Being an origin story, you don't need to see the first two Puppet Master films to fully appreciate Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge, but it couldn't hurt. This prequel takes place at the height of Nazi-occupied Germany where Andre Toulon is just a mild-mannered puppeteer who puts on puppet shows filled with lighthearted magic and whimsy for the local children. When a member of the secret police catches one of his acts and sees a Hitler puppet being portrayed in an unfavorable light, however, Toulon starts receiving some unwanted visits from the Gestapo. Soon afterward, it's discovered that Toulon is far more than just another dissident or dangerous political enemy; the Germans actually have plans to make use of Toulon's formulas of "reanimation" that he uses in his puppet shows and use the arcane technology to reanimate dead German soldiers on the battlefield. So, with the usual gentle tactics and polite conversational methods the Gestapo is known for they come to visit Toulon and it is during heated negotiations that his beloved ends up shot to death. Toulon soon escapes from custody, and he awakens his puppets for a new, dark purpose.
Let me be honest, by the third outing of a series consisting entirely of evil marionettes manipulated by a dead "puppet master" I was expecting something wooden-headed that dangled precariously on the string of suspension of disbelief, but this one had surprising character development and did explain a lot about the mythos of the puppets themselves. There’s actually a lot to like about Puppet Master III, and not just because it fixes things that Puppet Master 2 screwed up! The puppets are noble again, fighting to destroy only people who would harm their creator and defacto father figure, Toulon. The film takes place in a fairly convincing facsimile of Fascist Germany that could rival any B-movie Naziploitation film, and Toulon, himself, is a sympathetic character who just wants to amuse small children, so you empathize with him when he becomes a terrible and talented doll-maker-of-death when he is. Also worthy of mention: the scene at the end where Toulon and his creations exact final revenge on their arch nemesis, Major Krauss, is a masterpiece of symbolism, savagery, and sadism that has to be seen to be appreciated on a basic technical level for its mere presentation if not…execution.
As with any origin story, you might want to consider watching this before the first movie of the set, which may make a little more sense in the long run despite the change from the beginning of the original film, in which an obviously different actor plays Toulon in the brief opening credit sequence. I only mention this moment as it is the only mistake in continuity in this third chapter of the PUPPET MASTER saga (thus far), a series that six sequels later would soon have none whatsoever.
So let’s recap. For the first and last time in the series we actually learn the detailed, meaningful, plot-centric backstories of two of the puppets in the same film, we are treated to a quirky, endearing little tale where a kindly old man and his crude wooden toys avenge his dead wife by brutally murdering Nazis, and we are treated to, perhaps, the most well thought out “big boss” death scene in any Full Moon Feature. It’s probably my second favorite entry in the series (second only to the original). The technical visual/audio upgrades offered by this Blu-ray update are as dutifully rendered as if by Toulon himself. If only the seven future films in the series could be this magical.
Extras include a special intro by Charles band audio commentary by David Decouteu and C Courtney Joyner, the Videozone (making of), a Puppet Master montage, Full Moon trailers and a rare action figure commercial from 1997.