Studio:Synapse Year: 1990 Cast: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Joanne Ritchie, Louise Lasser, Charlotte Helmkamp, Joseph Gonzalez, Kimberly Taylor, Susan Napoli, Lia Chang, Jennifer Delora, John Zacherle, Sandy Colosimo, Shirley Stoler Director: Frank Henenlotter Release Date: November 08, 2011 Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, horror violence, language) Run Time: 01h:24m:12s Genre(s): horror, comedy
Mrs. Franken: You need to find yourself another girl. Jeffrey Franken: That's what I'm working on, ma.
- (Louise Lasser, James Lorinz)
Synapse scores another winner with this beautiful 1080p treatment of Frank Henenlotter's twistedly comic reimagining mashup of Frankenstein and The Brain That Wouldn't Die.
Highly recommended, and one of my favorite releases of 2011.
Movie Grade: A-
DVD Grade: A-
Writer/director Frank Henenlotter may be best known for the parasitic love story Brain Damage or the demented Basket Case films, but he is also responsible for the unabashed dark horror comedy Frankenhooker, presented here in a lovingly remastered BD release from Synapse. This 1990 film from Henenlotter borrows liberally and thematically from the likes of Frankenstein, yet it really draws its inspiration from the 1962 cult classic The Brain That Wouldn't Die. It's a curious blend from opposite ends of the horror spectrum, but Henenlotter makes it all come together in a mixture of screwy comedy and vintage mad scientist shenanigans, augmented by plenty of bare boobs and quality kills.
Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) is a failed medical student working for a New Jersey power company, and when he's not performing odd surgeries on a brain-witb-a-giant-eyeball he's getting ready to marry pretzel-loving Elizabeth Shelley (Patty Mullen). Things go down a bad path when a tragic remote-control lawnmower accident kills poor Elizabeth, causing a local newscaster - in one of the film's more memorable moments - to describe the scene as "a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts" where "the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad... a salad that police are still trying to gather up... a salad that was once named Elizabeth." Understandably distraught Jeffrey manages to save a few of her body parts, including Patty's head, which he keeps floating in a special concoction. His goal is to rebuild her, but as madness slowly eats away at his mind, his plans go from bad to worse, involving super crack and exploding hookers. As if we would be expecting anything less, right?
It's safe to assume that a film with the tagline "a terrifying tale of sluts and bolts" may not be taking itself completely seriously. Henenlotter doles out the humor easily enough, because certainly the notion of a guy reassembling his dead fiance using dismembered hooker parts is kind of funny if you think about it. Lorinz is terrific, muttering under his breath as things go to hell, and by the time he's sorting body parts in his garage/lab ("oh my god, bunions!") he has given the character of Franken a likeable sense of pathetic B-movie madness. Believability is out the window, but this is after all a film called Frankenhooker, so the inevitable unveiling of the stitched together creation is Henenlotter's money shot, despite the up-until-that-point dominant genre turn by Lorinz.
Mullen's Elizabeth, who spends much of the film portrayed by a laughably unrealistic mannequin head, is eventually brought back to life, festooned with assorted hooker parts. At this point the film belongs to Mullen, whose facial twitches and spasmodic walk could easily have pushed this one off the deep edge, but instead gives it all the proper mix of camp and sex appeal. With Elizabeth's brain somehow channeling all those dead hookers, Mullen regurgitates lines uttered earlier in the film, which when paired with the aforementioned twitch and walk are the stuff of sexy, high comedy and probably stands as the finest cinematic performance by a former Penthouse Pet in the horror genre. And I mean that as the highest form of praise, because Mullen has the unenviable task of upstaging Lorinz as well as playing the pivotal titular character.
Synapse has issued Frankenhooker on Blu-Ray in its complete, uncut form, which in and of itself is a good thing. Henenlotter - on the accompanying commentary track - points out, however, that much of the mandated cuts were "pointless" and simply serve as "tails and ends" to existing scenes. A gag may go on one beat longer here, or a shot may linger a little longer there, and though it's not a life changing difference from the original R-rated cut I always applaud the opportunity to see a director's full original vision without pesky edits dictated by a clueless, antiquated and inconsistent rating board.
The 1.78:1 AVC-encoded 1080p transfer of Frankenhooker - a 2K high definition transfer from original vault elements - is really quite remarkable, a beauty of an upgrade from Synapse. The print sports a wealth of bright colors and some deep, deep blacks, with a level of clarity that makes this one look almost brand new. Compression and DNR issues are seemingly nonexistent, as well.
Audio choices include a newly remastered DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track along with a DTS-HD MA Stereo option. Sometimes these 5.1 remixes can be a bit hit-or-miss, but here the track delivers a substantially noticeable .LFE, giving this one a nice lift. Rear channels are used modestly but when they are the effect is natural and adds a bit more dimension to the experience than does the beefed up original stereo track. Both the 5.1 and 2.0 provide clean dialogue throughout.
Things begin nicely with reversible cover art, which allows you to choose whether you want a shot of Franken attaching poor Elizabeth's head or a fetching shot of Elizabeth in full-on grimace mode.
The disc extras have all been ported over from the Unearthed Films' 2006 release, beginning with a commentary featuring writer/director Frank Henenlotter and special effects makeup artist Gabe Bartalos. There is always great joy in a Henenlotter commentary, and here he is in high form: exuberant, excited and effusive, chock full of MPAA struggles, storyline tweaks and assorted production anecdotes. Bartalos does his best to hold his own, but that's no easy task with a caffeinated guy like Henenlotter driving the conversation like a giddy school kid. Easily one of the most enjoyable commentaries on a 2011 BD release, despite having been recorded in 2005.
Also included are a number of very watchable interviews and behind-the-scenes segments, presented unfortunately in SD from circa 2006. A Salad That Was Once Name Elizabeth (08m:52s) follows up with Patty Mullen to get her thoughts on working with Henenlotter, A Stitch In Time: The Makeup Effects of Frankenhooker (20m:57s) features Bartalos revisiting his work on the film, Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker (19m:32s) may run a bit long, but we're given a comically candid interview with cult actress Delora, while Jennifer Delora's Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook (11m:21s) appears to be cut from the same interview, only here with her showing off her personal stash of photos taken during the filming. A widescreen Frankenhooker trailer is also included.