Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

I’m not the first to admit that Attack of the Puppet People is a little bit misleading title. The correct title should be Escape of the Puppet People or something similar. But this does not stop this amazing little Bert I. Gordon production to be a wonderful popcorn movie, who actually in many ways is more interesting and sometimes more well-made than the awesome The Incredible Shrinking Man. Why? Because it dares to be more poetic in its theme and not just a voice-over orgy!

June Kenney is Sally Reynolds, secretary to the weird but nice dollmaker Mr Franz (John Hoyt). One day her fianceé, the excellent John Agar, dumps her and she start to suspect that Mr Franz has transformed him to a doll! Silly girl, and of course she goes to the police with this claim! No one believes her and just when she thinks she’s safe Mr Franz transforms her to a doll-sized little human! She reunites with her boyfriend and a bunch of other victims and together they try to escape from Mr Franz doll factory!

Attack of the Puppet People is much smaller (no pun intended) in as compared to The Incredible Shrinking Man, but the lack of “epicness” make it quite powerful. Most of the miniature-sequences are set on a table and the planning and discussions among the “dolls”. Mr Franz is in the other room talking to an old friend, while he thinks his little humans are dancing to some modern music and having a blast with mini-champagne. This an excellent idea and it works way better than it should, probably because of Mr B.I.G’s talent for entertainment value.

When Shrinking goes for adventure, Puppet People goes for dark theater. This could have been black, nasty surrealistic stage play. This could easily be done, if it was written for the stage, with projections, shadows and sound effects. The character of Mr Franz is easily the creepiest “mad scientist” I’ve seen, not because he’s wild and crazy but because of the opposite. He’s calm, he talks slow and carefully. He’s very polite, but deep inside he’s just a little girl who tortures her rabbits. It’s so clear, even in the emotional ending, that his problem is loneliess. His invention is just for his own pleasure, not to take over the world or be rich.

But the movie is filled with suspense and adventure that work, and I think you all will agree with me that when Agar in pure FURY rips a poor doll in small pieces, that’s the best scene ever shot in the history of fifties sci-fi movies from the US! It’s absurd, funny and a bit tragic at the same time.

Another fine piece of entertainment from Mr Bert I. Gordon.

No comments: