Frankenhooker (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a look at the cult film, but finds that the tagline is the best gag...
Finding a girl when you’re a nerdy science geek can be hard. But what happens if that special someone dies in a bizarre gardening accident and it’s all your fault? Meet Jeffrey Franken. He’s just killed the love of his life and now he’s going to rebuild her... from the body parts of the dead streetwalkers who exploded when he introduced them to a lethal new drug, Supercrack! Little does he know that a good recipe requires the correct ingredients. Jeffrey isn’t putting his life back together; he’s building... a Frankenhooker! (Taken from the official synopsis.)
Arrow's presentation of Frankenhooker is surprisingly attractive, with a 1.78:1 widesreen encode (1080/24p AVC) that belies the film's humble origins even if it falls some way short of the standards expected of more recent features. Detail is reasonably good throughout, with an acceptable level of grain, but the real star of the show is the vibrant colour palette. (The neons of the strip clubs and New York streets look especially impressive.) Having said that, brief comparisons with the Synapse release would seem to indicate that Arrow's version has been artificially boosted, resulting in slight over-saturation and moderate black crush. While I'm against such boosting, in this case it's not too egregious. More damaging are the numerous film artefacts littered throughout, including at least one large cigarette burn that's very distracting. A few scenes are also on the soft side, but I believe this can be attributed to the original photography. All things considered this isn't a bad effort, although it's not up there with the best of Arrow's releases.
Unlike Synapse's US release, which featured a 5.1 remix, Arrow has stuck to the original Mono mix, here presented as LPCM 2.0. It's about what I expected from such a low-budget 80s movie, in so much as the dynamic range is limited, there's frequent hiss on the track, fidelity isn't great, and the the sound-stage is obviously very limited. Having said all of that, dialogue is strong and the various elements are balanced well. The odd musical score sounds incongruous with the on-screen action, but it's relatively free from distortion for most of the runtime. It's not as strong as the visual presentation, but while it shows its age the audio track gets the job done.
As is usual for their releases, Arrow has included a bumper crop of extras for what is essentially a cult movie. First up is a UK-exclusive audio commentary with director Frank Henenlotter and star James Lorinz. It's an entertaining track on the whole, but I found it a little disjointed at times due to Henelotter's tendency to change the topic mid thought. Moving on we have a lengthy 'Your Date’s on a Plate, the Making of Frankenhooker' featurette (39:22 HD) that features candid interviews with Henenlotter and the principal cast and crew. This is followed by an 'Exclusive Tour of the Gabe Bartalos Effects Lab' featurette (19:12 HD), in which Gabe takes us behind-the-scenes at his workshop and talks about some of the films he's worked on, and the film's original theatrical trailer (01:26 HD) and Frank Henenlotter trailer reel (04:12 HD). The next featurette is entitled 'A Salad That Was Once Elizabeth: Patty Mullen Remembers Frankenhooker' (08:48 SD) and as you've probably guessed it's a brief chat with the ex-Penthouse Pet who played the title character. From what I can tell this as included on a previous DVD release because it was made in 2006 when Mullen must have been in her late thirties, but she still looked gorgeous. It's actually a pretty decent interview as well. 'A Stitch in Time: The Makeup Effects of Frankenhooker' (20:55 SD) is another featurette from 2006, again featuring Gabe Bartalos. There's a bunch of footage and still photos from the original shoot, presented in admittedly lousy quality, but it's always nice when vintage stuff shows up on a release. Finally we have 'Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker', which is an interview with the, ahem, 'outspoken' actress in which she isn't afraid to tell it how it is (or at least how she sees it). This includes slating some of her co-stars, particularly James Lorinz and a couple of the hookers. I found her a bit full-on, but I'll admit that it made for an entertaining piece.
I'm sure it will further erode my already dubious cult credentials, but I wasn't particularly enamoured of Frankenhooker's trashy aesthetic. I generally like black comedies and I appreciated the film's dark tone, but it was hampered by a shortage of laughs and uneven performances from all involved. I will praise its innovative effects though, as I have a soft spot for practical gags over digital wizardry (even if they're intentionally shoddy at times). Doubtless fans will want to purchase it regardless of my opinion of the film itself, so I'm happy to report that the disc is at least a good effort. I wouldn't put it on a par with Arrow's best releases, but given the film's two and a half million dollar budget and relatively limited target audience it seems unfair to be overly critical. (Having seen shots from the DVD the difference is like night and day.) As the recent limited edition Blu-ray run of the original Fright Night demonstrated, even financially successful catalogue titles are proving an undesirable prospect to the major labels, so the fact that Arrow is releasing niche films like this on Blu-ray at all should be commended.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 2nd January 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Cast: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Louise Lasser, Carissa Channing, Charlotte Helmkamp, Kimberly Taylor, Jennifer Delora, Lia Chang, Susan Napoli, Heather Hunter, Gittan Goding, Vicki Darnell, Sandy Colosimo, Joseph Gonzalez
Genre: Comedy and Horror
Length: 84 minutes
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