Blu-ray Review: FRANKENHOOKER (UK)
Have you ever been up late at night watching infomercials and stumble across something ridiculously simple on TV and wonder, "Why the fuck didn't I think of that?" Well, Frankenhooker is the Snuggie of horror films. Frank Henenlotter's 1990 assault on good taste was a simple idea whose time had come. While Henenlotter burst onto the scene with his bloody brother-in-a-basket creepathon, Basket Case, it was Frankenhooker that really made me stand up and take notice. If a movie featuring a room full of exploding hookers high on super crack doesn't get you excited, you might need to have your head checked.
Frankenhooker is one exploitation film that delivers on its promise and then some. Everything from Gabe Bartolos' fantastic practical effects to the acting/overacting of James Lorinz is pitch perfect. The film features a shitload of chicks in various degrees of undress making out with each other and doing boob tricks for the camera all while high on Jeffrey Franken's "super crack". There is a sentient brain with an eyeball crammed into it, there is a runaway remote control lawnmower accident, there is a burly Puerto Rican pimp, and most of all, there is Frankenhooker.
Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen was absolutely perfect for the part of Elizabeth/Frankenhooker. Her complete lack of talent lent itself beautifully to the wooden delivery required of the Frankenhooker role in the script. Gabe Bartolos' make-up effects did wonders for her on a staggering budget in late '90s exploitation terms. She seemed genuinely excited to be involved in a real movie, no matter how fucked up and wrong the premise. Her immortal delivery of the film's signature "Wanna Date?" ranks among the great line readings of all time, right up there with Burial Ground's "Mama, this rag. This rag smells of death." James Lorinz may top line this film, but it is Mullen's show, and surely this is the best she ever got.
Frank Henenlotter is a hero among cult movie fans for a number of reasons. Not only has he made some of the most fun exploitation films of the last 30 years, he also co-created the single finest sleaze label on the planet, Something Weird Video. Even if he'd only created SWV and Frankenhooker, he'd still be a legend in my book. Frankenhooker gets a solid thumbs up from me, and if you can't find something to enjoy about it, you may as well just kill yourself now.
Arrow Video have really released some fabulous editions of their Glickenhaus titles (The Exterminator, Maniac Cop) in the last few months and Frankenhooker is no exception. In comparison with the Synapse edition, Arrow Video's release has identical video as far as I can tell, which means very high quality. The image on this film looks far better than I could have ever expected for a low budget cult feature from twenty years ago, well worth the upgrade over DVD. There is a significant difference between the audio tracks available, however, as Arrow Video's edition only has the original LPCM Stereo track, whereas the Synapse edition has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track along with the original stereo track. I didn't notice a lot of difference, but those people with calibrated home theaters might appreciate a bit more immersion. It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, though.
The arena of bonus material is a bit more complicated, and in my mind it is where the Arrow Video edition pulls away from the Synapse Blu-ray. The bulk of Synapse/Unearthed's bonus content exists on both releases. In particular there is A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth, an interview with Patty Mullen which is entertaining, and which I commented on in the other review, and Turning Tricks, an interview with Jennifer Delora, which is a much more engaging watch and has a bit more behind the scenes dirt than Patty Mullen's segment, and finally A Stitch in Time: The Effects of Frankenhooker, which takes a look at Gabe Bartolos and his effects from the film. Absent from this edition but present in Synpase's Blu-ray are a photo gallery from Jennifer Delora and an legacy commentary with Frank Henenlotter and Gabe Bartolos, it is replaced by a commentary with Henenlotter and star James Lorinz. Both are entertaining, and go in slightly different directions, but both are worthy enough of my time that I won't be getting rid of the Synapse disc.
All of that said, there are a very additional features on the Arrow Video disc that make it the clear winner between the two releases. First of all, to get it out of the way, there is the packaging. Arrow Video commissioned original artwork from VHS cover-king Graham Humphreys, along with three other international cover art choices. There is also the expected fold out poster, a really cool Arrow Video catalog, and a booklet featuring an essay/interview with/about Frank Henenlotter written by Calum Waddell. This is a breezy read, and covers a little bit of the same stuff covered in the bonus material, but is quite interesting on its own. There are also two significant exclusive video bonus features that really seal the deal. First is Your Date's On a Plate: The Making of Frankenhooker, featuring Henenlotter and Lorinz reminiscing over the production and its highs and lows, which is fascinating and a sure watch for any Frankenhooker fans. Lorinz seems stymied by the film's continuing popularity an Henenlotter is open and honest about the experience and how miserable it was. The other exclusive is a present day look at Gabe Bartolos F/X lab, which is cool, as it features a look at some of his many effects for various projects over the last twenty years. These two features run just about an hour together and are truly engaging and well produced.
I loved Synapse's release of Frankenhooker, but Arrow Video clearly takes the crown with this release, it is relatively inexpensive and region free, also. Highly recommended!
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