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Attack of the Puppet People

Attack of the Puppet People (1958) starring John Agar, June Kenney, John Hoyt – produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon

Attack of the Puppet People is a surprisingly enjoyable film by Bert I. Gordon, who lived up to his initials of B.I.G. A lonely doll maker, who can’t bear to have his friends leave him, has a very unusual way of making sure that they don’t …

Review of Attack of the Puppet People

Mr. Franz (John Hoyt, who does an excellent job here) plays the lonely doll maker, who begins the movie by hiring a new secretary (June Kenney), as his last secretary has mysteriously disappeared. Bob Westley (John Agar), a traveling salesman, stops by and begins paying attention to Sally … too much attention. Soon after, Bob disappears as well, and Sally begins that something is amiss — especially with Mr. Franz’ personal collection of dolls. They are kept in glass jars and look incredibly lifelike. So much so that a young girl (Susan Gordon, the producer’s daughter) wants to play with them — and the miniature cat that Mr. Franz keeps in a matchbox.

Attack of the Puppet People (1958) starring John Agar, June Kenney, John Hoyt - produced and directed by Bert I. GordonSoon, it’s revealed that Mr. Franz has somehow developed a way of miniaturizing people, as well as keeping them in suspended animation when he’s not “playing” with them. One friend that’s apparently safe from this is Emil (Michael Marks), who brings dolls for Franz to repair. However, the police are investigating, and the sad Mr. Franz decides to play with his “friends” one last time before killing them … and then himself. But, thanks to an interruption by the janitor (Hank Patterson, Fred Ziffel on TV’s Green Acres), an escape attempt is made …

In all, Attack of the Puppet People is much better than expected. The acting is fine, and the oversized props give the illusion of the miniaturized people — at least as much as can be expected from a B-movie made to cash in on the success of The Incredible Shrinking Man. John Hoyt is largely responsible for making the film enjoyable. Hoyt’s portrayal of Mr. Franz as not an evil man, but a pitiable one, makes the difference.

I enjoyed Attack of the Puppet People, and recommended it – I rate it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

  • John Agar (Bob Westley) – Sands of Iwo Jima, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Miracle Mile, The Mole People, Tarantula, Invisible Invaders, among many others
  • John Hoyt (Mr. Franz) – Spartacus, The Man with X-Ray Eyes, Blackboard Jungle, My Favorite BrunetteWhen Worlds Collide
  • June Kenney (Sally Reynolds) – The Student, Bloodlust!, Teenage Doll
  • Susan Gordon (Agnes) – The Five Pennies, The Boy and the Pirates, Tormented
  • Michael Marks (Emil) – The Wasp Woman, Son of Frankenstein, Return of the Fly, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
  • Laurie Mitchell (Georgia Lane)- Queen of the Universe, Missile to the Moon, Touch of Mink
  • Scott Peters (Stan) – The Cape Canaveral Monsters, The Girl Hunters, The Madmen of Mandoras, Panic in the Year Zero

Editorial review of Attack of the Puppet People courtesy of Amazon.com

After threatening audiences with The Amazing Colossal Man, director-producer-special-effects “whiz” Bert I. Gordon again proves that size does matter in his revamp of The Incredible Shrinking Man for American International Pictures. John Hoyt, the wheelchair-bound tycoon from When Worlds Collide, is Mr. Franz, a lonely doll maker who reduces anyone who abandons him to doll-size. How Franz, a former puppeteer, could accomplish this scientific marvel is never explained, but Franz’s collection (who, in an oddly unsettling scene, are forced to participate in a marionette show) include his salesman Bob (John Agar, by now an established B-movie staple) and secretary (June Kenny, from Gordon’s Earth vs. the Spider) as well as a handful of strangers (including Ken Miller from I Was a Teenage Werewolf and the Queen of Outer Space herself, Laurie Mitchell).

As always, Gordon’s limitations overshadow his intentions, and his direction and atrocious effects (AIP monster maker Paul Blaisdell is credited with “special design”), as well as the script by SF hack George Worthing Yates (Them!), undo the film’s few laudable aspects, chief among them Hoyt’s sympathetic performance. However, his self-promotional skills are topnotch–Bob and Sally see Colossal Man on their drive-in date. Puppet People won’t impress younger audiences, but parents raised on a diet of drive-in fodder will appreciate its pulpy plot and solid genre cast. Filmed as The Fantastic Puppet People, it was retitled after being paired on a double bill with War of the Colossal Beast. MGM’s full-screen print looks excellent, with only mild speckling. –Paul Gaita