Thursday, August 28, 2008

Frankenhooker (Frank Henenlotter, 1990)

How any plot-based motion pictures got made after the uncontaminated perfection that is Frankenhooker was unleashed onto an unsuspecting world in 1990 is totally beyond me. Okay, I realize that what I just said might sound a tad implausible as far as warped theories go (people are gonna continue to make movies no matter how amazing a film that combines the Frankenstein legend with New York hooker culture is). However, I should say, with its prostitute-related mirthfulness, playful leg measuring, grisly yet totally preventable lawnmower accidents, wacky depiction of indoor crack consumption, bunion filing, and multiple scenes where budding mad scientists deliver morbid dialogue in deliciously deadpan New Jersey accents, you really gotta wonder why anyone would even try to top its awesomeness. I guess it's just one of those things you've got to accept and move on. Careening wildly from the demented skull of Frank Henenlotter, the warped genius behind cinematic classics such as Basket Case and Brain Damage, this cautionary tale about a man and his collection of mangled but gout-free body parts is awash with the properties essential in the rapid creation of a mind-blowing work of art. Yeah, that's right, I used the term "art" to describe this strange undertaking. How else would you describe a film that manages to shine a light on the importance of lawnmower safety, while, at the same time feature a touching scene where an increasingly anti-social individual has dinner (pizza with a nice Beaujolais) with his beloved girlfriend's severed head? Personally, I can't think of one.

First of all, the protagonist sticks a power drill into his own head (it's a pre-drilled hole and sticking a drill in it helps him think and alleviates his "cluster headaches"). And, as most sort of sane people know, head drilling is one of the key ingredients that go into the metaphoric sauce that spices up things that lack head drilling.

Secondly, nine (count 'em, nine) harlots of various shapes, ethnic groups, and deviating levels of attractiveness are seen exploding in a semi-orderly fashion. Actually, two of them blow up "real good" simultaneously, which irked the flow a tad. But I'm not gonna be the one who complains about the manner in which hookers explode after consuming a chemically enhanced form of crack cocaine (a.k.a. super-crack).

The third, and probably most important component to the film's undeniable awesomeness, was the cut and paste hooker of the film's title. The purple streetwalker gear, chunky footwear, mismatched body parts, and delightful facial ticks all fused together to forge one of the most striking movie monstrosities to emerge from a fake movie laboratory in recent memory.

A simple man named Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), one who works for a New Jersey electrical company, dreams of becoming a scientist. Unfortunately, medical school's upset him, so he's pretty much stuck doing experiments in his girlfriend's mother's kitchen (when we first meet him, he's working on some sort of eyeball-brain creature). On the day of his girlfriend's father's birthday, tragedy strikes when the lawnmower they're giving him as a present runs over Elizabeth Shelley (Patty Mullen) and sends her limbs all over the backyard.

While a normal person would classify this as an accident, and move on with his life as a failed scientist, Jeffrey, sensing an opportunity to prove himself, is determined to put his girlfriend back together. Only problem being, there's not much left of her to work with (the lawnmower took care of that). Whilst dining with Elizabeth's severed head (he managed to salvage her head), Jeffrey comes up with a fiendish idea. Why not use the limbs of prostitutes? After all, Manhattan is apparently full of them. And so... the search for replacement parts begins.

Wearing his lab coat with pride, James Lorinz (Street Trash) is a comedic tour-de-force as aspiring mental case Jeffrey Franken (a.k.a. "Jersey Boy," a nickname given to him by his new prostitute pals). An amateur (mad) scientist who finds himself flirting with amorality after the untimely death of his pretzel-loving girlfriend ("I'm not killing them," his says, "I'm just placing a lethal form of crack in their presence"), James imbues the skittish New Jerseyan a complexity you don't often find in your average dead girlfriend reassembled from dead prostitute parts. Sure, a lot of the credit has to go to the film's writing, which is extremely clever at times, but I thought Mr. Lorinz's line delivery was spot-on. Plus, I just loved the way he was able to keep a straight face most of the time, especially while apologizing to a room full of unattached hooker limbs (their shapely legs still wearing their lacy socks and no-nonsense pumps as they lay scattered across the room).

Even though her role as Elizabeth Shelley is reduced to being an inanimate head floating in a freezer full of pinkish feminine fluid for the first half of the film; she's even likened to a tossed human salad at one point by a witty newswoman. Nevertheless, the moment the gorgeous Patty Mullen is reanimated and then reborn as "Frankenhooker," she injects the newfangled trollop with a zesty, almost ebullient air. The aforementioned facial ticks and clumsy walk were wonderfully realized, but it was her repetitive vocalization of non sequiturs and frank hooker come-ons that sealed the deal.

"Wanna date?"

If you thought Carissa Channing was scrumptious as a brunette on Seinfeld (she appears in "The Keys," but I mostly know her from "The Cigar Store Indian" episode), you should see her as a blonde. Yowsa!

I literally had to stop watching Frankenhooker at one point, not because of Carissa Channing's innate hotness as a blonde, but because the crack ingestion scene in Jeffrey's hotel room was too much for me to handle. Its twisted approach to wayward stimulation, the sheer amount of gyrating floozies, the focus on body parts (Jeff is definitely a leg man), the abundance of fishnet stockings, and the overall titillating nature of the scene was so awesome, that I could hardly contain myself.

I tell you, if I was five and a half years younger, and perhaps named Claudio, I would go into great detail about the physical makeup of each individual prostitute. Well, fuck age and to hell with this Claudio clown, Honey (Charlotte J. Helmkamp), the de-facto leader of the Zorro's girls, her second-in-command Amber (Kimberly Taylor), the goofy Angel (Jennifer Delora), the leggy Crystal (Lia Chang), Anise (Susan Napoli), Chartreuse (Heather Hunter), the bosomy Snow (Gittan Goding), Sugar (Vicki Darnell), and Monkey (Sandy Colosimo) deserve to be lavished with an inordinate amount of praise for their scintillating work as the hookers of Frankenhooker.

While my perverted gaze was immediately drawn to Gittan Goding as Snow (her short blonde and black opera gloves were a divine combination), all the ladies had something about them that made my spirit soar. Even though I was able to take comfort in the fact that their sexy parts were being recycled, it's a shame they all had to blow up as a result of inhaling a giant bag of tainted crack.


1 comment:

  1. "Wanna date?" They don't make movies like Frankenhooker these days.