three by continuing the storyline set up in part III's Germany set sequel. Unfortunately, Band is still cutting corners and has found some new money mark in China where the film was shot for pennies, er, yuan. You get some of the worst sets you'll ever seen (where the camera actually exposes the tops on several occasions) and you can see the same extras over and over in the exterior shots. Director David DeCoteau did three previous entries and really seems to be trying but the film is just sort of there. He fails to bring the exploitation factor as there is no stop motion (actually there hasn't been since part V, I believe), no nudity and very little gore. He did find some good leads with the exception of the girl who plays the Japanese spy, who turns in one of the worst performances I've seen in a while.
And now for the biggie! I'll admit I admire them taking it back to 1939 and using that as a launching point but - MY GOD - do you really have a lead character spend the whole film talking about how he wishes he could enlist into the service to go overseas and fight the "Japs and Krauts" IN 1939!?! There are constant references to America kids fighting overseas. HISTORY LESSON FAIL! Even worse, later a character makes a reference to Pearl Harbor! I'm amazed that no one who read the script said, "Uh, we might have a continuity problem here." The funny thing is there is a "making of" video on the disc and DeCoteau says the film is set in 1941 (even though characters reference Danny's work at the hotel and discovery of Toulon's body being "a few weeks ago").