Frankenhooker (UK Blu-ray)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Distributed by Arrow Video
Jeffrey Franken (Street Trash’s James Lorinz) is a man with a particularly nasty predicament: His girlfriend, and love of his life, Elizabeth (Mullen), has just met a gruesome demise via the business end of a remote-controlled lawnmower that he rigged up for her father’s birthday. Being a bit of a wiz with all things electronic and organic, Jeffrey does what any self-described Bio-Electrical Technician would do – he gets to work on a plan to bring her back to life!
Of course, there’s always room for a little improvement, and since he’s starting from scratch with rebuilding Elizabeth’s physique, Jeffrey finds himself wading through the stock of potential body parts offered up by the various hookers walking the scum-lined New York streets. Murder isn’t exactly his art, though, but with the help of some custom-made “Supercrack”, Jeffrey quickly has enough exploded hooker limbs to rebuild and resurrect his darling would-be bride.
Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly to plan and the newly revived Elizabeth immediately escapes and sets about the grubby NY streets sporting an uncontrollable facial tic, stiff and spasmodic movement, and a vocal ability limited solely to the final words and choice phrases of the various prostitutes whose pieces went toward her reconstruction. Most alarming, however, is the effect on those unlucky males who succumb to her repeated outbursts of “Wanna date?!?” and “Got any money?!?!” as any brief sexual encounter with this particular walking corpse is guaranteed to lead to a literally explosive climax.
As Jeffrey desperately attempts to track down his wayward love, both his and her activity attracts the attention of bullish pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) – the man out for revenge against Jeffrey for leaving him with nothing but a room full of exploded ex-moneymakers. All of this leads to the kind of over-the-top icky and outlandish finale that genre fans expect of director Henenlotter, with a darkly humorous sting in the tail.
As a film, Frankenhooker succeeds solely through Henenlotter’s grip on tone. On paper, the narrative isn’t a particularly attractive one – what with a borderline misogynistic take on the utility and worth of the female population and their ability to effectively manage their own lives – but on screen, Henenlotter’s direction, and especially the performances of leads Lorinz and Mullen, lend an attitude of such flippant and gleeful irreverence that Frankenhooker simply begs you to forgive it any trespass: It only asks that you sit back, enjoy yourself, and quit being ashamed of just having a little fun. Right from the opening scene, sporting Mullen’s ridiculously unconvincing fat suit and the narrative device of Jeffrey bringing to life a disembodied brain with an eyeball planted in the center – on his in-law’s kitchen table, and to no more complaint than the table is needed for potato salad, no less – the laughs and outlandish behaviour come so regularly that there’s simply no time to even begin taking any of it seriously.
For a film about lawnmower mutilation, bodily reconstruction and exploding prostitutes, Frankenhooker is surprisingly low on gore, opting instead for mainly bloodless shots of self-immolating bodies, cascading limbs and flying severed heads (also used to perfectly comedic effect during the bombastic detonating hooker orgy). Indeed, the finale opts more for gloopy goo than sickening grue. Visually, Henenlotter paints Frankenhooker as a tale straight from a comic book featuring plenty of neon-lit alleyways, bleeping and flashing apparatus and unrepentant use of cartoony, superimposed electricity effects as the Frankenhooker’s victims get their last ever rush. More than anything, it’s a film whose place in cinema history can immediately be identified with a mere glimpse, and a perfect example of the cult genre output of the late 80s and early 90s that sought to straddle the line between almost child-like humour and adult activity – something that is rare indeed nowadays.
As mentioned, it’s primarily the cast that elevates Frankenhooker beyond a mere curio. As Jeffrey, Lorinz brings the same kind of playfully sardonic New York smarm that made him so successful in Street Trash, with an undercurrent of forlorn innocence matched with desperate recklessness. His performance here is delightful, and makes a perfect complement to the impeccable and gorgeous (even when she’s made up as a monster!) Mullen as he attempts to wrangle her back into his arms. The supporting cast equally gives their all, with barely a weak link to be found amongst even the smallest of bit players. Hell, one of the film’s best laughs is to be gained from a cameo appearance – “She’s in THE BAR!”
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray presentation of Frankenhooker is as immaculate as the cast. The image quality here is nothing short of amazing when taking the source material into consideration. Solid as a rock and packing more than enough fine detail for anyone to appreciate, Arrow have yet another “best it’s ever looked” cult classic slam dunk under their belts with this one. The exceptionally high quality extends to the special features side of things too, with more extras shoved in your face than you could ever want or need with regards to Frankenhooker. A “making of” documentary and interviews with principal and bit-part cast members all prove insightful, informative, raucous and just plain entertaining in various measures (especially actress Jennifer Delora’s refreshingly no-nonsense attitude), while Gabe Bartalos sets aside a good amount of time to take us (in the form of High Rising Productions’ own Calum Waddell) on a video tour-cum-geek-out-session of his special effects studio and personal museum of sorts. A feature commentary with director Hennenlotter and star Lorinz is a more than welcome addition, even it does provide less belly laughs and a slower pace of discussion than one immediately expects upon thinking of the pairing of these guys with this particular movie. Interjections from Waddell in the background of the recording keep the various discussions moving from a fan’s point of view, but feel a little out of place and jarring in their “he isn’t supposed to be getting involved, is he?” feel. Foibles aside, it’s a lovely addition and definitely worth a spin. The on-disc special features round out with a theatrical trailer, but the whole package is also heavily bolstered by the physical extras you see listed below. These weren’t provided for review purposes, but fans of Hennenlotter’s work, Frankenhooker itself or even cult flicks of a similar attitude like Waxwork II or Highway to Hell should need no more convincing to pick this up right now.
4 out of 5
5 out of 5