Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blu-ray Review: FRANKENHOOKER (1990)


Release Date: November 8th 2011
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
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 best body parts from NYC's finest prostitutes. He comes to decide that the cities crack epidemic is already killing the prostitutes so he creates an even deadlier form of super-crack to get the job done just a little quicker.

When he encounters the musclebound pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) Jeffrey books his finest selection of whore 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 assets. However, when the whores prematurely discover his stash of super-crack it has the unfortunate side effect of causing the ecstatic ladies to explode. Making the most of the unfortunate event Jeffery is able to pick the best parts off the floor (each 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.

Once resurrected however things don't quite go as planned and it becomes clear that Elizabeth has picked-up many of the personality traits of the whores that comprise her voluptuous 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. James Lorinz is fantastic as the amateur mad scientist who occasionally performs trephination upon himself. 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 clueless mother. Next to him it's Patty Mullen's (DOOM ASYLUM) adorable performance as the tit-ular character that drove 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 Hennenlotter'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. The film's finale features the remnants of Zorro's whore recombining in odd configurations and the effects would not look out of place in Henenlotter's BASKET CASE sequels fun stuff.

Blu-ray: The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) in 1080p HD. The brand new 2K transfer derived from original vault elements looks pretty great, sharp detail, a fine bed of natural grain, decent black levels and vibrant colors, the neon almost pops of the screen. A few occasional small scratches and specks here and there but hardly anything noticeable. It's a pretty typical Synapse transfer in that there are very few complaints to lodge and no evidence of DNR scrubbing. Audio option include both DTS-HD MA 5.1 and a DTS-HD MA stereo mixes which both sound great. Dialogue is always crisp, clear and the score and effects are well balanced. The 5.1 is appreciated and while not overly active in the directionals really does provide some ambient depth and fleshes out Joe Renzetti's (DEAD AND BURIED, THE EXTERMINATOR) fun score.

We get an audio commentary with director Frank Henelotter and make-up effects creator Gabe Bartalos, it's a good technical track with some fun insights. Not the most riveting track but if you're a fan of the film it's a keeper. There are also 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 looking great, what a sweetheart. She reflects 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 heaps the praise on Patty Mullen. Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (19:32) features red-headed wild woman Delora, the type of dame that just has crazy in her eyes and it makes for a fun interview as she speaks to 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 strong arming difficult strippers on set. Definitely a fun woman but not one you wanna piss of, know what I mean? Rounding out the disc's features are Jennifer Delora's Frankenhooker Scrapbook featuring behind-the-scenes pics and the Theatrical Trailer (1:32) plus reversible artwork. All in all a great set of features that compliment a crazy fun campfest.

Special Features:- Audio Commentary with Director Frank Henenlotter and Make-Up Effects Designer Gabe Bartalos
- A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker (21:00) 4:3
- Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1:32) 16:9

- Jennifer Delora's Frankenhooker Scrapbook
- Reversible/Alternate Cover Artwork

Verdict: FRANKENHOOKER is a wonderfully absurd cult-comedy and a funny take on Mary Shelly's Frankenstein that reeks of the 80's with it's irreverent humor and neon-glow. Watching this I was transported back to late-night viewings of films like THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, DOCTOR DETROIT and WEIRD SCIENCE. Just a fun time all around and the best cinematic cure for a shitty day I've seen in quite sometime. If you love camp, sleaze and naked ladies have I got the film for you...