Review of “Attack of the Puppet People” (1958)

trailer from YouTube


This week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering is a black-and-white science fiction horror flick involving miniaturized people trying to escape the clutches of the “kindly” old doll-maker who shrank them and holds them captive for his amusement.

Yeah, it could happen.

Plot:

The movie opens with a Brownie troop visiting Dolls Incorporated. The receptionist, Janet Hall (Jean Moorhead), occupies the girls until Mr. Franz (John Hoyt) can give them a tour of the factory.

In the next scene, Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) applies for the receptionist job at Dolls Incorporated. The ad reads, “easy work, good pay.” Janet Hall left for a better job—only it seems she never got there. A mailman, old Ernie, disappeared two days before he was to retire and start collecting his pension. In the meantime, Bob Westley (John Agar) makes a sales call at the office while Mr. Franz is occupied. He hits on Sally. Of course, they’re soon engaged.

Bob has to go back to St. Louis. He suggests they fly to Las Vegas the next day and get married. He has to see Mr. Franz in the morning anyway. Bob will tell him Sally won’t be coming back. How could she refuse?

Bob never shows up. Mr. Franz Sally, wanting to know if everything is all right. Sure, Bob was by. He left for St. Louis.

Oh, bummer for Sally.

When she gets to the office, she notices one of the special dolls, a new one that looks just like Bob. It even wears the same clothes. But how is that possible? Oh, Sally’s about to find out.

Thoughts:

According to Wikipedia, this was released with another of Director Bert I Gordon’s releases, War of the Colossal Beast (1958), as a double feature. It was rushed into production to capitalize on the popularity of the Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), but it’s quite a different movie.

Dr. Franz is supposed to be a kindly old soul, but he is creepy from git-go. Picking up on the bad vibes, Sally tries to walk away from the job interview, but the old man begs her to stay, telling her he needs her. All she has to do is answer the phone and take care of his books, he tells her with his hands on her shoulder. EWWW. Needy boss. Run, don’t walk, Sally. Of course, that would make for a short movie.

The doll-people are kept in plastic canisters in a sort of suspended animation. Once they’re pulled outside the canisters, they’re awake. A total of six doll-people are shown, including a Marine in dress uniform. Most old hats are used to it and have accepted their lot with some cynicism. Mr. Franz regards them as… friends and likes to throw parties for them, with dancing and music. Mrs. Franz left him. The dolls never will… or will they?

The special effects are not bad, particularly given the time. They make use of oversize props. One doll (Ken Miller) climbs up a door using string, Batman-and-Robin style, to look through a keyhole and see what Mr. Franz and his friend Emil (Michael Mark) are up to.

Bob proposes to Sally while the two are at a drive-in watching The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), a film directed by Bert I. Gordon, who also directed this film.

Legend1 has it that lookout man, Alfred C. Baldwin III, was so busy watching Attack of the Puppet People in his hotel room, he didn’t notice undercover detectives pull up in an unmarked car to investigate possible break-ins at the hotel across the street, the Watergate. And the rest is history.

While this film had its moments, mostly, I just found it uncomfortable. Sally should have gotten out of Dodge during the first job interview. While Bob was hitting on her, he asked her if she was afraid of her boss and laughed when she admitted she found it weird Mr. Franz talked to the dolls. Why didn’t she drop-kick the jerk rather than get engaged to him?

The movie is creepy, but for all the wrong reasons, IMHO. This is not one I’d like to see again.



1 The Bartender’s Tale: How the Watergate Burglars Got Caught | Washingtonian (DC)


The film can be watched for free here.

Title: Attack of the Puppet People (1958)

Directed by
Bert I. Gordon

Writing Credits
George Worthing Yates…(screenplay)
Bert I. Gordon…(story)

Cast (in credits order)
John Agar…Bob Westley
John Hoyt…Mr. Franz
June Kenney…Sally Reynolds (as June Kenny)
Susan Gordon…Agnes
Michael Mark…Emil

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

3 thoughts on “Review of “Attack of the Puppet People” (1958)

    1. I told my dearly beloved it’s too bad we didn’t grow up in the 50s. We could have seen this in a drive-in as a double feature with another horror movie. On second thought, it’s much more comfortable watching them at home on the couch with pizza and wine.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.

  1. Some of the movies you reviewed I’ve seen some not and some of the books you’ve reviewed I’ve read and some not. Thank you for these excellent reviews. They were very well written and informative.

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