Release Date: June 1st, 1990 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Frank Henenlotter Actors: James Lorinz, Joanne Ritchie, Patty Mullen, Carissa Channing, Judy Grafe, Louise Lasser
he opening scene consists of loopy New Jersey resident Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) experimenting on a brain with a giant eyeball in it, which is failing to respond properly to the computer into which it’s hooked. He tweaks its capabilities by sticking a scalpel in the mass and tapping gently with a hammer. This is clearly some carefully researched scientific operation. His fiancée Elizabeth Shelley (Patty Mullen) is quite casual about his work, especially considering he’s been kicked out of three medical schools and is really just a power plant laborer claiming to be a bioelectrotechnician in his spare time. During a birthday party for Elizabeth’s father, whereat she presents him with a heavily modified, super-powered lawnmower controlled via remote, she’s accidentally torn to shreds.
As if to show his mental state, Jeffrey is seen straightening a picture of his now deceased bride-to-be, only to disorient it further. He does this as he’s planning out a way to resurrect her, detailed through a mapping of the human body, drawn out on his desk. “Oh Jeffrey, I’m worried about you,” says his mother, although she doesn’t seem concerned with the drawing or the brain with an eyeball that now floats in his fish tank. Next door, in his separated garage filled with electrical equipment, he’s constructed a makeshift operating table located near a cooling chest, which stores the head and a few other appendages of his dismembered beloved. Each evening, he arranges the pieces at his dinner table to symbolically dine with her, in typical serial killer behavior. He learns of a massive storm that will hit in two days, with more thunder and lightning than ever before recorded. That night, he becomes inspired by drilling directly into his own brain (a self-lobotomy of sorts) – and decides to go on the prowl for nearby prostitutes, with the intention of harvesting body parts.
The dialogue is absurdly poor, with the actors not believing a word of the nonsense they spout – specifically as character development is created through Jeffrey vocally explaining exactly how he feels and what is happening to his slowly deteriorating mind. Lorinz is a particularly terrible actor, unfortunately put in the position of a lead role where he can fully demonstrate his lack of skills. Even the hookers are borderline unconvincing with the delivery of lines. Perhaps Jeffrey could have used an Igor counterpart to help balance out the frequent scenes in which he talks to himself as a form of guidance for the audience to follow his demented thought process. The pacing allows the film to suffer further, as his actions are narrated by lengthy solo conversations or drawn out segments of silly working girls dancing gaily. Far too few substantial things take place, despite a marginally amusing idea and a short running time. The very low budget certainly doesn’t help either.
When Jeffrey eventually gets the materials necessary to reconstruct Elizabeth (using intensified drugs that cause his party of harlots to explode), he begins the assembling with very fake, very plastic looking mannequin pieces. There’s a surprising lack of blood to the whole ordeal, which is largely disconcerting, bearing in mind that the nature of this exploitation movie warrants plenty of gruesomeness to supplement the maniacal behavior and rampant nudity. When Elizabeth is reanimated into “Frankenhooker,” she unexplainably gains the mental attributes of the lead prostitute used to amass her – which doesn’t make any sense, as she’s supposed to have the brain of Elizabeth. She seems schizophrenic, alternating between normalcy and a lady of the night. That slip, along with the entire concept, could have been campy fun in the hands of more creative or capable filmmakers.
– Mike Massie