16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"You funny, little people...I wonder why it is you always hate me so at first.",
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This review is from: Attack of the Puppet People (DVD)
You could generally count on two things when going into a film from producer/director/writer Bert I. Gordon, the first being shoddy visual effects (usually done by Bert himself), and the second being based on the title of the film, you had a good idea what you were going to get, some examples being...The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) had a fifty-foot man going nutzo...Village of the Giants (1965) had a handful of super-sized wacky teenage types giving the establishment what for...and then this film, titled Attack of the Puppet People (1958) featured a group of, you guessed it, pint-sized people struggling to get by in an oversized world. Produced, co-written, and directed by Gordon the film stars John Agar (The Mole People, The Brain from Planet Arous), June Kenney (Teenage Doll, Earth vs the Spider), and John Hoyt (Blackboard Jungle, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes). Also appearing is Michael Mark (The Wasp Woman), Laurie Mitchell (Queen of Outer Space), Jack Kosslyn (The Magic Sword), Ken Miller (I Was a Teenage Werewolf), Scott Peters (The Madmen of Mandoras), and Marlene Willis (Rockabilly Baby).
As the film opens we see a Brownie troop visiting a modest doll manufacturing company called Dolls, Inc. (snazzy name there) owned and operated by seemingly kindly older man named Franz (Hoyt). As the girls pour over the dolls on display, we see some rather life-like ones in glass canisters in a locked display case on the wall, apparently part of Mr. Franz's special, personal collection...hmmm...enter Sally Reynolds (Kenny), an attractive young woman answering an ad Franz recently submitted to the newspapers who's in need of a new secretary (his last one up and left under mysterious circumstances...yeah right). Despite being a little weirded out by the old man's behavior (seems he's a little too into his dollies), Sally takes the job, much to the delight of a traveling salesman who works with Franz named Bob Westley (Agar) as he begins putting some serious moves on her (what an operator). As the pair make plans for the future, Bob up and disappears, and Franz informs Sally he went back home to take care of business and she should try to forget him. Sally, thinking something hinky at the doll factory, goes to the police with a crackpot theory, but when it doesn't pan out, she decides it's time to split...well, it seems Franz suffers from a severe case of separation anxiety, so much so that when anyone he feels close to tries to leave, he has an interesting method in getting them to stay, specifically a sophisticated shrinky dinky machine, one he uses to put the whammy on Sally. Turns out Franz has quite the collection of pocket-sized pals, the same ones he keeps on display in glass canisters in the front office. After mini Sally is reunited with puny Bob, Franz spills the beans about his process, along with his motives for doing what he does, to which afterwards he introduces Sally and Bob to some of his other diminutive `friends'. As the wee people plot their escape, Franz gets sloppy, and the police start sniffing around. Franz begins to freak, deciding to throw one last shindig with his itty-bitty buddies before closing up shop permanently...
Despite some obvious flaws, I enjoyed this strictly `B' 1950s sci-fi feature. The story may seem weak in a number of areas, but I'd argue it was more of a matter of simplicity. I have little doubt the film was probably made in a very short amount of time, and it seems to have no pretenses about its intent, that being mainly to entertain (and make as much dough as possible). I liked the fact Hoyt's character wasn't evil, but just lonely, desperately in need of companionship. That didn't excuse his actions, but in his mind his relationships with those he chose to de-embiggen worked both ways...he got to spend time with them whenever he wanted while they enjoyed the life of Riley, never having to worry about those mundane concerns most all of us deal with on a daily basis like work, paying bills, and so on...his character's science with regards to his miniaturization process seems somewhat ambiguous (it involved molecular breakdown and resonant frequencies), but I'm sure it probably came across a whole lot more plausible to audiences back in the day when originally released. I'll admit, I'm somewhat of a closet John Agar fan. The man may have not been one of the great actors of the time, but you could generally count on him being entertaining. He's got a few good scenes here, but I've always thought one of his best features to be The Brain from Planet Arous, where he served up the eggs with a big, fat, juicy slab of honey-baked ham. As far as the rest of the performers they did well enough for the film, and I had no complaints. As far as the special effects (Gordon's mainstay was the use of rear-projection enlargement technology), they were fairly clever (and cheap) at the time, but don't necessarily hold up well so many years later, so it's probably best not to get too hung up on that aspect, otherwise you might miss the fun. I did learn a number of things from this film, including the following;
1. When you're six inches tall you're pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.
2. John Agar really seems to hate marionettes.
3. If you're six inches tall you can keep a fifty pound angry canine at bay with a nail.
4. If you're six inches tall clothes taken from dolls whose dimension are nowhere near your own will fit perfectly without alterations.
5. Apparently you can make a living putting on marionette shows.
6. Never leave people you've miniaturized alone for any amount of time otherwise they're sure to plot against you.
7. If you've perfected a process to miniaturize people just so you can keep them around as friends, it's probably not the best idea to keep them on display where anyone can see them even if they are in a state of suspended animation.
8. Scientists don't often realize the vast, commercial, financial, and humanitarian possibilities of their inventions, no matter how obvious they may seem (I'd guess a machine that could shrink and enlarge both inanimate and animate objects could not only do a lot of good but make someone a whole lot of dough).
9. Seems to me the ability to put people into states of suspended animation by use of a pill you've invented might be worth something, but then what the hell do I know?
10. A rear-projection enlarged street rat chasing a pair of six inch people is more funny that frightening, at least by today's standards.
All in all not my favorite Bert I. Gordon feature (I'd have to go with either The Cyclops or The Amazing Colossal Man), but it's still a good deal of fun of the economy B movie kind.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), looks very clean on this DVD, and exhibits only a couple of minor flaws. As far as the Dolby Digital mono audio, available in English, Spanish, and French, it came through very well, with no complaints. The only extras included are an original theatrical trailer along with Spanish and French subtitles.
By the way, I'd appreciate a DVD release of Gordon's The Food of the Gods (1976)...as I write this it's still not available on the DVD format, and that just doesn't seem right.