Tag Archives: Sarah Douglas

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991, David DeCoteau)

Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge is Puppet Master Origins. Set in WWII Berlin, Guy Rolfe is a concerned old man. He sees his neighbors in fear of the Nazis so he got some string and he got some wood, he did some carving and he was good. Anti-Nazi civilians–mostly kids–came running so they could hear the old German puppeteer. Except maybe Rolfe’s playing a French guy?

Doesn’t matter.

Rolfe’s puppets are living creatures, however. He constructs the puppets, then brings them to life through scientific means; the newly animate puppets hang out with Rolfe and wife Sarah Douglas.

Enter Nazi amateur puppeteer Kristopher Logan, who reports Rolfe’s apparently living puppets and his anti-Nazi sentiment to Gestapo major Richard Lynch. Lynch already has his own subplot going about he and scientist Ian Ambercrombie are trying to reanimate dead soldiers.

From the start of the film, it’s clear director DeCoteau is being thoughtful. Even with clear low budget trappings, DeCoteau is enthusiastic and inventive. He does extremely well with the empty Berlin streets–empty means less set decoration and no extras–creating this sandbox where the action can play out.

Because it turns out Rolfe’s puppets aren’t just made to entertain kids, they’re also made to kill Nazis. And they kill a lot of Nazis. Toulon’s Revenge actually turns the corner once it fully embraces being a Nazi-killing movie. It comes at the perfect time too.

C. Courtney Joyner’s script gives the actors a mixed bag as far as material. Rolfe’s better with the puppets than with other actors. The scenes with he and Douglas never quite connect. Douglas’s scenes aren’t well-directed. DeCoteau does much better away from Douglas. Even though the opening sweet scene between Rolfe and Douglas is a strong scene and an early sign Toulon’s Revenge mightn’t be predictable.

But Lynch and Ambercrombie are great together. They’ve got the same boss–general Walter Gotell–and they try to get one another in trouble. It’s juvenile; Lynch is this humorless Gestapo bastard, Ambercrombie is a kindly looking scientist. But they’re still Nazi bastards. The film never forgets no matter how likable any of the characters might get in a scene, they’re Nazis.

And the puppets are going to kill them.

DeCoteau has some excellent puppet set pieces. There’s this Old West shootist puppet with six arms (called Six-Shooter, I believe) and those sequences are particularly fun. The puppet does a dance with the arms (in stop motion) and it’s awesome. Sure, the Leech Woman puppet is gross, but… again, they’re killing Nazis. Like they don’t deserve to have a puppet spit leeches all over them. It’s a rather effective way to do a horror movie where you cheer the killers.

Technically, Toulon’s is fine. Adolfo Bartoli’s photography is fine. Editor Carol Oblath has some really well-cut scenes, but also not. Billy Jett’s production design is excellent.

Ambercrombie’s good, Lynch’s good. Rolfe’s great with the puppets. Logan’s not good–Joyner writes all the Nazis real thin and Logan’s the annoying, sweaty, snitch one. Gotell’s good. Douglas’s likable. Her scenes seem like they hadn’t been rehearsed or maybe even written before shooting. But she’s effective nonetheless.

The stop motion is often excellent. The composites are never good, but it’s excusable. Toulon’s Revenge gets away with a lot–like a rocky first act–thanks to Joyner’s plotting, Lynch, Ambercrombie, and the puppets. Rolfe’s usually fine too. At least after the first act.

It’s incredibly entertaining and shockingly effective.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by David DeCoteau; screenplay by C. Courtney Joyner, based on an idea by Charles Band and characters created by David Schmoeller; director of photography, Adolfo Bartoli; edited by Carol Oblath; music by Richard Band; production designer, Billy Jett; produced by DeCoteau and John Schouweiler; released by Paramount Home Video.

Starring Guy Rolfe (Andre Toulon), Sarah Douglas (Elsa Toulon), Richard Lynch (Major Kraus), Ian Abercrombie (Dr. Hess), Kristopher Logan (Lt. Eric Stein), Aron Eisenberg (Peter), Matthew Faison (Hertz), and Walter Gotell (General Mueller).


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The Return of Swamp Thing (1989, Jim Wynorski)

The Return of Swamp Thing belongs on the modern movie equivalent of “Mystery Science Theater,” or maybe “USA Up All Night!” (I think it might have gone on “Up All Night” actually). But Return came out in the late 1980s, before the direct-to-video deluge and I saw it in a theater (an absolutely wonderful old theater in Chicago, beautiful woodwork). Instead of doing a sequel to Wes Craven’s original or adapting the comic book, The Return of Swamp Thing appears to be a family-friendly Toxic Avenger movie, though I might be overanalyzing. But the inclusion of two ten year-old boys on an adventure through the swamp certainly suggests the target demographic (leaving out the scar comparison scene, which Lethal Weapon 3 ripped off).

Even though Jim Wynorski can’t really direct–the scenes with the two kids, with poorly edited close-ups, are particularly bad–he brings a amiable ineptness to the movie. Similarly, Heather Locklear’s performance is bad, but it’s very friendly. The scenes with her and Louis Jordan–Jordan’s hammy and zealous acting the only reason Return is watchable, the desire to see what he does next makes the movie–are hilarious, as Locklear acts in her 1980s TV show style and Jordan hams with his considerable experience behind him… the scenes are hilarious.

Besides a handful–Sarah Douglas has flare-ups of quality, RonReaco Lee is the less annoying kid and Joe Sagal is real amusing as Jordan’s idiot lacky–the other performances are terrible. Monique Gabrielle can’t even pretend to be annoyed, though her scenes are often the ones with Wynorski’s weird two-dimensional composition. The actors face each other and the camera shots them directly, no depth. Dick Durock, given a full talking role and no character–but a more ornate rubber suit–in the sequel, is awful. The terrible handling of the Swamp Thing character probably does in Return, which probably could have survived otherwise. In fact, a straightforward Swamp Thing caught in Jordan’s low budget Bond villain mansion… might have even been (intentionally) amusing.

The special effects aren’t bad. The costumes, besides Swamp Thing’s and only because Wynorski shoots it under bright lights, are pretty good. It’s an eighty-eight minute waste of time, but it does feature Jordan bickering with a parrot and that bit alone makes it special.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jim Wynorski; screenplay by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris, based on the DC comic book by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson; director of photography, Zoran Hochstätter; edited by Leslie Rosenthal; music by Chuck Cirino; production designer, Robb Wilson King; produced by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan; released by Lightyear Entertainment.

Starring Louis Jourdan (Dr. Anton Arcane), Heather Locklear (Abby Arcane), Sarah Douglas (Dr. Lana Zurrell), Dick Durock (Swamp Thing), Joseph Sagal (Gunn), Ace Mask (Dr. Rochelle), Monique Gabrielle (Miss Poinsettia), RonReaco Lee (Omar), Daniel Emery Taylor (Darryl Hallenbeck), Ralph Pace (Sheriff Beaumont), Timothy Birch (Clyde), Alex Van (Gurdell) and Christopher Doyle (Leechman).


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The People That Time Forgot (1977, Kevin Connor)

Apparently, all Kevin Connor needs–besides a decently concocted screenplay–is location shooting and a good score.

The People That Time Forgot–around the halfway point–became a movie I found myself enjoying too much. I got self-conscious about it, questioning its quality even more than usual, just because it seemed so good. It’s an adventure film, one told almost entirely in the language of film–there’s a cranky mechanic, a blustering scientist (who’s got a taste for the hooch), and an independent-minded woman who clashes with the macho protagonist. It’s somehow a perfect mix of its elements… though the music, by John Scott, helps it a lot initially. There’s also the film stock. The People That Time Forgot has a nice film stock, while Connor’s two previous films (The Land That Time Forgot and At the Earth’s Core did not).

The budget for People That Time Forgot allows for decent special effects, not great, but decent. There’s some stop-motion work and then there’s some men-in-suit work, giving the viewer a chance to compare (as usual, the stop-motion is superior). Unless there’s a model of person in them, the miniature shots are all excellent. The film creates an experience of exploration and wonder. Maybe not wonderment, but definitely wonder. You can see it on the actors’ faces. The cast of this film, particularly Sarah Douglas and Patrick Wayne, is good. Even when they’re not particularly good, Dana Gillespie as a scantily clad cave girl, you still like the character. The People That Time Forgot is a smoothly constructed film. There’s action, there’s humor, and there’s (a little) romance. But Wayne and Douglas are giving performances above and beyond the film (well, Douglas’ performance is beyond, Wayne’s is above though). Wayne was thirty-eight in the film, but his lack of shoulders gives him a more youthful appearance. He has an affability his father never did, there’s a pleasure in watching the hero try, not knowing whether or not the hero will succeed. Douglas–and I just looked and Superman II apparently typecast her in genre roles forever–is fantastic. She’s engaging, funny, just great. Her typecasting is unfortunate.

While the script isn’t good, it is well constructed. Connor still has his five minute set pieces, which are an odd way to make a ninety minute movie–he summarizes three days into five minutes, then has a six minute action, then some more summary–but it works well in People That Time Forgot. By the twenty minute mark, the viewer is actively engaging with the film. It’s the characters and the music and the lost world concept in that film language. The filmmakers know what buttons to press, because people have been making lost world films since… what? 1925?

Like I said before, I was very self-conscious about how much I enjoyed The People That Time Forgot, but at the end–even though two people who should kiss do not–I had to embrace the experience. It’s good. It’s not important (though it might be the setting sun of a particular type of genre film), but it’s good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Kevin Connor; screenplay by Patrick Tilley, based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs; director of photography, Alan Hume; edited by John Ireland and Barry Peters; music by John Scott; production designer, Maurice Carter; produced by John Dark and Max Rosenberg; released by American International Pictures.

Starring Patrick Wayne (Ben McBride), Doug McClure (Bowen Tyler), Sarah Douglas (Charly), Dana Gillespie (Ajor), Thorley Walters (Norfolk), Shane Rimmer (Hogan), Tony Britton (Captain Lawton), John Hallam (Chung-Sha) and David Prowse (Executioner).


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