Attack of the Puppet People
Sadly, I kick off my 2022 with a ginormous surge of Covid 19 cases in my general area. But, as theaters close in the area, and with my sense of it happening any time after the holidays, I have set up a rather fun month for January altogether, starting with the exploration of some old school B movies! As we enter our third year of this crapola, let's face it, we all need to smile, and I thought old B movies were a great, unexplored category for me.
We kick it off with something mildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons (as one would expect), 'Attack of the Puppet People'. This one was originally made to capitalize on 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', which is widely considered a great sci-fi classic. However, what we get is a "horror" film that makes 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' look like 'Hellraiser'. I think the horror is supposed to come from the idea of being shrunk down and experiencing some kind of terrible micro world. But truth be told, there's little to no real horror going on here, and I've definitely seen more disturbing material from films that predate this.
The film opens with a Brownie troop paying a visit to a doll factory, owned by Mr. Franz (John Hoyt). As part of Franz's collection, he displays a "special collection" of incredibly life-like dolls in glass containers, as well. Meanwhile, a Ms. Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) applies for a secretary position for Franz after his original secretary mysteriously disappeared. She reluctantly takes the job, but is weary of Franz's obsession with his "special dolls". Enter a travelling salesman named Bob Westley (John Agar) who falls for Sally and eventually asks for her hand in marriage after a few weeks (different times, I suppose).
After breaking the marriage news (that would ultimately have her quitting her job) to the ever-lonely Mr. Franz, Bob mysteriously goes missing. It's not long, however, until we find out that Franz has transformed him into a doll, and Sally meets the same fate, as most of the film has to do with these characters in shrunken form (so I don't see this as any sort of spoiler). So, much of the film has to do with Franz's obsessive loneliness, and these victims he's forcing to be his "playthings." I suppose there's a message here about not being a jerk about your loneliness, but it's all a big stretch.
Usually, I tend to have fun with these old B movies, as they tend to be so ridiculously over the top. However this wasn't all that entertaining, despite how highly it was recommended as a solid, yet cheesy B movie title. It's not without a few laughs, but the laughs are slight. To put it another way, I got my biggest laugh from Sally screaming at a giant phone. Random, right? Well, if you like random like I do, then this isn't terrible. But I will say that it's not one I'd highly recommend as a "so bad it's good" flick either.
Over the years, filmmaking has developed the miniature world into things like, again, 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids', 'The Secret World of Arrietty' and most recently, the 'Ant-Man' movies. Things just get better as things progress, and to go back to this is nothing too impressive. As was mentioned before, you had other movies at this point that illustrate it better, and scarier. 'The Fly' would come out the following year and pretty much make this obsolete with the famous "Help Me" scene (which still somehow gets under my skin). There was really next to no saving grace for this one, and I say stick to other, similar movies of the era for better entertainment.
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