“Wanna Date? Goin’ Out? Need Some Company?”
In between making Basket Case and Brain Damage, Frank Henenlotter had written a script called Insect City, which he describes as “a complete psychotic mess of things.” Since he had no luck getting anyone interested in it before Brain Damage, he sent it out again afterwards and ended up taking a meeting with James Glickenhaus, the director of The Exterminator – a great revenge flick – and producer of Maniac Cop (and eventually Basket Case 2and 3). Glickenhaus wanted to start producing more and distributing films himself, so Henenlotter went in with this idea that he admits no human would ever pay money to see and, since he was already in the office, starting making up another idea on the spot to take advantage of the meeting. Using his love of The Brain That Wouldn’t Dieto fuel the pitch, he ad-libbed his way through ridiculous scenario after ridiculous scenario until Frankenhooker had a skeleton structure, so to speak.
Like all of Henenlotter’s films, Frankenhooker’s themes are rooted in bodily dysfunction and sex, but it’s decidedly more cartoonish and lighthearted than anything he had made up to that point, and certainly less dark and gory; it plays out as randomly as it was conceptualized, giving it a very gung-ho attitude that makes the entire thing play out in a very uncompromised manner. There’s really no other way to make any sense out of the plot, which follows a med school drop-out (James Lorinz) as he tries to reanimate his dead fiance’s head (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) by collecting body parts from dead hookers that have combusted from using super crack and then chasing after his undead love as her personality takes on the traits of her new body parts and she hits the streets to turn tricks while evading a giant pimp named Zorro.
Frankenhooker is unfiltered, raunchy lunacy and another great horror comedy under Henenlotter’s belt. Mullen gives the stand-out performance of her (unfortunately) short-lived career as Elizabeth; with absolutely no talent to speak of, she pulls off the physical comedy bits great with her Frankenstein, sneering, and general buffoonery. If a remote-controlled lawnmower death, a brain with one eye floating around in a glass canister, a reformulation of crack that makes its users explode in fiery glory, and great practical effects by Gabe Bartalos don’t help qualify Frankenhooker as one of the best 90’s exploitation films out there, I don’t know what will.
Synapse’s MPEG-4 1080p transfer is incredibly clean looking, especially when considering its age and cult status. Like Basket Case’s HD presentation, Frankenhooker is free of any DNR or compression issues; these transfers are created with the director’s vision in mind and, assumedly, they’re director approved. The Looney Tunes color scheme really pops, working well against the inky blacks and dark locations. The disc includes 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD mixes, both of which sound nice. The 5.1 is more robust, and makes certain scenes, like Elizabeth’s bar visit, a little more immersive. The bass is kicked up a few notches, which makes a few scenes a little more vibrant than they need to be, but it’s a solid remix regardless.
Commentary – Like all of Henenlotter commentaries, the one for Frankenhooker is a must-listen. Joined by special effects guru Gabe Bartalos, the two go over what went into making the film, how it came about and logistics, but there’s more than a few fun on-set stories and Henenlotter is always a hoot to listen to.
A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth (08:49) – Star Patty Mullen reminisces about working with Henenlotter and becoming Frankenhooker. The questions are bland, but she likes to ramble and is fun to listen to.
A Stitch In Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker (20:55) –Bartalos takes a look back at his work on the film with some old test videos and photos. He gives a voice-over through the whole featurette, setting up each video/photo and giving some insight into what was going on during that day’s shoot, some of the complications, and anecdotes. He also chats about his work on Basketcase 2 and Brain Damage.
Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (19:32) –Delora talks about playing Angel, who is one of the more memorable hookers from the flick. She talks about the group of girls she worked with – i.e. all the hookers – and shooting the explosion scene.
Jennifer Delora’s Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook – Delora goes through her collection of Polaroids she took while on set. It looks like everyone had a lot of fun during Frankenhooker’s production, but it’s the most skipable feature on the disc.
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