Film Reviews:

The Puppet Masters

(Stuart Orme, USA, 1994)

[The Puppet Masters]This sci-fi B-movie inspired take on Robert A Heinlein's classic SF novel provides plenty of undemanding entertainment and a fitting tribute to the 'red menace' SF movies of the 1950s. Creatures from another world come to Earth looking for a new home and land in small town America. (Why is it always small town America? Perhaps their decision is based upon watching too many transmissions of The Waltons - leading them to think us humans will be an understanding push over.) The slimy monsters quickly begin invading the bodies of the local folk but it isn't too long before they start acting strangely and, before you know it, the military have turned up ready to deport those aliens for good. Let battle commence against the hidden threat.

The cold war paranoia of Heinlein's story (first published in 1951) comes across with tongue firmly in cheek, blended with the conventions of dozens of sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s. The result is a knowing 90s take on the genre; one that largely works only if you view it not just with the standard suspension of disbelief but as a homage to its earlier counterparts. Fan's of Heinlein's novel will probably hate this as an irreverent piece of nonsense - which it is. Monsters are shoved in suitcases, characters are sketchy caricatures, hosts for the parasitic aliens walk around like zombies - and of course nobody notices anything unusual about that (!), and by the end of the movie the entire town has turned into battlefield Earth.

Donald Sutherland is great as the Government man with the plan that will save the planet. The supporting cast includes Keith (The Thing) David and Yaphet (The Running Man) Kotto. There are some satisfyingly icky shots of the alien creatures taking possession of their hosts and a lot of 'God bless America' gung-ho jingoism. The conclusion will come as no surprise to anyone watching but there's a lot of fun to be had while getting there and it's a satisfying journey of the old school variety. 6/10

Rob Dyer

See also:

Independence Day
Invasion of The Bodysnatchers
Invaders From Mars

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