Charles Band’s Killer Puppet Franchise

Charles Band’s Puppet Master franchise returns with Blade: The Iron Cross. The 12th official entry in the long-running cult series, hook-handed marionette Blade receives most of the attention in a wild movie with deranged Nazi scientists and mind-controlled zombies. The direct follow-up to 2017’s Puppet Master: Axis Termination, actress Tania Fox returns as a Russian psychic. Now working as a journalist for the Daily Herald, she battles the Nazis using Blade.

The franchise has seen a burst of new movies over the last decade as Charles Band and Full Moon have been pumping them out on the cheap. Far removed from the original Puppet Master, which was a solid piece of horror filmmaking, one wonders who is the target market for these continuing sequels and prequels.

Blade: The Iron Cross is exactly what Full Moon fans have come to expect in recent years from the cult label

Set in 1945, director John Lechago (Killjoy’s Psycho Circus) does the best he can with the limited budget and hammy screenplay. This is cult filmmaking for Full Moon diehards and b-movie horror lovers. Objectively, Blade: The Iron Cross isn’t that good, which has never stopped Charles Band from developing a legion of Full Moon fanatics with his catalog of wacky horror and exploitation films.

A murderous (is there really any other kind?) Nazi scientist named Dr. Hauser is working on a death ray that can control the minds of revived zombie corpses. Those evil plans are threatened when Russian psychic Elisa Ivanov (Tania Fox) gets wind of them. Using her psychic connection to one of the franchise’s most popular puppets, it’s a fight to the finish between Blade and the evil minions of Dr. Hauser. The white-faced marionette with a hook hand faces destruction against the Nazis.

No one is confusing Blade: The Iron Cross with Masterpiece Theatre. The movie is cheap schlock made on a shoestring budget, able to stand out in the crowd due to its ties with the mildly successful Puppet Master franchise. If you are looking for a taut historical thriller with great production values, this is not your movie.

The movie has two things going for it: Blade and Tania Fox. The little puppet has screen presence and has always been one of the franchise’s best dolls. Everything else is largely junk, including terrible CGI and most of the cast. Blade’s iconic look oozes potential but I’m not sure Full Moon has the budget necessary for the puppet’s proper due.

Tania Fox radiates a certain charm playing a psychic that can see the future in her dreams. She’s definitely a character I wouldn’t mind seeing return for future Puppet Master installments.

The blood and gore isn’t wildly over the top. There’s a bit of nudity but this is no adult thriller. Blade: The Iron Cross is exactly what Full Moon fans have come to expect in recent years from the cult label. Decent thrills and killer puppets, made without any studio polish.

Video

Blade: The Iron Cross resembles many other micro-budget films made today – excellent Hi-def clarity with occasionally dodgy digital cinematography. The movie’s aesthetic favors clean video with normal color saturation.The 1.78:1 presentation is bright with adequate lighting. The cheap CGI is mostly horrendous. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the competent AVC encode. Running only 70 minutes, even a BD-25 provides enough space for decent compression parameters.

The 1080P video lacks depth and razor-sharp definition. Contrast and black levels are serviceable, if lackluster. Nothing has been filtered, detail is plentiful during proper focus. Made on the cheap, Blade: The Iron Cross looks okay on Blu-ray given the rushed production, certainly better than the available streaming options on Amazon and elsewhere.

Audio

Full Moon has never been a label concerned with impressive surround tracks. Blade: The Iron Cross comes with adequate 5.1 Dolby Digital with little separation. Dialogue is crisp but the action is heavily geared for the front soundstage. Don’t expect much from the LFE channel.

The lossy audio offers few discrete cues with noticeable impact. The engaging musical score by Richard Band sounds great, slightly spread out through the rear speakers.

No subtitles are included, somewhat of a shame for such a short movie. Secondary audio is a pedestrian 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo track

Extras

Full Moon includes a decent slate of bonus features for Blade: The Iron Cross. There’s a commentary by the director and several behind-the-scenes featurettes, not to mention a slew of Full Moon trailers.

Part of Charles Band’s “Deadly Ten” filmmaking gimmick, fans were able to view the production process via live streaming. The website has far more video clips if you seriously want to delve into the madness of a no-budget Full Moon production.

The Blu-ray is coded for all regions.

Director’s Audio Commentary – Long-time Full Moon Director John Lechago covers the various challenges of filming a movie in only five days during 2020 and then having the world shutting down due to COVID, hampering post-production. Recorded at home, you can hear his young daughters intrude on the recording at times.

Highlights From Blade (05:50 in HD) – This featurette goes behind the scenes on the set as the movie was being filmed.

On Set With Tania Fox (01:52 in HD) – An interview clip with lead actress Tania Fox taking a break during filming, discussing her wardrobe and comfortable treatment by Full Moon.

Working With Blade (06:00 in HD) – Special Effects Artist Tom Devlin discusses the practical challenges of shooting Blade the puppet.

Zombie Making (08:00 in HD) – FX and Props master Tom Devlin goes over applying the zombie make-up to an actor.

Blade: The Iron Cross Trailer (02:04 in HD)

Full Moon Trailers (All in HD) – Nine trailers altogether from Full Moon, including the preceding entry in the franchise, Puppet Master: Axis Termination.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Blade: The Iron Cross
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The latest Puppet Master movie is only for the Full Moon faithful, a cheap b-movie made with no budget and little talent.

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