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Blade: The Iron Cross
Blade has long been one of, if not the, most popular member of the Puppet Master family, so it makes sense that Full Moon would eventually get around to giving him a solo film and telling his origin. And that's pretty much exactly what this latest entry, Blade: The Iron Cross is: Blade's origin story. It's a shame though that the story just isn't all that good.
As far as the plot goes, Dr. Hauser is a Nazi scientist in the Los Angeles of 1945 who is as hardworking as he is deplorable. Guilty of plenty of crimes both related to the war and not, a ‘psychic war journalist' named Elisa Ivanov (the lovely Tania Fox, who last appeared in the Full Moon universe with her turn in Puppet Master: Axis Termination finds out what he's been up to and uses her abilities to bring killer puppet Blade, one of Andre Toulon's most murderous puppet creations, to violent life.
As lovely Elisa and Blade work together to put an end to Hauser's horrible ways, Hauser surprises them by unleashing an army of zombies against them. Didn't see that coming, did you?
The recent Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich was a genuinely great movie, a total blast of a film that any self-respecting horror fan should seek out, even if you don't have an affinity for Charles Band's longest running franchise. You don't need to know the backstory going into that one, and it's just a whole lot of fun. It's a shame then that Blade: The Iron Cross can't get to that level of entertainment value. The idea of delving into Blade's origin story isn't a bad one and bringing Elisa back into the tale isn't the worst idea either, as Fox is not only… a fox, but also has a genuinely naturally weird acting style in this picture that works. Some might complain that she's a bit too distant or wooden here but this kind of works in the context of what her character is supposed to be all about. The puppet effects are as good here as they've been in any of the other franchise entries, and the zombie make up is pretty decent and the effects are solid by B-movie standards even if some occasionally bad CGI works its way into the movie. Richard Band's score is fine, and director John Lechago paces the film, which is pretty nicely shot, very effectively.
The problem is the script. Had there been more thought and care put into crafting the actual story here, this probably would have been really good but that didn't happen. Characters aren't developed properly, they just sort of exist, and a lot of the dialogue is as hokey as it is unbelievable (and not in a good way). You don't go into a Puppet Master movie, or any Full Moon movie for that matter, expecting high concept dialogue, ruminations on the meaning of life or thoughtful conversations between characters that make you question your own life choices, the movie didn't need that, but the story throws in a lot of different elements that it doesn't need and this causes it to lose focus on the elements that are there that it did need. More on Elisa and Blade's relationship would have gone a long way. The movie gives us bits and pieces of the two of them together but fails to properly link the psychic-to-killer-puppet connection the way that it should. This is the main concept of the movie and it's just sort of left hanging.
Still, this has moments that keep it from being a complete waste of time. Again, Fox is watchable here in an odd way, and not just because she gets naked, and the look of the film is decent. There are a couple of decent murder set pieces. It's just that this could and should have delivered more and it winds up not even trying to hit its potential.
Blade: The Iron Cross arrives Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen with the seventy-minute-long feature taking up 15.4GBs of space on the 25GB disc. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer looks quite good. The disc shows a minor compression issues here and there, however. While this was shot digitally and looks it (meaning there's no grain or print damage to note), we can assume it's a very fine representation of the source. Detail is pretty solid and there's a good amount of depth to the image. Colors are reproduced quite nicely and accurately and we get good black levels as well.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track, in English, sounds pretty solid. There's quite a decent amount of surround activity noticeable in this mix, and the busier and more action-intensive scenes have quite a bit of enjoyable effects work spread out really nicely through the entire sound stage. Dialogue stays clean and easy to follow, the levels are balanced well and there isn't a trace of any hiss or distortion. The music used in the movie also sounds quite strong. This isn't as mindblowing as the latest Hollywood blockbuster but for a film made on a low budget, it sounds very good even if they really should have given us a lossless option to really take advantage of the format. There are no alternate language or subtitle options offered, though an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is also provided.
Extras start off with a commentary track from director John Lechago who speaks about this film's place in the 'Deadly Ten' series put together by Charles Band, some of the little details you might miss when watching the film for the first time, the evolution of the Blade character, the quality of Howard Wexler's work behind the camera and Richard Band's score, what it was like working with the different cast members on the shoot, Blade's penchant for beautiuful naked women, the use of sex and nudity in the film, details that had to be changed during the production and lots more. It's a pretty informative track with Lechago coming across as very appreciative of the people that he worked with on this production.
There are a few featurettes here as well. The Deadly Ten Director Introduction is a four-minute peice where Lechago gives some background on his work with Charles Band before then going on to share some info on the 'Deadly Ten' idea. Highlights From Blade is a six-minute featurette that is a collection of fly-on-the-wall style footage shot on set and casual interviews with the cast and crew. On Set With Tania Fox spends two-minutes with the film's lovely leading lady goofing around a bit on set as she gives a very informal interview. Last but not least, Zombie Making is an eight-minute segment with SFX guy Tom Devlin who shows off what went into creating some of the zombie makeup that was used in the feature, talking about his work as he applies some makeup to an actor.
Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature and some bonus trailers (Weedjies: Halloweed Night, Necropolis: Legion, Barbie & Kendra Save The Tiger King, Killjoy Psycho Circus, Puppet Master 2, Puppet Master 3, Puppet Master: Axis Termination and Specters), menus and chapter selection options.
Blade: The Iron Cross will probably give diehard fans of the Puppet Master movies a good time at the movies and, to be fair, it's hardly the worst B-movie you're ever going to see but it never fires on all cylinders the way that it should. The Blu-ray release looks okay and sounds decent, it also contains some nice extra features as well, which rounds out the package nicely. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.