THE PUPPET MASTERS (1994) Reviews and overview

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‘Trust no one’

The Puppet Masters is a 1994 science fiction horror feature film directed by Stuart Orme (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) from a screenplay by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and David S. Goyer (The Forest; Blade II; The Unborn), adapted from Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same title. The movie stars Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal, Keith David, and Julie Warner.


When a flying saucer reportedly lands in rural Iowa, The Old Man (who runs a secret branch of the CIA), decides to investigate. He goes in person, accompanied by agents Sam (who is his son) and Jarvis, as well as Doctor Mary Sefton, a NASA specialist in alien biology.

They find that aliens have indeed landed and are planning to use their mind-control powers to take over our planet. The aliens are slug-like creatures, and they are attaching themselves to people’s backs, taking control of their victims’ nervous systems, and manipulating those people as puppets…

The Puppet Masters is released as a Special Edition Blu-ray by Kino Lorber on December 4, 2018.

• Audio commentary by director Stuart Orme with film editor David Yardley
• Robert A. Heinlein: The Puppet Grand Master – Documentary with Spectrum literary agency agent Eleanor Wood, author and screenwriter David Gerrold, author Brad Linaweaver and Robert Gleason, the executive editor of Tor/Forge Books and the author of The Evil That Men Do
• Get Slugged with Julie Warner
• Strange Invasion with Keith David
• Alien Me, Alien You with Richard Belzer
• Larry Odien Pulls the Strings: The Practical Effects of The Puppet Masters
• Limited edition booklet essay by author and literary critic Samuel R. Delany
• Newly commissioned art by Jacob Phillips
• Animated Photo Gallery – Creature design images
• Limited Edition O-card Slipcase
• Reversible Art
• Theatrical Trailer


“Sure, it’s hardly original and we’ve seen it many times before. But the stylish production reminds us of The X-Files and it makes us feel safe. We know this is gonna be a tense little experience without going downright silly with spaceships and laser guns. It’s down to earth and the focus is on the paranoia and some delicious slimey creature effects…” Ninja Dixon

The Puppet Masters is an overlong, repetitive, and shallow picture that fails to capitalize on its gripping opening minutes, sinking rather quickly into absurdity and boredom as more and more characters predictably come under the control of the parasites. It lacks chills and legitimate scares…”

” …The Puppet Masters is an ideal go-to if you’re in the mood in being shamelessly entertained. It’s cool, action packed, stunt heavy, sexy and filled to the brim with freaky tentacle abusing aliens.” Arrow in the Head

Buy with Deep Rising on Blu-ray:

” …things get rather dull as the film plods on to its predictable conclusion, but the “hive” sequence is pretty cool.  It’s not in the same league as Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers remake from the same year, but so what? There are plenty of worse alien invasion flicks out there you can waste your time with.” The Video Vacuum

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“That everyone, heroes included, get to temporarily experience the aliens’ string-pulling powers is a nice touch; the fact that their emotionless personalities while possessed are no more flat and robotic than their regular demeanors, however, is emblematic of this supernatural adventure’s pervasive dullness.” Lessons of Darkness

“The characters in the film seem to come post-informed by the body snatchers genre – they automatically seem to know what it going on and are prepared to fight it – and the rapidity of the progression is confusing. The film becomes far more interesting when it gets to the scenes with the agents chasing the parasite through the OSI offices.” Moria

” …The Puppet Masters becomes a choppy, un-suspenseful succession of chases, melodramatic showdowns and routine special effects. Mr. Sutherland invests his role with a glowering ferocity that lends the film a psychological weight whenever he is on the screen. The rest of the cast, rather like the Iowans once their bodies have been taken over, merely go through the motions demanded by the genre.” The New York Times

Cast and characters:

  • Donald Sutherland … Andrew Nivens (The Old Man) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Don’t Look Now; Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors; Castle of the Living Dead
  • Eric Thal … Sam Nivens – Down aka The Shaft
  • Julie Warner … Mary Sefton – Dexter (TV series); Flatliners
  • Keith David … Alex Holland – Pitch Black; The Grave; They Live; The Thing
  • Will Patton … Doctor Graves – Boarding School; The Mothman Prophecies; Copycat
  • Richard Belzer … Jarvis
  • Tom Mason … President Douglas
  • Yaphet Kotto … Ressler – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare; Warning SignAlien
  • Sam Anderson … Culbertson
  • J. Patrick McCormack … Gidding
  • Marshall Bell … General Morgan
  • Nicholas Cascone … Greenberg
  • Bruce Jarchow … Barnes
  • Benjamin Mouton … Higgins
  • David Pasquesi … Vargas
  • Andrew Robinson … Hawthorne – Hellraiser
  • Benj Thall … Jeff
  • William Wellman, Jr. … Doctor
  • Dale Dye … Brande
  • John C. Cooke … Lt. Abbey
  • Michael Shamus Wiles … Captain Earley

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