• Frankenhooker

    Released by:
    Synapse Films
    Released on: November 8, 2011.

    Director: Frank Henenlotter

    Cast: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Louise Lasser, Joseph Gonzalez

    Year: 1990

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    The Movie:

    From the demented genius who brought you Basket Case and Brain Damage comes ‘a terrifying tale of sluts and bolts!’ Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker (at the time of this writing his last feature film though rumors persist about a return to the director’s chair – here’s hoping they’re not just rumors!) hit screens in 1990 and ever since has maintained a substantial cult following thanks to the film’s crazed blend of sex, humor, gore, and exploding hookers.

    When the film begins, Elizabeth Shelley (Patty Mullen) is excited to give her father his birthday gift – a powerful lawnmower that her boyfriend and soon to be husband, Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), has built a remote control for. Elizabeth hits the wrong button on the remote while showing it off to dear old daddy, and before you know it, she’s chopped up like ‘a salad.’ After dealing with the local news and dealing with his own grief, however, Jeffrey starts to formulate a plan to bring his beloved fiancé back to him. If there’s one thing Jeffrey knows it’s electricity and this, coupled with the medical training he got before he dropped out, is the genesis of what will become Elizabeth’s rebirth.

    In order to get his brain fired up and his creative juices flowing, Jeffrey pokes himself in the brain with a power drill and once the inspirational synapses start firing he figures out that the best way to rebuild his lady-friend (her body was destroyed though he’s been keeping her head and a few other bits and pieces in storage) is to knock off some hookers. After all, they’re bound to be well built so that he can reconstruct her the way he wants, and no one will notice when they go missing.

    With his plan set in motion, Jeffrey makes the trek from New Jersey to the Times Square of 1990 (very different than the family friendly Times Square that exists in Manhattan now) and he starts the selection process. After making the acquaintance of a few lovely ladies of the evening and trying to talk them into helping him out, he’s introduced to their pimp, a hulk of a man named Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez). Zorro figures if he’s got the money, he can have the honey and so he allows for Jeffrey to have a few of his finest females meet him at a hotel room to spend some quality time together. Jeffrey has second thoughts about all of this but not before the girls find a giant bag of killer crack cocaine that they proceed to smoke, not realizing that this crack has some serious side effects, primarily that it makes the user explode. Jeffrey gathers up all the parts he can use and high tails it out of there after Zorro is knocked out by a flying limb, and he heads back to Jersey where he builds Elizabeth a new body which he’s soon attached to her severed head. The storm arrives just in time, he gets the voltage he needs to re-animate her, and soon enough she’s come back to life – but there’s a kink in Jeffrey’s plan, which he learns as soon as she opens her mouth and asks him ‘Wanna date?’ and then heads out on a killing spree.

    Twisted, grotesque and funny Frankenhooker is both clever and completely dumb at the same time. It pays a knowing homage to the Frankenstein films that came before it (just check out the names of the two leads) but throws in the same kind of trashy humor and grotesque effects that made Henenlotter’s earlier movies so much fun. It works well, particularly once Elizabeth has been re-animated and starts storming the streets of New York. There’s some great footage here and the seedy atmosphere of the locations really add something to the film. Much like Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator it uses the gross out scenes to get laughs as often as it uses them to shock and the whole thing feels very tongue in cheek.

    As far as the performances go, no one here is going to win any awards for their efforts but the acting definitely works fine for what the script calls for. The real reason to watch this one, however, is for the effects. While by today’s standards they may look primitive, the organic nature of the exploding hookers, the jigsaw puzzle Frankenhooker and the hodge-podge monsters that show up towards the end have got way more soul than any computer generated effort could ever hope to have. Like the Unearthed Films release before it, this Blu-ray from Synapse presents the film completely uncut (the original fullframe and barebones release from Simitar was cut).


    looks pretty great in this AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer (taken from original vault materials, according to the box copy). Colors look excellent and while certain scenes in the film have always looked a little soft, detail is much improved over the previous DVD releases (the Unearthed disc looked good for its time but obviously this Blu-ray trumps it). Skin tones look natural, grain is intact but there isn’t much in the way of actual print damage and there are no issues to note in terms of nasty edge enhancement, noise reduction or other digital tinkering. Compression artifacts are pretty much non-existent and black levels are decent as well. Texture looks good, you’ll notice this not only in the clothes that the various characters wear but also in the backgrounds of the various locations Henenlotter used in the film – you can almost feel the paint peeling off the walls in the hotel lobby!

    English language options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, so the stereo option is there for the purists and the surround sound mix is there for those who want it. Both tracks sound pretty solid here, with clean, clear dialogue and good use of directional effects. The surround mix does some nice things with the score, spreading it out a bit and making it sound a little more full, but the 2.0 track seems a bit more natural for the film. Either way, whichever option you go for, the movie sounds very good here. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.

    Synapse’s Blu-ray carries over all of the extras from the previous Unearthed Films special edition uncut release starting with a really enjoyable commentary track with director Frank Henenlotter and special effects guru, Gabe Bartalos. These two have got a really good vibe going here with one another (not surprising as they worked on Basket Case 2 and 3 as well as Brain Damage before this film) and there’s a pleasant sense of humor present throughout the talk. They discuss some of the odd shooting locations, some of the casting details, and of course, some of the effects work in a fair bit of detail. Henenlotter has a bit more to say than Bartalos does but both men manage to keep the conversation moving at a pretty brisk pace.

    Up next is a great ten minute featurette entitled A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth: Patty Mullen Remembers Frankenhooker in which the actress who brought Elizabeth to life reminisces about her work on the film. She talks about how she came on board the project and what it was like working with Frank Henenlotter (who she seems to be quite fond of) as well as dealing with some of the effects work and the like. It’s an interesting discussion and Mullen looks just as lovely now as she did when the movie was made, if not better!

    After that is a thirty-minute documentary entitled A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects of Frankenhooker which, as you could probably guess from the title, covers the special effects that play such a big part in the movie. There’s a lot of great behind the scenes footage in here as well as test footage and clips of the actors and actresses having the make-up applied, in addition to some interesting interview clips. This gives us a really detailed look behind the scenes of the film through some vintage archival segments and, alongside the commentary, it’s an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the making of this movie.

    A second video interview shows up here with the twenty-minute Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker, where the actress who played ‘Angel’ gives us her take on what it was like to work with Henenlotter and the rest of the crew on this project. She describes the director as ‘genius’ and, given some of the movies she was involved in before this one (such as Young Nurses In Love and a few of the Electric Blue videos that were so popular in the 1980s), has a lot of interesting stories to tell. She also contributes Jennifer Delora’s Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook which is a brief but interesting slideshow of Polaroids that she took on set that is presented here with her commentary over top explaining what is happening in each shot. Rounding out the extra features is the theatrical trailer for Frankenhooker, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    is one of the coolest horror movies of the early nineties and it’s been given an impressive high definition debut from Synapse. Blu-ray enabled fans of the movie ought to snap this one up as soon as they’re able, as it basically renders previous releases obsolete.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      Looks like new Synapse BD purchase #3! This is easily my favourite Henenlotter film!
    1. bgart13's Avatar
      bgart13 -
      Don't forget about BAD BIOLOGY!
    1. Mike T's Avatar
      Mike T -
      I'll get around to that one...one day. Films produced in collaboration with rap and/or hip-hop "artistes" tend to turn me off a bit. Content sounds like I'd enjoy it, but...well...y'know...rap/hip-hop...ugh...
    1. george n's Avatar
      george n -
      I think Bad biology is far inferior to his earlier classics,it just doesnt have the same magic
    1. Goldberg's Avatar
      Goldberg -
      I didn't mind BAD BIOLOGY, and it had an indie-New York hiphop soundtrack by Rugged Man, so it's pretty righteous.