Yesssirrreeeeee Bob! Did I ever get a happy surprise and a blast from the past in the mailbox today. A beautiful new Blu-ray copy of my all-time favorite 90′s video naughty, Frankenhooker! Courtesy of the fine folks at Synapse Films.
Coming to Blu next month, this Frank Henenlotter classic of the VHS era is one of my most beloved teen memories. Round about 1991, when I was at the height of my love for Z-grade horror, every corner video shack and cut-rate retailer of trashy magazines had the big ol’ VHS box , wrinkled and crinkled and abused, with the worn spot on the streetlamp, where the little button was hidden. Hundreds of greasy teen-hormone dripping fingers had eroded the “press here” sticker that made the box screech out “WANNA DATE? WANNA DATE?”. Even better was the Video Station that had it in the backlog titles where I could rent it every few weeks, along with 5 other flicks for a week. A week, for $5. Hot damn, but those were the days… Sleazy, lurid nudie horror trash like Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Return of the Living Dead, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-a-rama, Deadmate, Re-Animator and anything with the Troma label gracing its cover. Those movies led directly to my friends and I taking over the High School broadcasting class, hijacking the VHS equipment and filming our own blood-drenched sagas, like Zombies Zombies Zombies, Killer Ed and Slash13 (You can see the trailers I reconstituted for our informal ‘reunion’ a couple of years ago, right here) It also led me to pine for Film School, while slogging my way through the Education, Psychology and English departments of the U of C. It haunted me with the painful echoes of regret through a myriad of awful management ‘careers’, menial jobs, and ill-advised ventures. It dogged my steps and whispered in my ears until I fell back in love with DVD and the illicit, forbidden-candy wonderousness of Z-movie making in the new millenium.
None of these films ever influenced me more than the tale of Jeffrey Franken and his unfortunate fiancee, Elizabeth (the gorgeous and comedically brilliant Patty Mullen, in the worst excuse for a fat suit ever put on film – seriously – it’s a 90′s sweatsuit with some trashbags stuffed in the front of the pants). Frank works for the New Jersey power company, but dabbles in “bioelectric engineering” in his spare time, which means he’s an all-around mad scientist who fuses eyeballs to pickled brains and battles fatigue by jamming a Black & Decker power drill into the soft spot behind his ear. Long story short, Frank designs an automated mega-mower for his soon-to-be Pops-in-law, which Lizzy (of course) accidently fires up and turns herself into coleslaw. Frank has her head preserved in the strange purple goo in his freezer and soon sets about building her a new body from New York’s most physically perfect streetwalkers. Perfect, as in he puts them all in a room and measure them with calipers and tapes. What follows is a smorgasboard of cartoony violemnce, exploding hookers, super-crack, and the greatest Frankensteiner monster of all, a 6 foot tall wonder woman with a club foot and a facial twitch that would put Curly Howard to shame. To paraphrase the mighty Joe Bob Briggs, blood, breasts and beasts are in full effect.
Really, what else would you expect from the man who brought us grindhouse classics like the Basket Case flicks and Brain Damage, the best boy-and-his-giant-hallucinogenic-alien-penis story ever told? Henenlotter brings his trademark surreal body horror, slapstick comedy and love for boobies to the Frankestein mythos and succeeds in creating one of the most bizarrely hilarious films of the era. James Lorinz, who Henenlotter “discovered” as an usher at New York’s Cinema 1,2,3, is perfect as the blue-collar nutjob genius, with his bleary eyes, Jersey accent and mumbling delivery. Mullens, who retired after knocking this one out of the park, is at turns sexy, funny, sweet and bloody terrifying. Her facial expressions and dedication to the schtick (stomping down the street, shoving giant pimps out of her way, shouting “Wanna date? Got any money? Wanna Party?”) make the film the gem it is. Admittedly, the ending feels a little slapped together and too ridiculous, even for this movie, but just like Frankenhooker herself, the sum of the parts is so much greater than the skanky bits it started with. Also keep an eye out for appearances by Louise Lasser, David Lipman, porn star Heather Hunter and the legendary horror host Zacherley.
The Blu-ray looks amazing, sounds perfect and features the original theatrical trailer, 4 featurettes (including the first appearance of Patty Mullen in 22 years) and a commentary track with Henenlotter and FX designer Gabe Bartalos, who created a dozen exploding hookers and a mess of mutant leftovers for this surprisingly gore-less piece of video art.
Check it the F out come November 8!