Frankenhooker (1990) – By Duane L. Martin

Frank Henenlotter hasn’t made a lot of films in his career, but some of the films he’s made are probably well known to our readers, including Basket Case 1, 2 and 3, Brain Damage, and yes…Frankenhooker. Now Synapse is giving Frankenhooker the awesome blu-ray release it deserves, and it’s coming on November 8, 2011.

Like many who are into the cult / genre film scene, I had heard about this movie many times, but I personally had never seen it until now. In a way I’m glad, because my first time seeing it was on a blu-ray rather than some old fuzzy VHS copy that was available back in the day. I had no idea what to expect, as I really knew virtually nothing about the film other than the name. So what did I think? I absolutely LOVE this film!

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a basic rundown of the plot. Jeffrey Frankin (James Lorinz) is a medical school dropout who’s fascinated with electrical engineering, and combining that with his medical school training. He keeps a brain in a tank with an eyeball in it that he has hooked to a monitor, so he can see what the eyeball is seeing. It sits in a purple goo that he uses to keep body parts fresh and preserved. He’s also engaged to a wonderful girl named Elizabeth (Patty Mullen), who, though she says she has a problem with eating too much, still manages to look thin and beautiful. Maybe it’s because she let Jeffrey staple her stomach. Yes, there’s that much trust in their relationship. As the movie opens, it’s her father’s birthday, and Jeffrey has an awesome present for him that he lets Elizabeth present. It’s a huge, awesome lawnmower he designed specially for her father for his birthday. It even has a remote control, which Elizabeth uses to start it. Unfortunately, she was standing in front of it and it started rolling forward. You can guess what happened next. Yep, she got turned into a human jigsaw puzzle. Jeffrey, in his grief, takes her severed head and keeps it in his purple goo to preserve it while he works out the details on how he’s going to bring his love back to life, taking it out now and then to have dinner dates with it, etc…. Once he works out his plan to bring her back, he takes the necessary steps to make it happen. Unfortunately, the results aren’t exactly what he expected. I won’t get into what happened here though. You’ll need to watch the movie to find out, and believe me, it’s definitely something you want to see.

This film was an entirely pleasant surprise for me. I had no idea it would be as funny or as entertaining as it was, but it has now, just after one viewing, become one of my all time favorite cult films.

The performances really made this film what it was. The make-up and props were all great, but it was the performances that really made it shine. James Lorinz reminds me so much of Andrew McCarthy that it’s almost distracting. His performance as the grieving and semi-insane Jeffrey is incredibly well done and you really almost feel sorry for this guy who’s so stricken with grief over the loss of his love that he’s willing to go to any length to bring her back. Patty Mullen was ok as Elizabeth, but once she turned into Frankenhooker, her performance was totally nuts. The faces she made, the twitchy movements, the vacant expression…she totally pulled it off, and not only made it entertaining, but very funny as well. Another standout performance, for me at least, was Joseph Gonzalez’s portrayal of the pimp Zorro. This guy looked like he lived in the gym, but despite the imposing figure he presented on screen, he managed to be funny as well. One scene in partular, he busted in the door as a bunch of his girl who had smoked Jeffrey’s super crack were exploding in a shower of body parts, and managed to get clocked in the head by the head of one of the prostitutes. The way the scene was shot and edited together, it was absolutely hilarious.

I don’t mean to sell the visual effects short though. While the performances made the movie, the set design, props and make-up effects really sold the story. Sure the body parts looked fake, but that’s what made it fun. They were so stupid looking, in a funny way, that it added immensely to the entertainment value of the film. Where as the props made the film entertaining, the locations and the attention to detail in the set design really sold the story. Zorro basically ran his pimp operation out of a building that was one big whore/crack house, only it was a whole building, not just a house, and pretty much looked exactly like you’d expect a crap hole like that to look.

Synapse’s blu-ray release has been re-mastered in an all new 2K high-definition transfer created from original vault materials and includes both an original stereo and a 5.1 remastered soundtrack. It’s presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the case has a reversable cover and the disc includes the following special features:

  • Audio commentary with Frank Henenlotter and make-up effects designer Gabe Bartalos.
  • A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth – Patty Mullen featurette.
  • A Stitch in Time: The Make-Up Effects of Frankenhooker featurette.
  • Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker featurette.
  • Jennifer Deflora’s Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook featurette.
  • The Frankenhooker Theatrical Trailer.

All in all, this is another spectacular release from Synapse, and one you’ll definitely want to have in your collection. I really can’t recommend it enough. For pure entertainment value, this will become one of your go-to films, right up there with the Re-Animator, Phantasm and Evil Dead films. Hell, the only thing that could have made this film even more fun would be if Bruce Campbell had played the pimp role, or hell, even the role of Jeffrey. Not to detract from James or Jeffrey’s performances at all, because they were both really, really great, but hell, Bruce would have been awesome in this film in either role.

Anyway, when the release comes out on November 8th, you’ll definitely want to grab yourself a copy. You can pre-order this release it through Synapse’s site, or from Amazon.

I should note that there’s a discrepancy on the release date between the two sites. Synapse’s site says November 22nd, while Amazon says November 8th. I have my copy sitting right here (I’m a reviewer, so I get stuff before it’s released. How awesome is that?!?), so I’m thinking that since there are production copies done and ready to go, the 8th is the more likely date, as November 22nd seems awfully far off for a release that’s already being sent out for review.