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Sunday, 16 March 2008

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Dolls Incorporated is a company that, amazingly enough, makes and sells dolls. It's run by Mr Franz, a genial John Hoyt. When a young lady suggests that he treats them almost like people, he's happy to point out that they're his friends. Of course, with a title like Attack of the Puppet People and a director like Mr BIG himself, Bert I Gordon, it doesn't take much to guess at the rest of the plot though the young lady who made the initial suggestion and quickly becomes Mr Franz's new secretary takes a while to find out herself.

Admittedly she's a little wary of the mild mannered Mr Franz when he talks to his dolls, and she's afraid to disturb him when he's in the back room. Admittedly people in the vicinity, like the mailman and the previous secretary, seem to disappear rather often, and when registered letters arrive for these people he signs for them and then destroys them. Admittedly Mr Franz only hires people like her who live alone and have no family. She doesn't even work it out when amorous St Louis salesman Bob Westley takes her to the drive in to see The Amazing Colossal Man, another Bert I Gordon film.

Only when Bob proposes to her but then doesn't turn up to take her to St Louis, yet appears as an amazingly realistic doll in Mr Franz's workshop, does she start to get suspicious. She goes to the police with a story about Mr Franz turning people into dolls but of course doesn't get very far. In fact what she gets is turned into a doll herself.

I must have seen this one years ago but it played fresh and it's not a bad story, just a run of the mill one. The perspective work to make the 'puppet people' appear small is mostly done really well, especially those in the lab. The outside shots are much worse and none of it is a patch on The Incredible Shrinking Man the year before. That was technically superb and highly enjoyable too. My favourite in this genre though is still 1936's The Devil Doll with Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O'Sullivan. It has the effects too, surprisingly excellent for such an early date, but it has a story too that goes a long way beyond the basic one here.

People like John Hoyt, as Mr Franz, B-movie perennial John Agar as Bob and Corman regular June Kenney as the new secretary, Sally Reynolds. All are fine without ever being anything special. Like the movie really.

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