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  Attack of the Puppet People See The ShrinkBuy this film here.
Year: 1958
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Stars: John Agar, John Hoyt, June Kenney, Susan Gordon, Michael Mark, Jack Kosslyn, Marlene Willis, Ken Mitchell, Laurie Miller, Scott Peters, June Jocelyn, Jean Moorhead, Hank Patterson, Hal Bogart, Troy Patterson, Bill Giorgio
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) is looking for a new job as a secretary, which brings her to the offices of this doll manufacturing company run by the apparently kindly Mr Franz (John Hoyt). He tells her his last secretary disappeared, and her alarm bells ring especially when he seems so keen on her staying to work for him as a replacement, but he is so insistent that she doesn't feel she can get out of it. Therefore six weeks later she has a post there, which is where she meets salesman Bob Westley (John Agar) who is intrigued about her story of how Franz treats his dolls...

Legend has it that Attack of the Puppet People was writer and director Bert I. Gordon's attempt to cash in on The Incredible Shrinking Man, but on this evidence a few viewings of Dr. Cyclops were mainly responsible for this. Gordon had already tried to cash in on the shrinking man idea by reversing the process, hence The Amazing Colossal Man, which by complete coincidence (or not) Sally and Bob go to see at a drive-in halfway through this film, because of one line in the dialogue about everyone else shrinking and not because it was a spot of quick publicity for a film that might still have been on the circuit, oh no.

Back at this film, and Gordon refused to dive straight into the action with his cast of diminished characters, so there was a lot of setting up of a plot which anyone casting a glance at the title could have worked out what was really going on with Mr Franz and his collection of curiously lifelike dolls. Although they are lifelike probably because they are revealed by unfortunate camera angles to be cut out photographs of the cast playing those who have been shrunk by him. Still, Gordon was working on a low budget and his methods here were fairly innovative within his means, thanks to a back room set that contained the "puppets" and various oversized props.

It is Sally who is suspicious at first that more is going on here than meets the eye, but who is going to believe her worries that nice Mr Franz is turning his victims into six inch high figures he keeps in suspended animation (putting them in clear tubes and closing the lid will do that, according to this), only taking them out when he wants to play with them. This charming, fairy tale tone is mixed up with the way that the villain is a grown man who likes to play with dolls, no matter that they are actually living people, which might have been creepy in other hands yet here is mainly silly. In fact the way that Franz ends up suggests a pathetic character rather one to be feared.

So how do Bob and Sally end up tiny? Franz suspects he has been rumbled, and contrives to place them under his shrinking machine's ray, which he also uses on his cat (it's like he's drunk with the power of his invention), although quite how he manages to get his victims into position is unclear when they could simply get up and walk away before the ray hit them. Still, it's all an excuse for adventures with a giant telephone - they try to call the police but the operator cannot hear them - and a even a musical interlude where one of the little people treats us to a doll-based song. Oddly, some of those trapped have become institutionalised, but it takes a few minutes with Bob to wake them up and see the error of their ways. With a finale that implements much back projection to place the characters in peril, and the sight of Agar wrestling with an actual puppet the same size as he is, there's always something to hold the attention, but it isn't half daft. Music by Albert Glasser.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Bert I. Gordon  (1922 - )

Known as Mister B.I.G., this American writer, director and producer came from advertising to make a host of giant monster movies in the 1950s - King Dinosaur, Beginning of the End, The Cyclops, The Amazing Colossal Man, Earth vs the Spider and War of the Colossal Beast. Attack of the Puppet People featured minituarisation, as a variation.

The 60s saw him make various fantasy and horror movies, such as Tormented, The Magic Sword, Village of the Giants and Picture Mommy Dead. The 1970s only offered two giant monster movies, Food of the Gods and Empire of the Ants, plus horror Necromancy and thriller The Mad Bomber. Subsequent films in the eighties were made with the video market in mind, and he made a comeback in 2015 at the age of 93 (!) with psycho-horror Secrets of a Psychopath.

 
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