Attack of the Puppet People (1958)



(director/writer/producer: Bert I. Gordon; screenwriter: George Worthing Yates; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Ronald Sinclair; music: Albert Glasser; cast: John Agar (Bob Westley), John Hoyt (Mr. Franz), June Kenney (Sally Reynolds), Michael Mark (Emil), Jack Kosslyn (Sergeant Paterson), Ken Miller (Stan), Marlene Willis (Laurie/theme song Vocalist), Scott Peters (Mac), Georgia Lane (Laurie Mitchell), Jean Moorhead (Janet Hall), Susan Gordon (Agnes, Brownie), Bill Giorgio (Janitor); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; AIP; 1958-UK)


A misbegotten amateurish but somewhat funny low-budget b/w horror tale of a lonely doll-maker given to shrinking human beings into dolls.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A misbegotten amateurish but somewhat funny low-budget b/w horror tale of a lonely doll-maker given to shrinking human beings into dolls, who is only interested in making friends rather than conquering the world. This is schlockmeister Bert I. Gordon’s inferior version of his own The Amazing Colossal Man and a poor imitation of Jack Arnold’s popular cheesy drive-in horror classic in 1957 The Incredible Shrinking Man.

John Hoyt is Mr. Franz, the lonely puppeteer-turned-doll-maker who emigrated to Los Angeles from Brussels after his wife ran off with a circus performer. The gentle but bizarre craftsman runs a doll-making factory, where the dolls in the display case look astonishingly life-like. When secretary Janet Hall takes a powder, Franz hires a reluctant cutey pie named Sally Reynolds to take her place. After a few weeks on the job Sally is set to elope with Franz’ top salesman Bob Westley (John Agar), who pops the question of marriage when they’re at a drive-in watching The Amazing Colossal Man. But he disappears after telling Franz that he’s taking Sally with him back to St. Louis. When Sally checks out the display case and spots a doll that looks eerily just like Bob, she reports her suspicions to a skeptical Sergeant Paterson of the LAPD. She only convinces him to take her seriously after telling about the disappearances of a mailman and Janet, but the cop’s questioning of Franz leads nowhere.

Franz is upset that Sally wants to leave and does his shrinking thing on her. The process is explained by the nutty Franz in terms of pseudo-science, whereby a projector is used to shrink the human’s image and a special device is used to shrink them into the size of a doll. The cheap special effects were a joke, nevertheless this slight story had some amusing moments. There’s that party scene for the small people, as four other human doll miniatures are awakened from their sleep and removed from their cases to greet their new arrivals Sally and Bob. One of the dolls, Laurie, is forced to sing the film’s theme song: “You’re my living doll.” While playing with his dolls which he cares for with tenderness, Franz receives a visit from his best friend from the old country, Emil. He’s a puppeteer doing a show in town and needs Franz’ help in fixing a puppet misbehaving on the stage. This gives the small people an opening to hatch an escape plan.

The six dolls find that their size becomes an almost insurmountable handicap to reach safety and get free of the monster who controls them. That escape scene had some awkwardly amusing moments, but missed in being more imaginative and doing more with the ridiculous situation. The film’s best virtue was the believable performance by John Hoyt.