Friday, November 13, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Baby Oopsy Kicked My Butt!

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody watches a crossover a decade in the making, then pulls an interview with the special effects designer out of the archives.


Full Moon Entertainment's first Demonic Toys movie was released in 1992, and by the time its titular evil characters were introduced to audiences, Full Moon head Charles Band was already planning on making a crossover film in which they would meet the often-heroic puppets of his company's Puppet Master franchise. The crossover was announced, there was promo art made, the target was to have Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys on video store shelves in 1993.

Instead, 1993 saw the release of a Puppet Master 4 with no trace of the Demonic Toys in it, and a crossover movie in which the Demonic Toys went up against a different Full Moon hero - Dollman vs. Demonic Toys.

The Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys idea never died, though. Talk and rumors of it continued throughout the '90s and into the '00s. Band always intended to get it off the ground at some point. Prototypes of a re-design for the puppets were shown off. After eBay got popular, there was apparently a draft of the screenplay written in which a character bought the puppets off the auction site and stored them in the Demonic Toys' base of operations, the Toyland Warehouse, where conflict would ensue.

Eventually, Band joined forces with the SciFi Channel in an attempt to get the movie made. It was reported that Traci Lords had signed on to star. But there were budget issues, and Band's company was having financial problems. Ultimately, he sold the project off to SciFi completely.

When the crossover finally went into production, Band was no longer involved, but it was brought to life by two Full Moon regulars: the script was written by C. Courtney Joyner, whose Full Moon credits include writing Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (and writing/directing Trancers 3), and the film was directed by Ted Nicolaou, who had made several movies for Band over the years, including TerrorVision, four Subspecies movies (and a spin-off), and Bad Channels.

It's also worth noting that Nicolaou received his first credit on a film for serving as the location sound recordist on the original 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Shot in Sofia, Bulgaria (standing in for California), Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys stars Jason Voorhees' Final Chapter opponent Corey Feldman as the recently scorned and divorced Robert Toulon, father to teenage daughter Alexandra (Danielle Keaton) and great grand-nephew of famed puppet master Andre Toulon. Having acquired the diary of the puppet master as well as the puppets Blade, Pinhead, Jester, and Six Shooter from a flea market in Paris, Robert is now trying to figure out how to make the formula that will bring the puppets to life.

With Alexandra as his assistant, Robert toils away in the "Doll Hospital" repair shop he runs, mixing up chemicals, boiling them for hours, and adding the secret ingredient. Two drops of Toulon blood. Only Toulon blood will bring the puppets to life... And finally, Robert and Alexandra succeed. Blade, Pinhead, Jester, and Six Shooter are injected with the formula and live again.

Unbeknownst to the Toulons, they are under surveillance by Sharpe Toys business owner Erica Sharpe (Vanessa Angel), who has plans of her own for the puppets.

Sharpe is part of a cult that serves the demon Bael (Anton Falk), to whom she regularly sacrifices the virgin women she hires as receptionists on the altar hidden in a sub-basement of the Sharpe company headquarters. She has made an apocalyptic deal with Bael: at dawn on Christmas morning, every toy in the Christmas Pals toyline - which is based on Bael's top minions, the Demonic Toys (tough-talking, flatulent baby doll Baby Oopsie-Daisy; jack-in-the-box clown Jack Attack, who can wrap itself around people and emits a deadly, literally eye-popping shriek; and the sharp-toothed teddy bear Grizzly Teddy) - will be inhabited by demons. Nine million Christmas Pals are out there in the world, and on December 25th they will all become living, murderous creatures.

There are shades of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with its masks that will kill their wearers on Halloween, to this story. There's even a jingle; instead of the Silver Shamrock mask song set to the tune of "London Bridge Is Falling Down", there's a Christmas Pals song set to the tune of "Jingle Bells". "Oh what fun you'll have when your Christmas Pals wake up Christmas Day."

Since Sharpe will soon find herself living in a world overrun by demonic toys, she wants puppets of her own that will protect her and do her bidding. To do this, she will need Toulon blood. Sharpe's desire to use the Toulons kind of goes against Bael's plans, as the demon has a vendetta against the Toulon family.

Joyner and Nicolaou created a whole new back story for the Toulons in this film. The secret of the puppets didn't start with Andre Toulon here, it goes generations further back, to marionette maker Jean Paul Toulon, who lived during the Renaissance era. Jean Paul sold his soul to Bael in exchange for the secrets of alchemy. But when Bael came to claim the soul, Jean Paul had somehow transferred it into an ancient oak, from which his son carved the first living Toulon puppets. Since he couldn't have Jean Paul's soul, Bael intends to wipe out the Toulon family.

Bael and the toy maker work out a new deal - she can keep Robert around for a while, possibly long enough for him to impregnate her, but Alexandra will be Bael's on Christmas.

Sharpe sends a couple cult members to steal the puppets from the Doll Hospital in the night, a mission that goes disastrously awry. The puppets chase the goons away, but in the process the chemicals that spill from the shattered beakers in the repair shop catch on fire and all of the puppets sustain burn damage.

As the clock ticks down to Christmas morning, Robert and Alexandra go on the run while trying to figure out what Sharpe is up to.

After snooping around Sharpe Toys H.Q. and getting his butt kicked by Baby Oopsy, Robert realizes his puppets are going to have to go into battle against the demonic toys, so he fixes the puppets up with cybernetic enhancements. (A little inspiration from Jason X?) Blade gets a bigger blade and a bigger hook, Jester gets a metal mace arm, Pinhead gets robo-arms, and Six Shooter's revolvers are replaced with lazer guns.

It all builds up to a climactic confrontation between Robert, Alexandra, the puppets, and police officer/Robert's love interest Sergeant Jessica Russell (Silvia Suvadová) and Sharpe, Bael, and the demonic toys in the sub-basement of Sharpe headquarters. A fight that begins with just 4 minutes to spare before the Christmas dawn.

And I have to say, the puppets vs. toys battle that had been in the works for more than a decade by this point is not exactly satisfying. It's over way too quickly, as the cyber-puppets utterly destroy the toys within moments. Freddy vs. Jason it certainly isn't. It not even close to being on the level of the scuffles the puppets had with equally small creatures in Puppet Master parts 4 and 5, back when the movies had big enough budgets to feature stop-motion animation.

Despite that disappointment, I hold an opinion that is a very rare one, as far as I can tell - I think Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys is a highly entertaining movie, one well worth revisiting every Christmas season.

The tone is much lighter than other Puppet Master or Demonic Toys, the filmmakers and cast were clearly going for comedy. Joyner and Nicolaou knew how absurd the concept was and ran with it. The script is full of hilariously ridiculous lines, and Corey Feldman goes completely over-the-top in the role of bumbling toy aficionado Robert Toulon.

Delivering his lines in an incongruously gruff voice, Feldman is playing a character who's a bit of an out-of-touch knucklehead, and who was obviously meant to be older than Feldman was at the time of filming. In fact, Joyner has said that he wrote Robert with Fred Willard (32 years older than Feldman) in mind. Watching the movie after knowing that trivia, you can definitely see a Fred Willard essence to the character. You can also see that Feldman was enjoying playing a goofball.

Danielle Keaton, Vanessa Angel, and Nikolai Sotirov (as Sharpe's right hand man) are also enjoyable in their roles, while the obvious dubbing that was done to Silvia Suvadová's lines detract from her character a bit. The dubbing of European talent in these sort of shot-on-the-cheap-in-Bulgaria movies are often an issue.

The movie wasn't made under the best of circumstances and its limitations shine through brightly, but I think a lot of the negativity it gets comes from viewers who were taking it way too seriously when it's not meant to be taken seriously at all. It's a comedy that you can laugh at and with. If not for the virgin sacrifices, it'd be fun for the whole family.

It's cheesy, it's corny, the performances are hammy, it's a wonderful cinematic Christmas feast.

I watch it every year, and a couple of years I even started it at 4:58am on Christmas morning so it would time out just right that it would be 6:16am for me at the point when the characters in the movie say they have four minutes until 6:20am on Christmas. Because, like Robert, I am a goofball.

BONUS: Below is an interview I conducted with Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys special effects designer Jeff Farley in November of 2004, the month before the movie first aired on SciFi, a time at which there was very little information available about it.

Q1 Was Charles Band involved with the film, or are the rumors that he sold his rights to SciFi true?

A1 Charlie wasn't involved at all. He sold the franchise to SciFi. If this one gets good ratings, they'll produce more films in the series. 

Q2 It's not listed on the MPAA website yet, what rating do you think it would get? Is it gory? Is Baby Oopsy Daisy as foul mouthed as ever?

A2 It would probably get a hard PG-13 (or soft R). Baby Oopsy does have some choice dialogue (He does refer to himself as a "Mr. Harry Balls" during a phone call), but probably not as foul as the previous two films.Ted did write some pretty funny stuff for him to say though. There's not much gore, but there is one gore effect that should make it in. There is a bit of sexual innuendo, though. 

Q3 What Puppets and Toys appear?

A3 On the side of the puppets: 
 A) Six-Shooter/Cyber Six-Shooter. 
 B) Pinhead/Cyber Pinhead. 
 C) Blade/Cyber Blade. 
 D) Jester/Cyber Jester. 

 On the Demonic Toys side: 
 A) Baby Oopsy. 
 B) Grizzly. 
 C) Jack-In-The-Box.  

Q4 Where is it set?

A4 It is supposed to take place in Los Angeles I believe, though shooting in Sofia brought its own flavor. We shot most of it on sound stages, with some shooting around locations in Sofia. 

Q5 How humorous is it?

A5 The script was pretty funny. This, being my third PUPPET MASTER film in a row, probably had the best script (Ted being a great writer) of the 3 (well, RETRO PUPPET MASTER had a good script, it's just that half of it didn't get shot). It doesn't have that "Oh god, the puppets are out to kill us, so there's nothing to do but die" feeling. Humor is sorely needed in films of this nature. 

Q6 Is there any connection to the previous movies, beyond Corey Feldman's character being the great-nephew of the original Puppet Master?

A6 There is a distant connection to the other films, but it's not really in the forefront. There has been a new "history" written to explain how the puppets are brought to life. I never really cared for the egyptian angle. 

Q7 How much Puppet vs Toys action should we expect to see?

A7 There will be some fun stuff between the puppets and toys, but to be honest, I feel that the short shooting schedule tempered a bit of the action. We had to simplify some of the action, due to shooting most of the film in practical locations. I have been told by those who have seen the film, that the puppets and toys look great. 

Thanks for your interest in the show. I hope we do okay by the fans, because we're never out to short-change anyone. I am proud of what we accomplished for the time and money we had. The fact that we were able to re-design the puppets and toys to certain extent made me happy, because I don't want to rehash the work of others. 

Let me know what you think of it. Thanks!  

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