The Puppets from Puppet Master are more benevolent towards humans than the Demonic Toys (who are made by the same company) but should never be taken lightly as they are just as capable of causing mayhem - though unlike the Demonic Toys the Puppets seldom attack without being provoked first.
The Puppets of the Puppet Master film series are small artificial bodies used to house the soul and brain-tissue of deceased people, who are then utilized to do their "master's" bidding.
In the films, the puppets' master has simply been the one who cares for them, "feeding" them on the formula they find vital (Which was revealed to be brain-tissue in Puppet Master II, but was able to be synthesized with blood and alcohol in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys), or simply keeping them repaired.
The Puppets throughout the puppet master series have had several different elements to their reanimation, many of which may or may not be canonical. The earliest reference to the creation of the puppets was in Puppet Master vs. The Demonic Toys, where it is mentioned that they were carved from a magic tree that Jean-Paul Toulon, an ancestor to the first puppet-master's spirit inhabited.
In Retro Puppet Master (The earliest chronological prequel), a sorcerer named Afzel stole the secret of reanimation (Having to do with transferring the blood of the dead to another vessel) from an Egyptian demon, and passed it on to a French puppeteer, Andre Toulon, shortly before the demon who had the secret stolen from him killed Toulon's fellow puppeteers to get to the sorcerer.
Toulon first used the secret of life to transfer the souls of his deceased friends to their puppets, in order to take revenge and keep the secret. In Puppet Master 3 it is explained that only people willing to live will properly accept the formula. Flashbacks in Puppet Master II show Andre learning a different type of magic from an enigmatic alchemist, the specifics of this are unknown, but it might be inferred (If "Retro" is to be regarded as canon) that Toulon learned of "the formula" (processed brain-fluid) from the man, whereas he only took the basics from Afzel.
It appears the green formula can be considered a more potent animation method, as when the puppets are brought to life without it they appear stiff and jerky (The obvious reason production-wise for this is that in parts 1-5, in which the formula was featured prominently in plots, the films had higher effects budgets).
Throughout the first 5 installments, a green substance is seen to be fueling the puppets as well as re-animated humans. It can be inferred through the behavior of reanimated humans in the series, that as the formula makes the puppets obedient killers, it turns full-grown people into psychopaths. Though this plot element is not fully explored, it is clear that both Andre Toulon and the psychic Camille Kenney become more wicked, dangerous individuals after being brought back to life with the formula.
Most of the puppets are constructed with wood, though this is not a requirement. Someone was actually transformed into a half-puppet creature (Made of unknown materials) in "Curse of the Puppet Master", and another living "puppet" was made from metal. However since the puppet-creator in "Curse" is not directly connected with the secret of reanimation that is referred to throughout the series, the aforementioned two puppets may be totally separate from the others. Still, Toulon's own Torch puppet is constructed from metal and behaves, for the most part, the same as his fellows.
Behind the scenes, each puppet has a variety of doubles for various jobs. The main bodies employ possible joints for stop-motion (though after part 5 stop-motion was no longer used in the films), and secondary bodies employ sturdier construction for stunts, rod-work, or remote-control motors for more difficult motions. Some puppets, such as Torch or Leech Woman have specialized extra bodies for special effects shots in which they attack, and thus tend to be more expensive to use (Torch has often been singled out by the creators as being especially expensive, and has only been used in 2 films due to this).
Throughout the films the various masters have commanded the unquestioning puppets to kill in order to silence victims, to harvest the brain fluid that keeps them operational, or simply for revenge. The puppets are not driven or restricted to murder however, in Puppet Master 4, the puppets are content in being used for harmless experiments conducted by Rick Myers, and in early parts of Curse of the Puppet Master, they had no qualms with being used as sideshow attractions.
Although the puppets coldly murder people, innocent and guilty alike, they seem to have a sense of companionship amongst themselves and with certain humans. In Puppet Master III, Tunneler and Pinhead attack Nazi soldiers without orders after they helped to murder the wife of their creator, and in Puppet Master 5, Torch kills the man who had just attacked another master. The puppets' loyalty to their master is not unconditional, as their bond with one another is stronger than the one with their master. This loyalty is displayed when in Puppet Master, the puppets' current master attacks Jester, prompting the others to quickly turn on, and kill him (Notably, Jester was attacked for reacting negatively to the master's violence toward an innocent). There have been exceptions in which the puppets have turned on their masters without threat to themselves, such as in Curse of the Puppet Master, where after their master, Dr. Magrew, betrays "Tank", his assistant who truly cared for them, they kill him. Another notable exception is in Puppet Master: The Legacy, in which the puppets are said to want to kill their current master for re-animating them when they just wanted to be put to rest.
The way the puppets have been portrayed as good or evil has greatly varied from film to film. For the most part, the puppets are said to conform to whatever ideals their current master follows, until an event pushes them to betrayal. It seems the puppets are more aligned to goodness, however, as with the exception of the old man in "Legacy" (Whose intentions were not entirely known) they have never betrayed a kind master. In both Retro Puppet Master and Puppet Master III, the puppets are shown to have been animated with the willing souls of their creator's friends, however they seem to embody few characteristics of the human once being transferred into puppet form. In Retro Puppet Master, the puppets only answer to their body's name, as opposed to that of the person who they once were. In Curse of the Puppet Master, Dr. Magrew theorizes that the puppets embody human emotion without any false personality traits, which could mean some of the puppets who were said to by kind as humans had a crueler nature in truth.
Masters and history
Retro Puppet Master
The puppets' creator and first master was Andre Toulon. In Retro Puppet Master the first puppets were brought to life with the souls of fellow puppeteers by Toulon with the help of a kindly sorceror who had stolen "the secret of life" from a demon, for the purpose of protecting Toulon from the servants of the demon and avenging his friends who were killed by them.
The puppets featured in Retro Puppet Master are different than those featured in most of the films and are not seen before or after that installment of the series. For the most part "Retro" can be considered non-canon as Charles Band (the films' collective producer) has said so, and because it features a different method of reanimation from other films and seems to contradict the supposed "origin story" presented in flashbacks in Puppet Master II. In these flashbacks, Toulon was supposedly tempted to utilize the secret of life by an different sorceror, who unbeknownst to him, burned his puppet-stage mid-production.
Puppet Master III
In Puppet Master III (A prequel to the main storyline), the main puppets were said to house the souls of Andre's friends, but different ones than in "Retro". Instead, they had been people killed by the Nazis in WWII times, who were kept alive through a desire to "keep fighting". In the beginning of III, Toulon employs the puppets to put on anti-Nazi propaganda to entertain children and parents alike, however, when the Nazis see the puppets moving on their own with Toulon "feeding" them their formula, they capture Toulon, killing his wife in the process. From that point, Toulon uses the puppets to get revenge, killing several Nazis. Afterwards (In Puppet Master), fleeing to The Bodega Bay Inn in California, he shoots himself to prevent being captured by Nazi agents who had pursued him there.
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
Continuing his journey to the United States, Toulon takes shelter at the Bodega Bay Inn in Bodega Bay, California. The Gestapo, however, have traced his location and two soldiers are sent to the hotel to assassinate him. With the chest containing his puppets and secrets hidden inside a wall panel, Toulon commits suicide before the assassins can infiltrate his room. (This is all a replay of the prologue/flashback sequence from the original 1989 Puppetmaster, augmented with new material.) Bodega Bay employee Danny Coogan discovers Toulon's body, along with his trunk of puppets, and begins taking care of them, eventually their secret. Coogan becomes jealous when his girlfriend, who also knows the puppets are alive, flirts with a man Coogan recognizes as one of the Gestapo who had come hunting for Toulon. Coogan discovers the Gestapo are involved in a plan to bomb the United States, and with the puppets' help, Coogan resolves to stop them, and creates a new puppet "Ninja" to aid the others in battle.
Puppet Master X: Axis Rising
Danny Coogan, the teenage handicapped boy who found Toulon's puppet's, goes to rescue the love of his life, Beth, from being kidnapped from Klaus, and kills two Japanese, and two Germans, but in the end, the puppets wind up helpless and stolen by the only survivor, Ozu. Leaving Blade, Pinhead, and new recruit, Ninja, with the soul of Don Coogan behind. They will need to get their old puppet friends back, and defeat a few new ones along the way, such as the leader, Bombshell, Weremecht, Blitzkreig, and the only Japanese puppet, (living with the other's as Nazis), is Kamikaze, but he is not able to go over sea's and fight against the Krauts, but he may just get his wish by doing his bit right in China Town, California, with the help of a newly rebuilt Six Shooter. Even if he is fighting with and against 12 inch tiny terrors!
The main plot of the first film has to do with a group of psychics and researchers who had once tried to locate the secret of life, attending the funeral of Neil Gallagher, the man who had brought them together for the task, in the same hotel Toulon himself met his death in. Unbeknownst to them, Gallagher had in fact located this secret, as well as the puppets, and brought them to life before killing himself knowing Toulon's formula could bring him back. Whilst their master feigned death throughout the film, the puppets silently killed his former associates around the hotel, before his ex-wife Megan and his last remaining associate, Alex Whitaker, discovered the murders and tried to put a stop to Gallagher. Whilst Gallagher confronted the protagonists, he purposely hit Jester out of derision, prompting shock and hatred from the other puppets, who quickly realize Gallagher does not care for them, and as a result, torturously kill him. Finally, hearing the screams of Gallagher's ex-wife, they halt. At the end of the film, it is implied Whitaker took the puppets with him back to his home.
Curse of the Puppet Master
Continuity is an issue within the Puppet Master series, though evidence seems to imply that the next film would be Curse of the Puppet Master (The "Leech Woman" puppet is seen burning to a crisp in Puppet Master II, and only appears again in the present in "Curse"). In "Curse", the puppets' new master, a sideshow owner going by the name of Dr. Magrew, says he bought the puppets from an auction. Magrew also wishes to create his own living puppet and persuades his assistant, a mentally challenged man named Robert Winsley, to slave away carving a new "perfect" puppet, which he claimed he would animate. Throughout the film the puppets are shown as harmless around Tank or Jane, Magrew's daughter. However, when Magrew commands, they kill a townperson who had harassed Jane and later two policemen investigating Magrew. As it turns out Magrew had previously mutated another of his assistants trying to turn him into a puppet-figure, and ends up doing something similar to Tank, transferring his soul into a robotic figure. In forcibly doing this, however, the puppets turn on Magrew and proceed to attack him before disappearing, leaving the "Tank puppet" to kill him with an electric beam.
Puppet Master II
Puppet Master II shows that the puppets can survive on their own for limited periods. The puppets use this time to travel back to Bodega Bay (Seemingly on their own) to use the last of their formula in order to reanimate their first master, Andre Toulon. It is implied that they procure this formula from the brain matter of Megan Gallagher. Through his years of being dead, Toulon's own brain has seemed to degenerate, turning him into an eccentric madman (This can be attributed production-wise more to needing a villain for part 2 and a sympathetic character for part 3), ordering the puppets to kill more researchers investigating the Bodega Bay Inn. In the process of doing this, Tunneler and Leech Woman are killed (The former, killed by bludgeoning, returns in further installments, the latter is burned and does not return except in "Curse"), and Toulon creates "Torch", utilizing an unknown soul (Obviously, Toulon had no living contacts). Toulon's motives range from revitalizing his puppets to fueling new, wooden bodies for him and the researcher he believes to be the reincarnation of his wife to reside in. However, Toulon eventually expresses plans to abandon the puppets, leading them to betray their old master just as they had others.
Puppet Master 4 & 5
In the films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5, a prodigious scientist named Rick Myers has rented out the Bodega Bay Inn (For "The off season", raising the question of whether or not the Inn is still running) to conduct experiments dealing with artificial intelligence. One night when inviting friends and colleagues over, Myers and company discover the still-living Blade, and with the help of a present psychic find the other puppets (Sans the apparently "dead" Leech Woman, and Torch, who suddenly appears in the latter installment). Using Toulon's journal, the friends find the life-formula and bring the other puppets to life. Whilst Rick employs the puppets for good natured experiments, his jealous friend Cameron and the psychic, Lauren, find a quija board in hopes of cantacting the spirit of Toulon himself. Inadvertently, Cameron and Lauren instead summon puppet-sized demons commanded by Sutekh (The demon who originally had the secret of life), who wishes to kill Rick, as well as the rest of the team looking for the secret of life. The demons kill Cameron and wound Lauren. Thanks to Toulon being able to channel his soul through Lauren, Rick learns of another puppet, Decapitron, which can also hold Andre's soul. Thanks to the puppets and Decapitron's powers, the demons are destroyed. After the night at the inn, Rick is taken to jail but is bailed out by his boss, Dr. Lawrence Jennings, who wishes to learn the secret of the puppets. Rick and his girlfriend Suzy return to the inn, and at the same time Rick's boss and a few of his thugs arrive, both parties searching for the puppets. Meanwhile, Sutekh powers up his creation, a more powerful one of the demons, with his own spirit, and summons it into the hotel. One by one, Sutekh kills the thugs as Rick regroups the puppets for a final battle against the demon. Once Rick reactivates Decapitron, the soul of Toulon tells him along with Suzy and Jennings to leave the puppets to face Sutekh alone, but Jennings does not want to leave, and injures Rick whilst fighting to stay. In retaliation, the puppets surround the doctor and kill him. With Rick and Suzy a safe distance away, the puppets defeat and destroy Sutekh, blowing a room up in the process. After the battle, Suzy regroups with Rick, who is busy repairing the puppets, at his house. The soul of Toulon, through Decapitron declares Rick the new "puppet master".
Puppet Master: The Legacy
Puppet Master: The Legacy, directed by Charles Band, was released on video in 2003. The puppets are returned to the Bodega Bay Inn by Peter Hertz, adopted son of Toulon (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge), who is now held hostage by rogue agent Maclain who is hired by the original puppets to learn how to reverse the spell of animation in order to end their suffering. Beforehand Maclain murders Rick Myers (Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5) in order to obtain the Toulon’s journal; however, the text fails to mention de-animation, which brings him to the Inn. Hertz is not aware of how to reverse animation himself, so he plays several taped recordings of Andre Toulon that chronicles his life, but the secret is absent from these recordings as well. In the end, Hertz and Blade attack Maclain before they are ambushed by an unseen character.
The most popular of the puppets and their leader, he is named after the large blade which replaces one of his hands - he is also shown to have hidden spikes behind his hollowed out eyesockets which can be unleashed at will.
The resident strongman of the group who has a tiny head but very large arms and hands - which are incredibly powerful: he has been shown as strong enough to take down a full-grown human and drag someone at deadweight across a room.
The revolting yet strangely seductive puppet who takes the form of a humanoid female with the ability to regurgitate live leeches that attach onto her victims and drain their blood.
The wooden clown jester who has a specially-designed face that can revolve to convey a range of emotions.
The puppet who has a military uniform and a large drill on his head which he uses to tunnel through objects or even people - he is almost mindless and basically exists to perform his duties rather than pursue any outside goals.
The robotic-looking Puppet whose design very loosely resembles a stormtrooper of Nazi germany - he is named after his signature weapon, a flamethrower which is powerful enough to set humans on fire.
The Old West inspired puppet who has six arms, each fitted with fully-functional pistols - in Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys his pistols were upgraded into laser-guns via modern technology.
The martial art puppet that can throw darts and has quick agility skills it made its first and last appearance on Puppet Master: Axis of Evil.
The 3rd Leader is one of the puppets featured near the end of both Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter.
These new puppet are Nazi Puppets, created by Professor Freuhoffer