Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) may work for the New Jersey Electric and Gas Company by day, but he has bigger plans than that. No, not only to marry his girlfriend Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) who he has helped with her weight problem by furnishing her with a DIY stomach stapling operation, but he goes further into his dabbling with biological science even though he has been thrown out of three medical schools. That hobby will come in handy when the remote controlled lawnmower unveiled at Elizabeth's father's birthday runs amok...
Because if anyone is able to put her back together again after getting chopped up in the blades it's Jeffrey. This was cult director Frank Henenlotter's third feature after making a splash (of gore) in the horror field when he cobbled together enough money to make one tiny budget film in Basket Case and one slightly more expensive one in Brain Damage; not that it was the one he intended to shoot, but he could not get funding for his most ambitious projects and semi-improvised the script for Frankenhooker which ended up being the production he made. It was not an easy task, but the results were taken to the bosom of trash fans worldwide.
Much of that warm reaction was down to Henenlotter's increasing embrace of comedy in his work, which tended to take the edge off his more outlandish ideas and make them more accessible, as what was more ridiculous than a Frankenstein's Monster who demanded to be taken on a date for cash? Well, there were more ridiculous things than that, but you wouldn't be considering them as this unfolded, as it provided all the indulgent chuckles followers of this director's aesthetic could have wanted, and that included the ambitious, rubbery special effects from maestro on reduced funds Gabriel Bartalos which were a highlight not much seen in these days of CGI.
Watching it now, the director's very particular sensibility was well to the fore, but also demonstrated the flaw in his design. He was so pleased with the central premise that he took his own sweet time in getting to it, satisfied that with all the setting up he presented the audience would be all to pleased that there was so much to anticipate. Trouble was, the first half hour at least of exposition could have been cut down to about five minutes given how much this progressed in the meantime, hell, reading the title told you most of what was going on in one second without the need for instance for Jeffrey's earnest conversation with his mother (Louise Lasser in a role echoed by her turn in Mystery Men ten years later).
But once this got going, gradually gathering momentum like the world's slowest runaway train, there was no stopping it until it reached its explosive and frankly nutty denouement. With a script by former Fangoria editor Bob Martin (who would work with Henenlotter again on the second Basket Case sequel) no opportunity for bad taste absurdity was left unexploited, the centrepiece being the bit everyone recalls, the exploding hookers sequence. The problem of Jeffrey securing those body parts for Elizabeth to be brought back to life - he has kept her head in storage - was solved by giving the prostitutes super-powered crack (which pinpoints the date of this quite neatly) causing them to blow up, offering the amateur boffin all the bits and pieces he needed, with the unfortunate side effect of making his fiancée a crazed whore who stumbles about propositioning every man she sees and electrocuting them when she goes too far. Mullen, a Penthouse Pet with minimal acting experience, was surprisingly great in a broadly daft role, but for all the bad taste Frankenhooker remained curiously goodnatured. Music by Joe Renzetti.
American director of trashy horror comedies. Made his debut in 1982 with the cult splatter favourite Basket Case, which he followed in 1988 with the similarly themed, equally gruesome drug addiction-analogy Brain Damage. Frankenhooker was a taste-free updating of Frankenstein, while Basket Cases 2 and 3 followed in the early 90s. After a long gap overseeing the preservation and distribution of vintage grindhouse movies, he returned to directing with Bad Biology in 2008.