Mr. Franz (John Hoyt) has a doll company. He makes all kinds of dolls. His last secretary supposedly left so he runs an ad in the paper for a replacement. Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) answers the ad. Mr. Franz shows her around and introduces her to his dolls. There is something about the kindly old gentleman that makes Sally uneasy. She intends on not taking the job but Franz manages to talk her into staying.
While working for Frantz she meets a traveling salesman, Bob Westley (John Agar). Bob is a friend of Franz’s. Eventually Bob and Sally fall in love. Bob asks Sally to marry him and move to Saint Louis with him. When Sally says she needs to tell Frantz that she will be leaving, Bob offers to break the news to him.
The next day Bob disappears. Franz tells Sally that he left without her. He tells her she should forget him. Franz has a new doll in his special collection. It looks like Bob. Sally gets scared and goes to the police. She tells them that Franz did something to Bob. She says he turned Bob into a doll. The police, of course, think she’s wacko but Sgt Paterson (Jack Kosslyn) checks it out anyway. Franz convinces the Sergeant that his dolls are just dolls and the officer goes away convinced that Sally has a screw loose.
When Sally says she is leaving Franz locks the door and the next thing Sally knows she is doll size and wearing a handkerchief. She is reunited with doll size Bob. Franz then whines about people leaving him and about the machine he created that shrinks people down. He explains his process to them and tells them that all his special dolls are former friends that he shrunk to one sixth their normal size. Franz says he is going to have a party in their honor and introduce them to the rest of his special friends.
After a reunion between Sally and Bob, Franz reveals how his reduction process works and why he miniaturizes people: He developed a strong phobia against being alone after his wife left him. Periodically, Franz awakens his miniaturized captives so that they can enjoy the "parties" he throws for them.
It’s not long before Sergeant Paterson shows up. It seems that Sally has disappeared and when he tries to find Bob in Saint Louis he finds Bob never showed up. With Paterson snooping around Franz knows he is going to get caught. He decides the best thing to do it kill himself and his dolls.
“Attack of the Puppet People” was released in 1958 and was produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon. I hate to call Gordon the master of forced perspective effects because, well, he’s not all that good at it, he just does it a lot. Some of the effects in the film are decent but some are obviously bad. Gordon did quite a few forced perspective films. Reason being, they are cheap to do.
As for the scientific principal involved with shrinking people Gordon sort of glosses over that part with some reference to projected images, and high frequency vibrations to break down the molecular structure of people. When he’s not playing with his toys the toy maker puts them in suspended animation in glass tubes using a gas he invented. Since shrinking people is impossible, the object of the movie isn’t the science anyway.
I will say that Hoyt, as the slightly off center toymaker, is good. Hoyt does a nice job of making Franz look both mild mannered and, perhaps, a little creepy as well. He portrays the character as a sweet old man but you get the feeling that, underneath that charm, a monster would come out should you say or do the wrong thing.
The puppet people don’t actually do any attacking. They don’t do much of anything. They don’t even show up until a half hour into the film. In general Bert’s films aren’t all that good. He’s always short on plot development and the acting is iffy. There isn’t even a lot of horror to them. Still there is something about them that endures. Everyone has their favorite Bert I Gordon film. One that everyone else thinks is lame. Of course, my favorites are the big bug ones. Whether you like big bugs, big animals, big people or little people you’ll find a Bert Gordon movie to satisfy your taste.
Bert Gordon’s daughter Susan played Agnes, the little girl who goes to Franz to have her doll fixed.