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One science-fiction film that turns out to be less disappointing than
expected is this loose adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein's novel.
Donald (give me another part in an alien pod movie) Sutherland interprets the role of Adam "The Old Man" Nivens, head of a secret government protection agency that has its hands full trying to stop an alien invasion by slug-like mental parasites which tap into people's brains, controlling them toward their own ends.
Eric Thal (of A STRANGER AMONG US) draws a blank where a strong character should be in the role of Sam, son of the Old Man, and fellow agent. Julie Warner (from DOC HOLLYWOOD) fares a little better as Mary, a NASA xenobiologist along for the roller coaster ride.
The opening scenes do justice to the setting and atmosphere of the book, and the skeleton of the original plot is unpredictable and thrilling, but eventually, the compromises in adaptation give rise to Hollywood-style sci-fi conventions such as alien hives.
Several realistic, key elements are thrown out, along with almost all of the sharp dialogue which made the book a hit.
However, the special effects are convincing, and the cinematography and editing are streamlined and tight. Far from being definitive, this version of the tale is nonetheless sufficiently satisfying and worth a look.
However, being that Heinlein was one of the few sci-fi authors I +didn't+ read (I'm more of an Asimov and Bradbury fan myself) as a kid growing up, and I haven't seen the original film, I didn't have any problems with this movie when it came out in theaters. In fact, I found the premise genuinely creepy, the effects highly believable, and the presence of Donald Sutherland to be a masterful touch. It may not go down in the all-time pantheon of "greatest sci-horror films" ever, but if it was playing on HBO I wouldn't change the channel. Sometimes I think people get too caught up in whether a story is true to the original, and forget that it's JUST a movie and they should try to enjoy it on that basis.
I strongly disagree with many of the other reviews of this film. It is a
very faithful adaptation (given Hollywood's history of adapting for the
screen), and one of my favorite movies. It is not entirely faithful, i.e.
Operation Bareback (which I would have enjoyed) was forgone, probably due
the mass nudity that it would entail. The love interest, the storyline and
the characters were very close to the novel. Some criticize it as a ripoff
of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the novel actually pre-dates
work, so who copied from whom? The scope of the movie was scaled back and
little mention was made of landings and conflicts in other countries, but
this may be due to editing exigencies. The aliens are suitably creepy as
wife will agree, as she still refuses to watch it again, and it manages
without the gore of many similar movies, although it is rather
Compared to another recent Heinlein adaptation, Starship Troopers, this film was much truer to the author's original work and is a thrilling and thoughtful treat. Sadly, it looks like no sequel will be forthcoming to carry the battle to the moons of Saturn.
How the producers got away with calling this "Robert A. Heinlein's Puppet
Masters" amazes me - because the only resemblance to Heinlein's genuinely
chilling short story about Titan 'slugs' are the character names. That's
None of the wonderfully satirical espionage group shenanigans, none of the
gripping suspense, none of the character development, and none of the
setting. "Puppet Masters" is not supposed to be set in 1994, it's supposed
to be set in 1957 - but a different 1957 to the one we know. I mean, this
film didn't even attempt the flying cars or the hand-held lasers. Like so
many new sci-fi films made from older literature classics, the fiction has
been cut out like some sort of hideous tumor and the science has been
exaggerated to make sure the audience knows it's SCIENCE fiction. The fact
that the science is largely irrelevant is lost on most modern screen
- and this movie is no exception.
Another example of a perfectly good story that has been shredded to make it 'fit' Hollywood's version of science-fiction, which is largely made up of clanking robots, flashing lights and explosions.
"The Faculty" was a good SF movie. And it was right - Body Snatchers is a rip-off from this story, but it never pretended to be anything but. Faculty had some enjoyable sequences. It wasn't perfect, and elements were laughable, but despite this, it was true to itself..._this_ film was just the massacre of a perfectly good story.
I only hope anyone else who ever tries to make a movie of a Heinlein classic will stick to the book and make a decent movie, not rehash the story until it sounds good - because they sounded good before.
This was a decent film. The book was far better.
If the book had been made into a three-hour film, it would have been excellent. They would have had time to do things right. As it is, they compact a wide-ranging tale set in the future into a dodgy action flick in the present day.
Do yourself a favour - read the book.
Donald Sutherland is too cool, though.
Unfortunate enough to share a name with a brand of dirt-cheap Charles
Band movies (but completely disconnected from them) I always figured
that The Puppet Masters would be just as schlocky. It ain't art, but it
is decent, low-brow, brainless entertainment.
A bunch of alien manta-rays land in Iowa in a confusing opening sequence. The authorities arrive and discover that the locals are slowly being turned into mindless slaves to their alien hosts. Sound like the X-Files? It very much does play out like a 3-part episode with virtually the exact same character dynamic and interaction. The tagline for the movie is even 'Trust no one'.
It also feels like a John Carpenter movie in some respects (the presence of Keith David, who really ought to be in every movie, only adds to this). And while it's a fairly non-epic movie it does feature some nice anamorphic Panavision photography and a bunch of character actors to keep you entertained in-between the silly plot developments.
As well as feeling the X-Files it also comes across as an Invasion of the Body Snatchers rip-off, odd since co-star Donald Sutherland was in one of those movies. Four years later another very similar film called The Faculty also featured mind-controlling alien parasites, as well as the Brain Slugs from Futurama. But apparently it's taken from a novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein but with little in common, perhaps thanks to a zillion re-writes.
These kinds of movies often have some kind of political subtext, but Puppet Masters embraces its low-brow but clever silliness and ends up a guilty pleasure.
Probably produced following the smash success of The X Files, The
Puppet Masters is a pretty solid slice of alien invasion pulp fiction.
The casting is good, with Eric Thal and Julie Warner proving to be
charming enough stand-ins for Mulder and Scully. Elsewhere, sci-fi
genre fans may appreciate the appearances of Yaphet Kotto (Alien),
Keith David (The Thing) and of course the great Donald Sutherland
(Invasion Of The Body Snatchers).
Behind the camera, it's an unusually British affair with director Stuart Orme, cinematographer Clive Tickner, and composer Colin Towns all heralding from the UK. They do nice work - Orme provides a tense and pacey first half, Tickner's very fine work lends a stylish visual sheen, and Towns' music is lushly complex.
However, although it starts out well, the flick loses some energy and traction around the middle and doesn't get it back. Its potential begins to slip away and I'm not quite sure why. Maybe budget/script cuts. The last third in particular, with its under-powered action set-pieces and somewhat perfunctory ending, suggests that the film had hit the glass ceiling of its production resources... or perhaps even its creators' full interest.
Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable sci-fi thriller for a good part of its running time. Might make a nice viewing companion with The Hidden (1987) or certainly any number of old X Files episodes!
It looks like a UFO has landed in a small Iowa farm town. A top-secret
US government investigative team from the "Office of Scientific Central
Intelligence" goes out to investigate. The three stars are: limping
leader Donald Sutherland (as Andrew Nivens), his handsome son and
partner Eric Thal (as Sam Nivens) and sexy alien biologist Julie Warner
(as Mary Sefton). They are about to conclude the whole thing was a
teenagers' hoax, but Ms. Warner realizes aliens have landed. The
reason, according to Warner, is that no males on the scene have noticed
her arousing figure or tried to look down her unbuttoned blouse. You
can almost hear her say, "Don't look at that alien spaceship, dammit,
look down my shirt!"...
Now, these aliens attach themselves to your back (your spinal column, specifically) and they multiply quickly. The way to see if someone has been "infected" is to order the person to, "Take off your shirt!" Since this trick works, we're left wondering why most people in the cast are allowed to keep their backs covered. Most viewers would not protest Warner and Mr. Thal acting without their shirts (Thal goes without pants, too). If you don't mind wondering about plot confusions and contrivances like that, you could do worse than Stuart Orme's vision of Robert A. Heinlein's science-fiction novel. Thal and Warner are an attractive couple and Mr. Sutherland is a classic performer who can improve movies by simply being there.
****** The Puppet Masters (10/21/94) Stuart Orme ~ Eric Thal, Julie Warner, Donald Sutherland, Keith David
It really makes no sense how this film could not have worked. Working off a script based on a Robert A. Heinlein novel, with the venerable Donald Sutherland in one of the lead roles, and with alien invasion the subject matter, this should have been at least a seven star Science Fiction film. As Sci-Fi goes, the superior ones focus more on futuristic and/or scientific concepts, with action and/or special effects adding to the spectacle. That is why films like the Star Wars saga really aren't Sci-Fi, but action/adventure first (and in the case of Star Wars, fantasy) and science fiction second at best. This film does delve into the biology and culture of the aliens, but just barely. Mostly it focuses on hokey special effects and a few watered-down action scenes to fill up screen time. The aliens themselves are quite realistic and original, a plus for the film. The chemistry between Donald Sutherland as the leader of a secret government agency and his son, played by Eric Thal (an unknown at the time) is actually quite good. In addition, Julie Warner actually does well as the scientist working for Sutherland and of course plays the romantic interest for Sutherland's son. While not a superior actress, she performs adequately, although her talents are more suited to television, as it appears this movie was. While most will think, as I did, while reading the plot synopsis of the film that it is a rip-off of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (Sutherland starred in the remake of this film in 1978), the actual book was published in 1951, prior to the original film as well as the novel written by Jack Finney. Bottom line: not a bad movie to watch when you know you will be distracted as it requires very little of your attention and there are enough action scenes to move the pace along, but science fiction and Heinlein fans will be disappointed.
This adaptation of a Robert A. Heinlein novel puts things right into gear when Eric Thal, Julie Warner and the ever-competent Donald Shutterland rush off to Ambrose, Iowa to investigate a registered UFO landing. However, collective-minded alien parasites have already begun to take over, turning humans into puppets to do their bidding. Writing trio Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio & David S. Goyer manage to tie things up fashionably, but also overworked themselves providing just about everything. Being a mixture of sci-fi, horror, thriller, action and drama, it's safe to say the wholesome feels a bit disjoint at places. The animatronic slug-like parasites by Roy Arbogast & Co. are a fine creation and get plenty of screen-time. Ambitious entertainment.
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