Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blu-ray Review: FRANKENHOOKER (1990)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 84 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio: DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Louise Lasser, Joseph Gonzalez, Joanne Ritchie, J.J. Clark
Tagline: Some Assembly Required

Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz, THE SWEET LIFE) is a medical school drop-out and aspiring mad scientist who at the start of the film gives life to an aquatic brain with a cyclopian eyeball that he keeps in a fish tank. When his fiance Elizabeth (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) is massacred by a remote-controlled lawnmower of his own design he sets out resurrect her using only the most quality body parts sourced from NYC's finest prostitutes. He comes to the conclusion that the cities crack epidemic is already killing the prostitutes so he creates an even deadlier form of "super-crack" that will get the job done just a little bit quicker.

When he encounters the musclebound pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) Jeffrey reserves his finest selection of whores and sets about choosing the perfect woman with the perfect parts in a fun montage of measuring breasts, arms and legs to decide which street walker has the finest ass-sets. However, when the whores prematurely discover his stash of super-crack it has the unfortunate side effect of causing the ecstatic ladies to literally explode, not in a guts flying everywhere sorta way but in a hilarious mannequins filled with firecrackers kinda way, awesome. Making the most of the unfortunate event Jeffery picks the best parts off the floor (each conveniently marked with an "X") and takes them back to his converted car garage slash laboratory where he puts his dubious medical knowledge to the test, resurrecting his beloved Elizabeth in true Mary Shelly's Frankenstein style during an especially intense lightning storm, more awesomeness.

Once resurrected however things don't quite go as planned and it becomes clear that Elizabeth has picked-up many of the lusty personality traits of the whores that comprise her voluptuous franken-body, including the stock phrases "wanna date.. got any money?". When Jeffrey tells her he has no money she knocks him out cold and makes her way to, where else, 42nd Street to turn tricks. Her first john is a horny pear-shaped sleaze (David Lipman, THE EXTERMINATOR) who gets a deadly dose of the Frankenhooker's high-voltage discharge.

What's so great about Henenlotter's campy retelling of Frankenstein is how wonderfully absurd it is, never taking itself seriously it revels in the ridiculous but Henenlotter somehow stops the film fropm careening outta control. James Lorinz is fantastic as the amateur mad scientist who occasionally performs trephination upon himself with a power drill. He looks quite a bit like Andrew McCarthy (PRETTY IN PINK) and his line deliveries are spot-on with witty dialogue and a great monologue acting opposite the always great Louise Lasser (HAPPINESS) as his well-meaning but clueless mother. Next to him it's Patty Mullen's (DOOM ASYLUM) adorable performance as the tit-ular character that drives this one home for me, so cute, even when decked out as the purple nippled trick turner.

The film's special effects are pretty great but may not be what you're expecting from the man behind BASKET CASE and BRAIN DEAD, they're totally campy, nearly bloodless and not played for realism. In the aforementioned exploding whores on super crack scene the bodies are obviously dressed-up mannequins as per Henenlotter's vision and it totally works. Patty Mullens's make-up effects are fantastic, she absolutely looks like the hottest whore comprised of body parts you'll ever see, great work from effects man Bartalos. The film's finale features the unused remnants of Zorro's whores recombining in odd configurations with effects that would not look out of place in Henenlotter's BASKET CASE sequels fun stuff.

Blu-ray: For the second time this year Frank Henenlotter's cult classic gets a sweet region-FREE Blu-ray release, the first came from US distributor Synapse Films and now a new edition from the UK's Arrow Video. The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) in 1080p HD. The transfer looks mighty sharp, too and on par with Synapse's presentation. There's a fair amount of fine detail, the natural grain is intact, the black levels are decent and the neon colors are vivid, the neon nearly pops of the screen at times. There are the occasional small scratches and specks here and there but nothing to freak out about, it's sourced from a very fine print. The lone audio option is English language DTS-HD MA mono which sounds pretty good with crisp dialogue, score and effects. The Synapse disc offered up a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix which was nice but honestly FREANKENHOOKERS not a film that necessarily cries out for 5.1 honestly.

The Synapse BD offered an pretty great audio commentary with director Frank Henelotter and make-up effects creator Gabe Bartalos and Arrow Video have matched that and some with a commentary from Henenlotter and star James Lorinz, it's a great listen from two guys with a great chemistry, it's good stuff. If you already own the Synapse BD you should know that Arrow, with the exception of the Henelotter/Bartalos commentary, have ported over all the special features from that release plus thrown in a few exclusives of their own courtesy of High Rising Productions. We'll begin with the carry overs which includes three very cool interview featurettes; A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth (8:43) with actress and former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen who's still a knockout, what a sweetheart too, reflecting on her favorite and least favorite scenes, driving home in the full Frankenhooker make-up, working with Lorinz and her crush on special effects advisor Gabe Bartalos. A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker (21:00) has SF/X man Gabe Bartalos introducing some cool behind-the-scenes footage of not just FRANKENHOOKER but also BRAIN DAMAGE and he really heaps the praise on Patty Mullen. Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (19:32) features the ginger-haired wild woman Delora, she oozes insanity and it makes for a fun interview as she speaks of going from an '87 beauty queen to working on BAD GIRLS DORMITORY and then dishing some dirt from the set of FRANKENHOOKER, disparaging James Lorinz and telling of strong arming difficult strippers on the set of the film. Definitely a fun woman but not one you wanna piss off, know what I mean? Delora's Frankenhooker Scrapbook featuring behind-the-scenes pics round out the carry-over features found on the Synapse disc.

Now onto the UK-exclusive features from Arrow co-conspirators High Rising Productions who've created several tasty treats for this release, we start of with an introduction by star James Lorinz and director Frank Henenlotter, it's typically short and sweet. Next up is a Tour of the Gabe Bartalos effects lab in Los Angeles, California (19:26) hosted by Bartalos who takes on a fun trip through his effects lab, it's wall to wall movie history as he takes us through several projects he's worked on including the "Surgeon General" from his own film SKINNED DEEP, the zombie horse from CREMASTER 3, "Belial" from BASKET CASE 2, the mask he created for FRIDAY THE 13th PT. 6, some effects work from Kevin Tenney's BRAIN DEAD and an actual mummified cat which was just creepy, and I almost forgot the best part, a decapitated mold of Robert Loggia's head! Your Date’s on a Plate: The Making of Frankenhooker (39:22) is an exclusive 'making of' documentary featuring director Frank Henenlotter, star James Lorinz and special effects artist Gabe Bartalos whom talk about pretty much everything you will ever wanna know about this film. Henelotter talks about his terrible experience making the film which was not helped by hostility with the director of photography, pitching the film to producer James Glickenhaus while Lorinz spins a tale of porn stars vs. centerfolds on set and Bartalos talks creating the Patty Mullen effects and the exploding hookers, it's a great watch with video clips, behind-the-scenes pics and interviews.

Unfortunately my screener didn't come with a sleeve or booklet so I cant comment but the menus did feature Graham Humphries awesome artwork, very sweet and appropriately neon. It's a fantastic set of features that compliment an already stellar audio-video presentation that surpasses even the very fine Synapse Blu-ray, not just mirroring the features but bringing with it an hour more of newly created content.

Special Features:
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphries
- Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
- Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Calum Waddell
- UK exclusive audio commentary with director Frank Henenlotter and star James Lorinz
- UK exclusive introduction to the film by actor James Lorinz and Frank Henloter (1080p)
- Your Date’s on a Plate: The Making of Frankenhooker: UK exclusive 'making of' documentary featuring director Frank Henenlotter, star James Lorinz and special effects artist Gabe Bartalos (39:22) 16:9 (1080p)
- A personal UK exclusive tour of the Gabe Bartalos effects lab in Los Angeles, California (19:12) 16:9
- A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth: Patty Mullen Remembers
Frankenhooker  (8:43) 4:3
- A Stitch In Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker (21:00) 4:3
- Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (19:32) 4:3
- Original theatrical trailer (1:26) 4:3

Verdict: FRANKENHOOKER is a wonderfully absurd cult-comedy and one of the funniest takes on Mary Shelly's Frankenstein since Mel Brooks YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, it reeks of the 80's with an irreverent sense of humor and neon-glow. It's just a blast, if you love camp, sleaze and naked ladies you must own FRANKENHOOKER! 4 outta 5