I’ve own this film for quite some time, like years and only not got around to watching it. Was it worth the wait? Kind of. It was a cute film, though I find most horror films from the 1950’s to be cute. Though it does have considerable charm, Attack of the Puppet People isn’t without its faults. I also have to admit that I was a little upset about the title of films, since never once do they actually attack. Anything.
Attack of the Puppet People opens with a group of Brownies visiting Mr. Franz (John Hoyt), the owner and operator of a doll factory. One of the girls shows interest in a group of very life-like dolls in special canisters, but is warned to not touch them as they are Mr. Franz’s favorites and he’s very particular about them. We then jump forward to Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) coming to the factory, Dolls Inc to see Dr. Franz over an ad he placed for a new secretary after his last secretary left for a better job. She is quickly off put by Dr. Franz and his strange mannerisms. But, before she can leave, he manages to change her mind. After a few weeks, Bob Westley (John Agar) a salesman comes to see Mr. Franz and gets off to a rocky start with Sally. Though over time the two develop feelings for one another. One day a letter comes for Mr. Franz’s former secretary, Mr. Franz tells the mailman that he’ll deliver it to her. Though a few days later Sally finds the letter in the Mr. Franz’s waste bin torn up. Later at a on a date at the drive-in seeing The Amazing Colossal Man, Bob tells Sally how he feels and asks her to marry him. She agrees as she feels the same and the two makes plans to go Las Vegas that weekend to get married. Bob tells Sally that he’s going to see Mr. Franz the next day and tell him about their plans. Though the next day, Sally can’t find Bob and Mr. Franz tells that he had to leave unexpectedly. After she finds a doll that is the exact duplicate of Bob, Sally takes the doll to the police informing Sgt. Patterson (Jack Kosslyn). Who initially laughs off her concerns, but since Mr. Franz’s former secretary, postman and a number of other people close of Mr. Franz have disappeared. Though after confronting Mr. Franz and shown that the doll is just a doll, Sgt. Patterson leaves. After Sgt. Patterson leaves Mr. Franz attacks Sally and when she wakes up, she’s been shrunk to miniature size. Mr. Franz soon introduces his other little friends, a number of other people he has shrunk, including Bob. During Bob and Sally’s welcome party, Mr. Franz is visited by his old friend Emil (Michael Mark). While he’s distracted those shrunk take their chance to try to reverse the process using Mr. Franz’s shrinking machine. Though they are unable to get it work and are barely able to get back without being noticed. A while later, Sally and Bob overhear Mr. Franz and Sgt. Patterson, who has been continuing his investigation. After wards, they hear Mr. Franz’s plan to kill himself and those he’s shrunk, but not until after one last play date…
I’m a little conflicted when it comes to this film. I enjoyed, but I’m not really seeing the how it’s attained the cult following that it has. It might have to do with its historical value with the Watergate scandal. As the lookout was too engrossed in this film to notice anything leading to those involved getting caught. Though that withstanding, Attack the Puppet People does posses considerable charm.
The effects are suitable and given that most of it revolves around simply having normal actors around large set pieces. The effect still manages to make the film feel believable within its confines. Though nothing here is groundbreaking or particularly outstanding.
The acting here is what really makes the films charm. As John Hoyt makes an incredibly sympathetic villain. He’s damaged and a bit deranged, but not malicious. Other than you know, wanting to kill them then himself. But that’s mostly an act of desperation out of fear of being caught. While June Kenney and John Agar share good chemistry and while I feel that a marriage after only a couple of weeks is a bit rushed, that doesn’t detract for me.
Final thoughts, while no masterpiece of cinema, The Attack of the Puppet People was worth the time invested and is a memorable B-Movie. The acting is solid and at times a bit whimsical, but never strays too far from what the film is. The horror in this is downplayed, but prevalent and leaves you wondering. I would recommend this film for fans of older films, but once again, for those new to this era. This isn’t the film I would recommend you start with. 8/10