Attack of the Puppet People (1958) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Deranged doll-maker Mr. Franz is deathly afraid of being left alone, so he creates a machine that can shrink humans down to only a few inches tall. He soon accumulates a troupe of shrunken prisoners whom he forces to perform for him and keep him company. When he shrinks his secretary Sally and her fiance Bob, the pair decide against spending their days as pint-sized playthings and try to find a way to escape and re-enlarge themselves.

  • Lonely, deranged puppet-master designs a machine that shrinks people.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Title and credits run over an image of people in glass cylinders with metal top and bottom caps. We open with a cityscape and busy traffic dissolving to a lobby newsstand in an office building. A letter carrier, Ernie Larson (Jamie Forster) drops off mail while a Brownie troop waits for the elevator. The troop leader (June Jocelyn) asks the postman, "Sir, can you please tell me where I can find Dolls, Incorporated." "Room 502," is the reply. The group enters the office and is greeted by the receptionist, Janet Hall (Jean Moorhead). The girls examine the doll collection display while they wait for Mr. Franz and their tour of the facility. When a little girl reaches for one of eight dolls displayed in glass cylinders, Janet runs over and warns them, "Don't let Mr. Franz catch you. He's very particular about these dolls. Nobody is allowed to touch them."

    Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) stops at Dolls, Inc. holding the newspaper classified section. She's responding to a Help Wanted Ad. There is no receptionist to greet her. She picks up a doll on the desk to examine it and is startled by the owner, Mr. Franz (John Hoyt). Mr. Franz proudly shows off a few dolls in his collection. He explains that the dolls are his friends. His strange attachment to his dolls is disquieting and Sally tells Mr. Franz, "I don't think I'm the girl for the job." She starts to walk away. After she explains that she is unmarried, with no family, he tells her, "You're exactly the one I want, Miss Reynolds. I'd like you to start right away." Sally reluctantly agrees to stay. She starts by answering the telephone, a call from Mr. Grant. Mr. Grant is inquiring about Janet Hall. He is informed she quit to go work for another company. It is that company calling to find out where she is. Franz picks up a doll in the cylinder and is interrupted by Sally asking about the company books. We zoom in on a doll that looks remarkably like Janet Hall.

    Sally is busy at her desk when Bob Westley (John Agar) walks into the office. She informs Bob she has been on the job for six weeks. He inquires about Franz and when told he is busy, Bob enters the factory section without permission. Sally lays down the law, "Please don't get me into trouble. Mr. Franz is in the back room, and when he's in that room, he never wants to be disturbed." Bob apologizes and asks to be friends. She volunteers she is a little afraid of her boss and that he is peculiar. The next morning Bob and Sally enter the elevator together. He sarcastically asks her, "Been dreaming up anything new about the boss?" A special delivery man (Hal Bogart) asks the elevator operator (Troy Patterson) the floor for Dolls, Inc. He is told the fifth floor. Sally volunteers to take the letter as she works there. She is told that it is registered and for Miss Hall. The elevator operator asks the deliveryman about the letter carrier, Ernie. He is told that two days before retirement he just disappeared.

    Franz signs for Janet's letter and tells the delivery man he expects to see her in a few days. He invites Bob into the factory, closing the door to his back room. On a peg behind the door is a leather U.S. Mail delivery pouch. A doll company salesman (Mark Lowell as Harold Franklin) stops by with samples of dolls his company sells wholesale. Franz examines one and orders four gross. He asks Sally which one she likes and she chooses the one wearing, "white organdy with the blue ribbon." Franz casually tells her, "It's a pity you can't model it for us, although I can see it would be very becoming on you. Yes." He orders two gross and asks to keep the sample doll. When Sally dumps the trash can from the factory floor into the office trashcan she discovers the torn and discarded pieces of the special delivery letter for Janet Hall. She reassembles the pieces.

    Franz and Bob are working in the factory when Sally calls to tell her boss that an old friend of his has come to visit. As Bob exits the factory room, Emil (Michael mark) enters and greets Franz. He is a puppeteer and invites Franz to catch a performance. Franz reveals he was in show business but now just works with dolls. Emil inquires about Emma. Franz explains, "She left me." They leave for dinner and stop at the Theater to see the marionettes. Emil offers Franz a partnership, but Franz declines. Emil presses the issue, but Franz is adamant. He tells his old friend, "I love my dolls and I'm quite sure they'll never leave me." They exit the theater for dinner and plan to return later to the factory. The janitor (Hank Patterson) is eating a sandwich.

    Bob and Sally are out on a date. They attend the Rosecrans Drive-In and watch "The Amazing Colossal Man" starring Glenn Langan, another Bert I. Gordon movie. Sally asks if Bob is returning to St. Louis the next day. He tells her, "Maybe. Would you like to come with me?" He proposes marriage to her. They kiss. He suggests they fly to Las Vegas and get married the next day. She agrees. They agree to meet at 10:00 a.m. the next day.

    It is just past 11:00 a.m. and Sally is packed but Bob hasn't arrived. Franz calls her at home to inquire about her absence. She asks about Bob, as he was meeting with Franz that morning and was supposed to tell him she was quitting her job. Franz tells Sally that Bob returned to St. Louis. Now she thinks Bob has played a cruel joke on her. When she gets back to the office she asks a few more questions about Bob. Franz tells her that Bob did ask Sally to marry him. Then Franz volunteers something ominous, "Bob gave me to understand that you wouldn't work for me after you were married. I begged him not to take you away. I told him how sad it is when people go." Sally starts to cry. Franz reassures her. She picks up a doll in a glass cylinder that looks exactly like Bob Westley. She comments on how lifelike it is. He takes the doll and places it in the front office display case, then departs. Unable to open the display case with a key she found, Sally uses her shoe to force the lock. She slides open the glass and removes Bob's doll from the display.

    Sally visits the missing persons department at police headquarters. She is met by the police receptionist (George Diestel) who directs Sally to Sgt. Paterson (Jack Kosslyn). She reviews the report she filed earlier about Bob with Paterson. She tells Paterson she thinks Franz, "Did something to him." She finally tells the Sergeant that Franz turned him into a doll. She adds that Janet Hall and the mailman, Ernie may have met the same fate. Paterson agrees to talk to Franz. When they arrive at Dolls, Inc. Sally notices the Bob doll is missing from the display case. They enter the factory room to confront Franz. Bob's likeness is sitting on the desk in front of Franz. He tells Paterson the reason the doll is so lifelike is, "I model all my dolls after people I know and like. People I like to have near me. Nothing wrong with that, is there?" Paterson examines the doll. To show it is just a doll, Franz lights a match and burns it in the glass cylinder. He shows Paterson and Sally a case of six more Bob dolls. Paterson tells Sally, "Well, kind of looks like your boyfriend took a powder, doesn't it?" Paterson leaves. Sally is left feeling foolish and humiliated. Franz walks over and locks the door. Sally demands that the door be unlocked. She screams.

    She wakes a short time later and screams when she sees a giant telephone next to her. Franz towers over her and warns, "Be careful my dear. Surely you aren't afraid of me, are you?" He tells her to get dressed to meet her fiancé. He hands her the dress she admired a few weeks before on the sample doll, now just her size. "Remember, you selected this yourself," he reminds her. Franz retrieves Bob and reassures her, "Only asleep Miss Reynolds. What you might call a state of suspended animation." She pulls off the cover and Bob awakens. He exits the tube. Bob throws a brush and comb at Franz. Franz tells the pair they should be grateful. They are free from all the cares of the world. He further explains the process for shrinking people. To demonstrate, he pours a saucer of milk and calls for his cat, Tommy. He explains the process involves breaking down a structure using high frequency vibrations. The cat appears and is placed on a table. Franz turns on a machine and the cat is transferred from one table full sized to another table shrunk down to the size of a caterpillar. He hands the cat to Sally to hold. Franz retrieves four more cylinders from the display case in the front office. Bob pulls Georgia Lane (Laurie Mitchell) out of her cylinder. Franz introduces them. Laurie (Marlene Willis) joins them. Georgia tells Laurie she's been asleep for a couple of months. Stan (Ken Miller) is next out of his container. The last revived is Mac the Marine (Scott Peters). Georgia, Laurie, Stan and Mac are used to their situation and insist they party. Franz retrieves a tiny bottle of champagne for his guests. Bob and Sally are horrified at their predicament. She scolds her companions, "Stop! All of you stop! How can you be so calm?" Georgia explains she took about ten minutes to get adjusted and she likes her new size. Franz returns to the back room carrying a record player. Stan and Laurie dance, while Mac and Georgia sip champagne from their oversized tea cups. Franz insists Laurie sing for her new companions. Franz leaves to answer the door. Emil stops by to report on his opening night performance.

    Bob and Sally try to call the police on the oversized telephone, but the record player is too loud and the policeman can't hear their tiny voices calling for help. Franz is impatient to get back to his captives. Bob uses the cord on the phone handset to get off the table. Stan and Mac join him in their plan to use the machine to reverse the process. As the music plays, Stan hooks a string to the door to get to the lock. Mac gets on the table and Bob tries the controls on the machine. Franz is beside himself and tries to brush off Emil, but changes his mind. Bob, Stan, and Mac abort the plaN and return to the work bench. Franz and Emil agree to meet the next day. Franz returns to the back room and returns the six to suspended animation.

    A Help Wanted note hangs in the lobby and Sgt. Paterson sees it. He stops in to see Franz and asks about Sally. Franz lies and tells Paterson she went to St. Louis to be with her fiancé. Paterson tells him Bob is also missing. A little girl arrives at the office carrying her broken doll. Agnes (Susan Gordon) asks, "Mister, can you fix my dolly?" Franz examines the doll while making small talk. Peterson asks about the back room and is told, It's just a work room. When he asks to see it he is given the key. Agnes notices Tommy crawling out of a matchbox on the table. She grabs the box after the cat crawls back inside and demands to keep it. Peterson asks about the machine. Franz offers to demonstrate, but Peterson leaves before he is next to join the collection. Franz distracts Agnes with a doll and retrieves his cat.

    Emil stops by to have a marionette repaired. He asks Franz about a visit he got from the police. Paterson had questioned Emil about Franz. Franz is now spooked and packs his special dolls. He drops Sally's jar and wakes her. He tells her about the police inquiry and his plan to kill himself and his special dolls. His captives are awakened and told to bathe and dress themselves for a night on the town. They write a Help Note on a piece of paper, then told it up into a paper airplane and throw it towards an open window. The attempt to summon help fails. Franz packs them in a suitcase and takes a taxi to Emil's Theater. He returns Emil's Dr. Jekyll marionette but decides to put on a little play with the puppet. The janitor interrupts his rehearsal. As the eight captives try to signal the janitor, Franz warns the janitor to not come out on the stage. Sally, Bob, and Georgia are asked to participate in his impromptu scene with the Dr. Jekyll puppet. Bob places a sleeping pill in Franz's coffee cup. Bob gets angry and destroys the Dr. Jekyll puppet. Again he is interrupted by the janitor and drinks the now drugged coffee. He notices Bob and Sally are gone, along with the rest of his collection.

    Bob and Sally escape the Theater and are chased by a rat and a cat. They walk back to the building on deserted city streets. It is early in the morning. When they arrive they need a plan to get up to the fifth floor. They decide to use the freight elevator when they notice a delivery man (Bill Giorgio) stacking boxes. They are menaced by a dog. They cut a whole in a box and wait inside until the box is delivered to Dolls, Inc. Inside the office they head for the lab. Franz arrives at the office and notices the hole in the box. Before he can act, Agnes arrives and calls for him at the office door. Paterson arrives. Agnes tells him about the machine and the kitty. Paterson decides no one is at the office and takes Agnes to school. By the time Franz gets to the machine Bob and Sally are full sized and tell Franz they are going straight to the police. We close with a pan of the factory floor and two empty cylinders.

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