The Puppet Master series is one of the longest-running franchises in horror history. After the collapse of Charles Band’s Empire Pictures, Puppet Master gave birth to a new indie horror company for the 1990’s in the form of Full Moon Entertainment. During that decade, Full Moon dominated the video market with low-budget hits like the Trancers series, Demonic Toys, Subspecies, Castle Freak and many more. But Band will be the first to admit that Puppet Master has always been their bread and butter.
With eleven films to date (including the SyFy Channel production Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, which Band does not consider a part of the series) as well as a successful action figure series, statues, Halloween costumes and a currently ongoing comic book series, it seems unlikely that Puppet Master will ever disappear.
But just looking at the sheer amount of material there, it’s almost crazy to think that there could have been anything left out. Eleven is a long run for a film series and Band has produced over 300 pictures and counting. But the truth is, there’s a whole other franchise’s worth of material that never went before the camera. These were exciting possibilities, things fans could not wait to see. Some fans are still waiting.
There were a lot of reasons behind these projects never seeing the light of day. Some of them came down to creative differences. More of them came down to Band talking big and advertising something that never went beyond the idea stage. Most of the time, however, it simply came down to money.
Kenneth J. Hall’s Puppet Master
Kenneth J. Hall’s original script for Puppet Master was a completely different movie. The puppets were all different as well. There were versions in there of Cyclops and Dr. Death, who would make it into Retro Puppet Master as well as radically different versions of Six-Shooter and Blade, who also had six arms in this script. According to Hall, the script was rewritten because director David Schmoeller realized he could get paid more if he did his own draft. He did so under a pseudonym, so that the script credit goes to Joseph Collodi—in actuality the author of Pinocchio—while Hall ultimately received a “story by” credit.
Puppet Wars: Curse of the Puppet Master
In the behind-the-scenes “Video Zone” feature for Puppet Master 5, Band promised that film would be the final chapter, but there would be a spinoff prequel trilogy called Puppet Wars to follow. This is probably the most well-known of the Puppet Master projects that never happened. They were ambitious, but they actually came close to being made—at least this first one did. Set entirely on a train following the events of Puppet Master III this script saw Toulon and his puppets going up against Ancient Egyptian deities—and Nazis, of course. The title was ultimately given to the sixth film, Curse of the Puppet Master, and the train sequences that had been shot before the production was cancelled were used in Retro Puppet Master.
The idea behind the Puppet Wars films was that each entry would see the puppets going up against some kind of classic monster. In the first, it would be mummies. In the second, it would be vampires. Once the first Puppet Wars was cancelled, this one was obviously canned as well.
Puppet Wars: Castle of the Puppet Master
While the full scripts for Puppet Wars I and II have circulated around for a while, not a whole lot is known about the third except that it would also have involved one of the classic monsters. In this case, it was going to be Frankenstein. This one also would have finally taken the action to the Bodega Bay Inn and led into Toulon’s suicide at the beginning of the original film.
This was a bizarre entry that could have simply been a rumor, but there’s never really any way of knowing with Full Moon. According to the site “Tomb of the Unproduced Horror Movie” Puppet Master 9 was to be produced by an unnamed company, not Full Moon, and would have brought back Gordon Currie as Rick Myers from the fourth and fifth films. It’s very possible that this was nothing but a lie, considering that no Puppet Master 8 even existed at the time, although they were probably referring to the long-delayed Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys.
The original script for this installment sounds very similar to the script for the first Puppet Wars in that it was entirely set on a train and was set after the third installment in the PM series. My guess is they tried to simply rework what they already had before going in a more original direction.
Initially meant to be the fourth PM film and second Demonic Toys film, this version of Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys is best-known for its teaser poster. Unfortunately, not much else is known about it other than that. The poster included both Torch and the robot from Demonic Toys, neither of whom appeared in the finished product. When the idea was scrapped for the time, the toys were replaced with Totems and the demon master replaced with Sutekh from PM 4 and 5.
This project came close to happening again in 2000. All that’s really known about the plot is that it would have involved a woman played by Traci Lords buying the puppets on eBay. It was ultimately more advertised than the eventual finished film, with ads in numerous magazines for a toy series based on the movie as well as a contest to win a role in the feature. Prototypes of the toys were designed and introduced new cyber versions of the puppets, a concept that would survive when it eventually did get made. The only reason this one didn’t happen at the time was Full Moon’s bankruptcy later that same year.
In the Video Zone for Retro Puppet Master, effects men Christopher Bergschneider and Jeff Farley spoke of plans to follow up Retro with a series of the young adventures of Andre Toulon. The film also ends with the lead-in for a sequel, suggesting a story that would explain what actually became of the retro puppets. But this never came to be.