The Films Of Frank Henenlotter : Frankenhooker

Posted: April 7, 2009 in movies
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"Frankenhooker" movie poster

"Frankenhooker" movie poster

We’ll conclude our little look back at the madcap career of semi-legendary director Frank Henenlotter with his 1990 trash masterpiece, “Frankenhooker.” I won’t beat around the bush, this is my favorite of Henenlotter’s films, and is a bona fide cult classic completely deserving of its reputation.  Hysterically funny and just-as-hysterically gruesome, “Frankenhooker” packs more punch than any multimillion-dollar Hollywood blockbuster and delivers the gore-soaked goods on a budget that directors like Zack Snyder and George Lucas probably blow on lunch.

Once again filmed in the environs of New Jersey and, most notably, New York’s former scuzzy underside in and around Times Square (and yes, there are scenes set in a sleazy 42nd Street flophouse, in case you were wondering), “Frankenhooker” is the story of aspiring mad scientist and med-school reject Jeffrey (played by James Lorinz of “Street Trash”), who builds his future father-in-law an automatic lawnmower as a birthday gift, only to have the half-assed gizmo shred his fiancee, Elizabeth (former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) to pieces when it goes haywire at said future father-in-law’s birthday party. Jeffrey isn’t one to meekly accept tragedy when science can fix things, though, and he absconds with her decapitated head and concocts a truly warped plan to bring the love of his life back from the grave.

On a “shopping trip” to 42nd street in an attempt to find the perfect body to attach Elizabeth’s now-cryogenically-frozen head to, Jeffrey decides his best course of action is to get as many working girls as possible assembled at one time in order to select the perfect unwitting donor for his scheme.  He hires “lead hooker” Honey (former Playboy Playmate Charlotte Helmkamp) to get a bevy of her fellow hookers together so he can literally “play doctor” with all of them, but he hits upon a problem—after taking copious measurements of all the girls, he can’t find just one perfect “specimen” to stick his former fiancee’s head on. Fortunately for Jeffrey, he doesn’t need to pick just one, as the ladies of the evening stumble upon the batch of “super crack” he has cooked up as a little side experiment and soon are getting higher than heck on Jeffrey’s killer (literally) rock. The result? The picture below says it all, I think—

There's no high like a "super crack" high!

There's no high like a "super crack" high!

That’s right, the hookers literally explode all over the room, leaving Jeffrey no end of body parts from which to select as he stitches together a new “home” for Elizabeth’s head.  Soon, with the aid of a makeshift operating theater in his mother’s garage and convenient lightning storm, Jeffrey has brought his lady-love back, with her head attached to a body assembled from exploded prostitute-parts—she’s not the same, though—she has purple hair (and nipples), shambles around like a heavy-footed beast, and says things like “Lookin’ for some action?,” “Want a date?,” and “Got any money?” Yes, homemade surgery combined with the wildly unpredictable forces of electricity have brought Elizabeth back from the grave, and turned her into—Frankenhooker!

With a wildly outlandish premise, a truly fantastic comedic performance from Ms. Mullen in the title role, strong supporting performances (especially from Ms. Helmkamp—who knew so many former centerfold models could actually act?), wonderful “old-school” effects, authentically sleazy New York locations, and a tongue-rammed-tightly-into-cheek overall tone, “Frankenhooker” is an absolute gem of a flick, as no less authorities than Bill Murray and Joe Bob Briggs have attested to.

Unearthed Films' "Frankenhooker" DVD

Unearthed Films' "Frankenhooker" DVD

Finally released on DVD by Unearthed Films in 2005 in a package crammed with great extras, “Frankenhooker” is an absolutely essential addition to any B-film junkie’s video library. Besides a terrifically clean 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the DVD includes a terrifically insightful commentary from Henenlotter and makeup/effects man Gabe Bartalos, an extensive interview with star Patty Mullen, a great set of production still photos, a featurette on the movie’s make up effects, the original theatrical trailer, and lots more goodies to keep the demented “Frankenhooker” fans out there happy.

This movie has aged especially well given the “clean-up job” Rudy Giuliani did to 42nd Street, and so unwittingly provides a slice of nostalgia for a bygone era on top of all its other sick attributes. A true one-of-a-kind movie watching experience, “Frankenhooker” marks the apex of Frank Henenlotter’s uniquely twisted filmic sensibility  and will leave you laughing out loud all the way through while reaching for the bark bag at the same time. Not to be missed under any circumstances!

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