Director: Bert I. Gordon
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

During the 1950s, director Bert I. Gordon, or "Mr. BIG" if you will, dealt a lot with giant monsters of all types with films like THE CYCLOPS (1957), THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957), and EARTH VS. THE SPIDER. With this effort, Mr. BIG set his sights on miniaturizing people, and acted as producer, director, co-screenwriter, and even concocted the special effects. Gordon was truly a Renaissance man, the likes of which you'll never see again, and one his most charming pieces of cinematic fantasy 1958’s ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE – now makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory arm.

Elderly and lonely doll manufacturer Mr. Franz (John Hoyt, X: THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES) operates a workshop called “Dolls Incorporated” on the fifth floor of a city office building. As his secretary has suddenly “disappeared”, he advertises for a new one, and immediately takes a liking to sweet Sally Reynolds (June Kenney (TEENAGE DOLL, SORORITY GIRL) and convinces her to take the job. Constantly hanging around Mr. Franz’s office is pushy business associate Bob Westley (1950s B-movie staple John Agar, TARANTULA, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS) who has sights on getting closer to Sally: he falls in love with her and asks for her hand in marriage while viewing THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN at a drive-in theater. Although they plan to elope, the next day Bob mysteriously goes missing and Sally suspects Mr. Franz of turning her fiancé into a tiny living doll. A police sergeant (Jack Kosslyn, EMPIRE OF THE ANTS) doesn’t believe her, even though several other missing persons have also wandered into Franz's place of business. Soon Sally is shrunken and reunited with her beau and a group of other little people including a jolly marine (Scott Peters, THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN), a rockin' and rollin' couple of teens (I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF’s Kenny Miller and ROCKABILLY BABY’s Marlene Willis), and a blond floozy (Laurie Mitchell, MISSILE TO THE MOON). All seem content with being small until Agar and his future wife lead a rebellion against the deranged toymaker to regain their normal height.

Shot as “The Fantastic Puppet People”, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE is sort of a remake of the 1940 Technicolor Paramount sci-fi film DR. CYCLOPS, and it also explores themes found in the previous year’s hit THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. Much like that film’s poster art which depicted a ferocious cat terrorizing a miniaturized man – PUPPET PEOPLE’s poster (with artwork by Reynold Brown) featured an angry mutt threatening tiny human minions (such a scene does occur in the movie, though the dog looks nothing like it does in the poster). There is no "attack" in the film, but it’s still a lot of fun and the special effects are pretty good: the camerawork is clever enough to convince us that these people are really little (only a handful of the effects are dodgy and don’t actually work well). A simple but nice effect is the use of front and back curved cut-out photos of people shown in clear cylinders, shot in such a way to give the illusion of a three-dimensional doll-sized figures. Like a lot of Gordon's films, there are some unintentional laughs, including the part where Agar participates in a puppet show, throws a tantrum and beats up a Dr. Jekyll marionette! You'll also get a chuckle when you see a case full of casually attired John Agar dolls in plastic tubes, or seeing Hoyt throw on a record and forcing Marlene Willis to sing the pop tune "You're My Living Doll" as he bobs his head with approval! Michael Mark (a familiar Universal monster movie actor from such films as FRANKENSTEIN and SON OF FRANKENSTEIN) appears as an old puppeteer friend of Franz, and Gordon’s daughter Susan (PICTURE MOMMY DEAD) makes her film debut as a little girl who frequents the toymaker’s shop. The score is by the great B-movie film composer Albert Glasser and the screenplay is by George Worthing Yates (EARTH VS. THE FLYING THE SAUCERS) based on Gordon’s original story.

An American International Pictures (AIP) title held by MGM, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE was first released on DVD in 2001 as part of the “Midnite Movies” series, and then re-released on DVD-R in 2014 as part of their “Limited Edition Collection”. More recently, Shout! Factory licensed the film and when it was announced that their Blu-ray was going to be full frame (1.33:1), it met with the expected protests on the internet. Thankfully, it was decided to master the film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as it’s presented here in 1080p HD. Made from a 2k scan of the original interpositive, the transfer looks terrific, and for anyone who has only seen the film in boxy full frame/open matte presentations, the intended compositions as presented here definitely complement the viewing experience. Background mattes and other process shots are all-too-obvious in this clear transfer, with the contrast on this black and white flick being very good throughout the presentation, offering proper black levels and nicely modulated gray scale. Grain is tight and never obtrusive, and this is a very pleasing organic-looking transfer. Audio comes in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono mix, which is pretty clean and doesn’t show its age. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Film historian and author Tom Weaver is on hand for an audio commentary, starting off with the story of how Gordon met and started to work with AIP’s Sam Arkoff and James H. Nicholson. Weaver calls out all the script-to-screen changes, points out the various supporting players, and humorously questions the sillier aspects of the script and film (such as when Agar’s “salesman” character, wearing a suit, is relegated to doing assembly line work for Mr. Franz, or when the puppet people plot to use a paper airplane as a rescue plea). He includes excerpts from his own interview with Agar, quotes from actual reviews as well as the people involved, and offers other well-researched tidbits (Paul Blaisdell’s prop contributions for example) about the film and the world of Mr. BIG, making for an entertaining commentary. Weaver (who admits he was never a fan of the movie, even as a little kid) mentions he wanted to get actor Kenny Miller to be on the commentary, but he learned of his death around the same time he got the call do to the gig (here, Weaver has an actor friend recreating Miller’s quotes from an interview he did with him back in the early 1990s). Dr. Robert J. Kiss can also be heard on the commentary to discuss PUPPET PEOPLE’s distribution (on a double bill with WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST). A lengthy still gallery (including tributes to Kenney, Agar, Hoyt, Miller, Peters, Mitchell, Willis, Susan Gordon and actress Jean Moorhead) is included, as is the original theatrical trailer in full frame ("SEE: A baby doll take a bubble bath in a coffee can!"). (George R. Reis)