“In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad… a salad that police are still trying to gather up… a salad that was once named Elizabeth.”
Ah, there is nothing that can bring an exploitation movie alive like the unhinged imagination of Frank Henenlotter. Frankenhooker is another love letter to the seedy side of a New York City from a long-gone era. It is a cult film extraordinaire.
Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), a med school dropout and amateur bioelectric technician (read mad scientist) is forced to find a way to resurrect his fiancée Elizabeth Shelly (Patty Mullen) after an unfortunate accident with a remote control lawn mower (his own invention) that eviscerates her. Unfortunately she is missing so many pieces, he needs to find replacement parts to rebuild her. So he heads to 42nd Street to pick and choose only the best body parts from NYC’s finest prostitutes and create the perfect 10. After resurrecting Elizabeth, using the power of a massive lightning storm, he discovers she is overwhelmed by the personality traits of the whores who make up her body. She knocks Jeffery out and heads back to 42nd Street to turn some tricks. Due to the fact her body is charged with electricity, anyone she engages with physically is electrocuted into an explosive death.
Breaking away from the gore of Brain Damage, Henenlotter ups the ante on boobs, babes and batshit crazy. Just when you think it can’t get more hysterically bizarre, it transcends your expectations and just goes beyond the pale. Cyclopean brain fish… check. Stupid boob tricks… check. Exploding crack whores… check. Supercharged lady parts… check. Killer steroidal Puerto Rican pimps… check. Prostitute parts gumbo reanimated revenge finale… check.
With a budget of 5 million, huge for an exploitation flick in the eighties, Henenlotter was able to hire real actors, like the great Louise Lasser to play Jeffrey’s mom and James Lorinz who really nails his mad scientist role with relish, but it’s former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen who totally steals the show. When she is resurrected as Frankenhooker, she may be the sexiest monster in movie history. I love her twitching, silly faces and her delivery of her iconic prostitute pick up lines like, “Wanna date?” As with all his movies, Henenlotter populates the screen with extras and supporting actors who seem to have just come out of a grindhouse theater circa 1970s.
Make no mistake, this movie is crazy kitsch. It is not shooting for realism. For example, the makeup effects are as ingenious as they are campy, but this completely adds to its charm. If digging through a pile of boobs to find a matching pair strikes you as distasteful, avoid this film at all costs. However, if you are already a fan of Henenlotter’s work, you already know what to expect. Rest assured this is one of his best works: sick, funny, insane, brash, creative and wholly unforgettable. So put on your lab coat, send up the lightning rod kites, and get ready to party with some seriously sexy reanimated lady parts.
Presented in 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 encoded at 1.78:1 and running an average of 29 Mbps, Frankenhooker looks better than it has any right to on Blu-ray. Once again Synapse Films mastered this movie with a purist’s mindset, avoiding anything like artificial sharpening and DNR. The brand new 2K transfer from original vault prints looks incredible, boasting sharp detail, a fine bed of natural grain, inky black levels, and vibrant candy-store colors. The neon on the streets of NYC almost pops off the screen. Other than the Glickenhaus Productions logo which looks rather worn and some rare print damage, this is a pristine transfer.
There are two different DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks: the original stereo audio as well as a 5.1 remix. The remix is clear if not extremely immersive in the surround. The LFE really roars in this remix, and Joe Renzetti’s fun score comes alive. The clarity of dialog is excellent with the score and SFX well balanced.
- Audio Commentary with Director Frank Henenlotter and Make-Up Effects Designer Gabe Bartalos Frank is always an A-Ticket a listen; welcome to Guerilla filmmaking class 101.
- A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker (21:00; SD) Practical effects mastermind, Gabe Bartalos takes us through his bag of tricks.
- A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth (9:00; SD) Your standard “this is what I liked and this is what I didn’t” type interview with Patty Mullen. Charming, but unessential.
- Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (20:00; SD) Delora tells tales and spikes up the attitude with her impossibly clear memories of the production (with her own special spin). Yes, her character Angel was one of the more memorable hookers, but did we really need 20 minutes of her reminiscences?
- Jennifer Delora’s Frankenhooker Scrapbook (11:00; SD) Delora displays her scrapbook of production stills with an accompanying audio commentary. Some fun stuff to be found here.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:00; HD) In Hi-Def no less.
Ok, this is a Frank Henenlotter film, and it is an acquired taste. If you just spring this on someone, you may have mixed results. If you love splatstick camp with insane creative originality, you will love this. Synapse Films really sets the standard with the loving care in which they present these grindhouse exploitation films. Best watched with a group of snarky, politically incorrect friends over drinks and the mind altering substances of your choice.
“Medical schools upset me, mother – I’m anti-social – I’m becoming dangerously amoral.”