In October of 1989, Charles Band’s Full Moon Features launched with the release of Puppet Master. Thirty years and 11 sequels since David Schmoeller’s film first hit video stores, the franchise finally gets its first spin-off with Blade: The Iron Cross, directed by Full Moon alum John Lechago.
Beginning basically where Puppet Master: Axis Termination left off, Blade follows the continuing adventures of WWII-era psychic journalist Elisa Ivanov (Tania Fox) as she tracks a series of murders in the back alleys of downtown Los Angeles. Her uncanny ability to find the bodies before anyone else leads the police to suspect she’s involved, though she knows a deeply ingrained nefarious plot is brewing. As she gets closer to the truth, she finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy of occultist Nazis scheming to conquer the US.
Well, maybe. This is a Charles Band production after all, and what he ignores in plot and rehearsals, he makes up for with zombies, mad scientists, dumb cops, nudity and of course, the star of the show, the bloodthirsty puppet Blade. Band makes exploitation films the way they did for drive-ins and grindhouses in the ’60s and ’70s: short, sloppy, and entertaining as hell. Who needs a convoluted storyline when you have tits, gore, and a murderous puppet?
“Her uncanny ability to find the bodies before anyone else leads the police to suspect she’s involved…”
That said, as the main character, Tania Fox, carries the film as the mysterious newspaper reporter burdened with the “gift” of clairvoyance. She’s graceful and elegant, but strong within her diminutive frame. Fortunately, she shares excellent chemistry with co-stars Vincent Cusimano as Detective Joe Gray and Griffin Blazi as her photographer sidekick. Together, they form a trio with enough charisma to make you care. Angelica Briones stands out as Gloria, always ready with coffee in the newsroom to fulfill her agenda. Noel Jason Scott also turns out a particularly humorous performance as the “Big Cop” with an accent that can’t decide if it’s Bronx or Boston.
Well-versed in the world of Full Moon, Lechago stays true to the series, at least as far as the latter entries go. He clearly knows how to work within a shoestring budget, at the very least enough to get shots worth watching. Far too often, low-budget directors try to hide their lack of funds through extremely tight shots that just look ugly, but Lechago understands that there can be aesthetic value in close photography. His work here makes the film a strong addition to the franchise.
These days, horror and science fiction movies are so drenched in CGI you wonder why they just don’t make cartoons. Charles Band and Full Moon Features stand in opposition to that, with their emphasis on practical effects and raw entertainment. They’re not politically correct or made to please everyone, but they accomplish what they set out to do, and they remind us that movies used to be so much fun before year-round blockbusters and overpriced multiplexes. The next time somebody says, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore,” point them to Blade: The Iron Cross and remind them that Charles Band does.
"…who needs a convoluted storyline when you have tits, gore, and a murderous puppet?"