Director: Frank Henenlotter
Unearthed Films

It’s said necessity is the mother of invention. If that’s true, then she and director Frank Henenlotter (BASKET CASE, BRAIN DAMAGE) must be terribly proud of FRANKENHOOKER, their comic horror lovechild, born under pressure when Henenlotter’s pitch for a movie called “Insect City” failed to impress an interested producer. Panicked and desperate, the director quickly fell back on an old inspiration he’d drawn from THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (as well as from FRANKENSTEIN and its spinoffs) and rallied to sell the producer on an off-the-cuff imagining of the story that would become FRANKENHOOKER. Original Fangoria editor, Bob Martin, was brought in to co-write the script with Henenlotter, and production began a few weeks later -- concurrent with that being done on BASKET CASE 2, which Henenlotter also managed to get green-lit that fortuitous day in the producer’s office. Both rated and unrated versions of FRANKENHOOKER have been available previously on both DVD and VHS (one video edition even featured a talking slipcase), but now Unearthed Films has released a Special Uncut Edition of this cult favorite.

Bio electrotechnician Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz, STREET TRASH) is distraught when his chubby fiancée, Elizabeth (Penthouse Magazine 1987 Pet of the Year, Patty Mullen), is killed violently in a freak lawnmower accident at her father’s birthday party. Fueled by guilt, grief and libido, Jeffrey secretly preserves Elizabeth’s severed head in a freezer in his lab and hatches a plot to rebuild his beloved, using replacement parts from unwitting prostitutes he intends to kill with a homemade batch of deadly Supercrack. While cruising the seamy, nighttime side streets of Manhattan’s west side in search of suitable donor hookers, Jeffrey is introduced to a musclebound pimp named Zorro and strikes a deal to take several of the entrepreneur’s finest working girls to a local hotel for closer inspection. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, the hookers discover Jeffrey’s stash of Supercrack, and their reaction to the drug is nothing short of explosive. Suddenly, the scientist has more body parts than he knows what to do with. Using the best of what’s left of Zorro’s ladies, he rebuilds Elizabeth, piece by piece, and then reanimates her using the traditional slab-and-lightning approach. But something goes haywire, and although Elizabeth comes out of the procedure alive, she is much changed. She’s a Frankenhooker.

Lorinz carries most of the movie with quippy wisecracks and flashes of bug-eyed paranoia that seem reminiscent of his Brat Packer contemporary and uncanny look-alike, Andrew McCarthy. It’s a good performance (especially considering his lack of acting experience), but it’s his co-star, Mullen, who steals the show despite the fact she has very little screen time until her titular character is jolted to life about halfway through the movie. Unlike so many other pin-ups who’ve tried their hand at acting, Mullen has natural talent, especially for the outrageous physical comedy that makes her portrayal of Frankenhooker shine. The stiff-armed stumping gait, the palsied facial expressions, and the stream of call-girl non-sequitir catchphrases that erupt from her twitching mouth are hilarious -- and somehow even funnier when juxtaposed with the actress’s wholesome physical beauty (enhanced by special effects makeup artist, Gabe Bartolos).

Unearthed Films presents FRANKENHOOKER in a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. With the exception of a couple interior scenes in the beginning of the movie, the quality of the color reproduction is bright, crisp and true throughout. The Dolby Digital stereo audio track presents clear dialogue, music and sound effects.

Special features include a commentary from Frank Henenlotter and Gabe Bartolos. As always, Henenlotter entertains with his recollections, but the volume on this audio track is pitched notably lower than that in the film, so you’ll need to turn it up a few clicks. Other extras are an interview with Patty Mullen (as pretty and charming as ever), a photo scrapbook retrospective with Jennifer Delora (who played the hooker, Angel), and an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the special make-up effects of FRANKENHOOKER, hosted by Gabe Bartolos. You’ll definitely want a date with FRANKENHOOKER now that Unearthed Films has finally given her the treatment she deserves. (Kenn Carpenter)