Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Produced by James Glickenhaus, Edgar Ievins
Written by Frank Henenlotter and Robert Martin
Director of Photograpy Robert M. Baldwin
Music by Joe Renzetti
Cast: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Joseph Gonzalez, Louise Lasser
1990/84 mins/Color/Dolby Surround
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Unearthed Films DVD
I typically hate to label things, but as a movie/DVD critic, that's part of my job. While I typically try to be objective in my reviews, I still have to say if a movie is "good", "bad", or a mixture of "good" and "bad" elements. But, some movies defy labels, as they simply "are". Frank Henenlotter's FRANKENHOOKER is one of those films. Calling this film "good" or "bad" would be completely pointless, as one must accept this movie simply for what it is. Unearthed Films has just released a new special edition of this wonderfully weird film.
James Lorinz stars in FRANKENHOOKER as Jeffrey Franken, an odd young man whose hobbies include mixing electricity with old body parts. (Where do you get a big brain with an eye in the middle of it?) Jeffrey is dating Elizabeth (Patty Mullen), a nice and voluptuous young woman. For Elizabeth's father's birthday, Jeffrey has made a remote-control lawnmower. While demonstrating the mower for the party guests, Elizabeth loses control of the machine and it runs over her, shredding her body. Jeffrey is distraught over this event, but he has a plan to bring Elizabeth back to life. The first step was procuring her head from the scene of the accident. The next, and more challenging, step will involve getting female body parts in order to build a body for Elizabeth. Jeffrey visits a seedy part of the city and learns two things -- prostitutes are everywhere, and they love crack. So, Jeffrey invents "supercrack" and uses it to lure several prostitutes to their deaths. With body parts in hand, Jeffrey can now go through with his plan. But, will an Elizabeth made up of dead hookers be the same Elizabeth that Jeffrey knew and loved?
If taken at face value, FRANKENHOOKER doesn't appear to be a very good movie. The movie is clearly a low-budget affair, and if Henenlotter was going for a cheap and sleazy look, then he succeeded. Other than the principal characters, the cast appears to be made up of non-actors. The main character, Jeffrey, mumbles to himself throughout the film and drills holes in his head to relieve stress. And, of course, we have the film's central premise where Jeffrey kills hookers in order to bring his dearly departed girlfriend back to life.
But, let's not forget, FRANKENHOOKER comes from legendary writer/director Frank Henenlotter. With films such as BASKET CASE and BRAIN DAMAGE, Henenlotter has made horror-tinged sleaze an art-form and FRANKENHOOKER is no exception. Yes, all of the above criticisms about the film are true. But, they are also the things which give the movie its charm. The important thing to remember about FRANKENHOOKER is that despite the fact that it's about a mad scientist who blows up a room full of prostitutes in order to reanimate the love of his life, it's a black comedy and the movie has some truly funny moments.
If you can get passed the freaky, surrealistic nature of the film's finale and you aren't offended by gratuitous nudity, then you can embrace the fun insanity that is FRANKENHOOKER. Again, everything that should make this film bad, make it's good. That's not to say that this is one of those movies which people say are "so bad that it's good". No, with FRANKENHOOKER the things which should work against it make it entertaining. As James Lorinz (who reminds me of a young Michael Moriarty) mumbles to himself through his role, he utters some classic lines. Listen closely to his ramblings and you'll catch classic lines like "Mutt and Jeff!" and my favorite, "You're like cats with catnip!" The actual plot takes a backseat to the story in this film and the result of Jeffrey's plan yields a great punch-line which takes over the rest of the movie. The "supercrack" idea is a class and, as with BRAIN DAMAGE, Henenlotter (and co-writer Bob Martin) make a bold statement about substance abuse. (Although it would be wrong to encourage anyone to search this film for subtext.) Given the amount of gore in BRAIN DAMAGE and the BASKET CASE films, FRANKENHOOKER is surprisingly blood-free and the murders are played for comedic value.
I don't know if enough people have seen FRANKENHOOKER for it to be considered a cult-classic, but it's certainly one of my favorite bizarre movies. Many viewers may well find the movie to be a stupid, low-budget mess, but those who are more accepting (forgiving?) will find themselves laughing at this crazy movie. If nothing else, FRANKENHOOKER is certainly the best zombie hooker movie that I've ever seen.
FRANKENHOOKER walks the streets on DVD courtesy of Unearthed Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks pretty good, especially given the film's low budget (and according to the commentary, lack of director of photography!). The image is clear and relatively free from grain. The colors look especially good, as they are slightly heightened, most notably the reds and blues. The picture is slightly dark at times, but again, that's not surprising. The image is fairly sharp, but it is somewhat soft at times, and there is some notable video noise in some scenes. (But it certainly beats the previous full-frame DVD release!) The DVD has a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue with no hissing or distortion. However, the dynamic range could have used some adjusting, as the music and sound effects (exploding hookers!) are much louder than the dialogue.
This new DVD of FRANKENHOOKER from Unearthed Films contains several extras. First of all, it should be noted that this DVD sports the uncut 84-minute version of the film. According to Henenlotter, the elements which were cut were scenes involving the prostitutes and shots of drug use, so don't expect any more nudity or gore here. The DVD features an AUDIO COMMENTARY with co-writer/director Frank Henenlotter and special effects makeup artists Gabe Bartalos. As with the film, the audio here is questionable and I had to turn this WAY up in order to hear everything. The talk is interesting and fun, as Henenlotter is very frank (get it?!) about the film's production and he speaks at length about the fun and challenges of making his low-budget classic. He talks about the story, the actors, and the lack of a director of photography. "A Salad that was Once Named Elizabeth: Patty Mullen Remembers FRANKENHOOKER" (9 minutes) is an interview with the actress (who has aged quite well!) as she talks about her role and making the film. Gabe Bartalos hosts "A Stitch in Time: The Makeup Effects of FRANKENHOOKER" (21 minutes) which is an odd mixture of archive video footage and shots of Bartalos at a bordello. (?!) With "Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers FRANKENHOOKER" (20 minutes), the actress who played the red-headed hooker talks about the movie and claims to be "the most memorable character in the film." ...OK... She also shares some Polaroids in "Jennifer Delora's FRANKENHOOKER Photo Scrapbook" (11 minutes). The extras are rounded out by PRODUCTION PHOTOS and the TRAILER for the movie.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©
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