Wrapping up a year of stupendous box sets that were dedicated to the highfallutin’ likes of Alex North’s SPARTACUS, Dennis McCarthy’s ST- TNG and all that is Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, there’s something gleefully wrong about getting a five-disc set dedicated to the scores that have accompanied the films of Andre Toulon’s unstoppable marionette avengers- the figures who will likely be the most iconic creations of exploitation king Charles Band.

Yet Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman and their unstrung ilk have inspired worthy thrills from such composers as Richard Band, Jeff Walton, John Massari, Peter Bernstein and Robert Alpert, whose eight PUPPETMASTER scores get loving tribute across five discs, courtesy of Perseverance Records.

Though he’s always shown a memorable wealth of themes for his brother’s small-budget productions like GHOULIES, TROLL and DOCTOR MORDID, the PUPPETMASTER theme stands tall as one of Richard Band’s most delightful creations, using a whimsical, circus-style melody and ratcheting percussion to convey Toulon’s tiny army.

It’s Band’s five scores that make up the bulk of PUPPETMASTER’s music, a wash of sly, theme-driven melodies that skitter about, poke around corners, and warm up their blunt metal bits before rending human flesh.

There’s a simmering vibe of enchantment that powers these anti-heroes, with the added addition of darker military tones when the puppets took on the Axis during the series’ most interesting detours into WW2. The sounds of a dark, twisted carnival suffuse Walton and Massari’s work on the CURSE and RETRO scores (the latter of which also has Robert Alpert contributing a memorable Grand Guignol piano piece).

The most ferocious score of the lot might be Bernstein’ action-filled, yet still Christmas toy-sounding score for the had-to-happen clash of PUPPET MASTER vs. DEMONIC TOYS, but if one thing ties these soundtracks together, it’s the fact that practically no symphonic strings were attached to their music, which only shows off the musical creativity, and cohesion of composers who rose to the challenge to believably animate these usually slow-moving, if still-formidable action figures.

With most of the PUPPETMASTER scores consisting of a disparate blend of tracked, and original music, album producer Robin Esterhammer has done an impressive job of giving a pleasing musical flow to the five CD’s. Topping off this nicely packaged box set are thoroughly entertaining liner notes by Brian Satterwhite, which collects the frequently hilarious quotes of the series creators, and composers as they recall the low budget hijinks they endured. There’s little doubt this series will as well, given Charles Band’s never-say-die love for all monsters great and small- a proclivity that practically ensures there will be another eight-CD PUPPETMASTER box set in just a few years to come.



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