Frankenhooker (1990)
By: Devon B. on July 21, 2012  | 
Arrow Video | Region Free | 1.78:1, 1080p | English LPCM 2.0 | 84 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Joseph Gonzalez, Jennifer Delora
Screenplay: Frank Henenlotter, Bob Martin
Country: USA
External Links
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I used to watch Joe Bob Brigg's Drive-In Theater a lot, and believe it was this program that turned me into the cultured cinéaste I am today. It was also where I first saw Frankenhooker. Director Frank Henenlotter was a guest, and the showing may have even been a triple bill with the first two Basket Case films because Drive-In Theater was just that awesome. On the show, Frank told a story about submitting Frankenhooker to the MPAA and the film being the first movie to get rated 'S ' for 'shit.' It's great that the MPAA are a non-judgemental, independent body. While Frankenhooker is gloriously trashy, I can't understand why it would get a whole new insulting ratings category created for it when the far more deserving Ghost was rated PG-13 the same year.

Frankenhooker is the story of mad scientist Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) who's soon to be wed to a pudgy woman that diligently defends his deviant doctoring practices. While at a birthday party, Franken's fiancée accidentally kills herself, in a particularly gruesome way, using his latest invention. Naturally, he decides to rebuild her using body parts taken from dead prostitutes. You can take the lady out of the night, but you can't take the night out of the lady. Wait, that doesn't make any sense. What I'm saying is the fiancée absorbed some of the personality traits of the women who contributed to her new form, and now she's out looking for johns. That's probably technically a spoiler, but I think the title kinda gives it away. And if the title didn't, the "Wanna date?" tagline should clear any doubt.

From the first scene where Franken says he needs to be "very careful" while operating on a brain then proceeds to indiscriminately jab a scalpel into the grey matter, it's clear Frankenhooker is a comedy. Lorinz, who starred in the similarly outré Street Trash, is great as our demented doctor, and Patty Mullen hits her stride once she's in turned into Frankenhooker. Frankenhooker is a Henenlotter movie, so some of the other acting is rough, but generally the performances suit this quirky horror send up. There wasn't a lot of money to spend, which results in some other dodgy elements apart from some of the acting. The FX waiver in quality, with some of the severed body parts being particularly poor, but there're also some surprisingly good FX on hand, made even more impressive by the film's low budget. Even the film's flaws lend to its charm, and it's hard not to enjoy this oddball comedy.

Any good fable should have a moral, and the moral to Frankenhooker is one that I think everyone can and should relate to: Don't smoke super crack.

Look quick for a cameo by Henenlotter regular Beverly Bonner.
While Frankenhooker's not ever going to compete with a movie that had, you know, a budget, for what it is the film looks amazing. The print has some specks and spots, but is mostly clear and clean and at times it looks really good even compared to movies that had some money to spend. I never thought Frankenhooker would be this pleasing to the eye.
Audio is a LPCM 2.0 mono track. There's hiss and crackle at start, but it gets better. There is some distortion, which was presumably on the source material. I don't think Arrow would've had much to work with here, and they've done what they could. For the most part, the film sounds fine.
Extra Features
I used to have a VHS of this that had a talking cover. If you pressed a button on the front, Frankenhooker said "Wanna date?" I'm sad to report this Blu-ray cover does not talk. However, the slick is reversible, so you can choose between four different covers. There's also a double sided poster and a booklet written by a smart guy that likes 80s horror. The booklet's more of a Henenlotter retrospective, but does cover Frankenhooker. On the Blu-ray itself are quite a few extras. The first is a short intro to the film by Henenlotter and Lorinz that made me laugh at its intentional pointlessness. A nice making of that runs about 40 minutes is also included, and because the film was shot back to back with Basket Case 2, there is some info about that film provided as well. As always, it's hard not to get caught up in Henenlotter's excitement, but he did not have a good time making Frankenhooker, so some of his anecdotes are a bit more serious than usual. As far as I can tell, the only other extra of note that is exclusive to this release is a new commentary with Henenlotter and Lorinz. Henenlotter certainly steers the conversation, but both of them can be amusing. Henenlotter tells the story of the 'S' rating, so all those doubters that thought I made that up can feel suitably shamed. There're also a few extras that I think are available on the Synapse release. There's a 19 minute tour of the FX studio, a 20 minute look at the FX, an interview with Mullen and a longer interview with Jennifer Delora. The sound was out of synch on the Delora interview, and I couldn't get it to synch up. Anyway, Delora plays one of the hookers, and is a surprisingly engaging speaker. She says she gets to play prostitutes a lot, and had issues with Lorinz's stuffing around on the set trying to come up with different ways to play things. However, Mullen said James was funny, and Henenlotter got along with him well enough to have him on the commentary with him, so maybe he just irked Delora. Lastly there's the film's trailer, plus trailers for Basket Case and its sequel and Brain Damage.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
In terms of the film's transfer I can't imagine the Synapse release would be much better, so really the decision on whether to get the Synapse or Arrow Blu will come down to the extras. I imported the Arrow Blu because it had the making of and I couldn't care less about a 5.1 remix of the audio. If you just want a great transfer of a ridiculous low-budget movie the Arrow release won't disappoint.

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