The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Frankenhooker’ (1990)

Posted by Damon Swindall - April 4th 2012 @ 11:00 am

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Talking VHS Box!

Body parts, super crack, and whores – oh my!

Frank Henenlotter is quite an interesting director. Over the years he’s brought us such classics as Basket Case and Brain Damage; movies known for their over-the-top wackiness as well as some good bloody bits to sate gorehounds’ appetite. Namely among these fantastic films is a little feature that has to be seen to be believed. Of course I’m speaking of 1990’s Frankenhooker. A tale of a mad “doctor” desperate to piece back together his recently deceased fiancé will have you laughing and wincing. Perfection.

Elizabeth Shelley (Patty Mullen) is killed tragically when a remote control lawnmower runs her down and throws bits and pieces of her all over the yard at a family gathering. Most of the bits are accounted for except for a few key parts, like an arm, a foot, and her head. This is where her fiancé comes into play. Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) works for a power company, but has aspirations of great medical feats. He’s been kicked out of multiple schools but uses this tragedy to put his lady back together using his vast medical knowledge. Because so much of Shelley’s body was destroyed, he needs to find some new parts and decides to improve on her chunky physique by sacrificing women who are already selling their parts; i.e. prostitutes. Here he gets into the seedy underworld of hookers, pimps, and crack.

Reporter: What began as a birthday barbecue ended in a bizarre tragedy in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey today. It was this power mower that brought a quick end to the life of 21 year-old bride-to-be Elizabeth Shelley. Like wood through a mulcher, the girthful fiancé disappeared beneath the blades of the berserk mower that sent her personality raining down upon the horrified birthday revelers. In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad. A salad that police are still trying to gather up. A salad that was once named… Elizabeth.

I really can’t remember when I first saw Frankenhooker, but I do remember how crazy I went for it right from the start. This film has pretty much everything a young boy (or adult male for that matter) could want. From the cheesy delivery to the insane scenarios, with multitudes of exploding bodies and the bounty of bare chests, it’s a treasure trove of exploitative horror goodness. All the things a growing boy needs!


Mmmmm, sexy

Early on I remember falling in love with our stitched beauty, Elizabeth. When we first meet her she might be a bit on the heavy side, and have some pretty horrid hair, but that’s easy to disregard as padding and wigs. Where my lovely truly shines is in her reincarnated form. From the second you see her inexplicably standing on the table that she was just restrained to when hoisted to the lightning filled skies, it’s hard to deny the hotness. Yes, some of her appendages are different colors and her nipples might be purple but, dammit, she’s much hotter as the patchwork hooker creation. Does that say something weird about me that I’m more attracted to a monster than a human? Meh. Nothing but an extension of my crush on Trash (Linnea Quigley) from Return of the Living Dead – and I KNOW I’m not alone there.

If you think the simple idea of using prostitutes as a source for spare parts is wacky then you have yet to see anything! After heading over the bridge from Jersey into NYC to look at the ladies of the night, Jeff is introduced to the girls’ pimp, Zorro (Joseph Gonazales). This is a huge mass of muscles with a bitchin’ 80s mustache, parachute pants and a big gold “Z” medallion hanging over his tank top. He agrees to let our hero come back and pick out his favorite girl from a small group. Before leaving he learns of the girls’ addiction to crack and gets a small bag from Zorro to take home. His plan is now to make Super Crack that will kill his prized pick and then he can use her parts to complete his restructured fiancé. The only problem is when the group of hookers find his bag of Super Crack they go nuts and all have to smoke it. This leads to the hilarious slaughter of a room full of working girls as they explode from the chemicals Jeffrey put in his designer impostor drug.

Zorro and Jeff

One of the greatest things about this film’s initial home video release is the great box it came inside. Not only did this bright pink case stand out with the photo of our lovely Liz on the front but it talked too! The front was extra thick and had a spot that you could press to hear a recording of the creation ask “wanna date?” This is something she yells at everyone she passes on the street as she stiffly stumbles through the city in her platforms and pink skirt and top. I still have my old VHS box from years ago but unfortunately it was damaged and no longer speaks correctly, like when you pull the string on my talking Pee Wee Herman doll – it just sounds like a garbled mess. Luckily THIS GUY ON YOUTUBE has a brief video of it so you can witness it in all the glory.

The box also contains one of the greatest endorsement quotes of all time: “If you only see one movie this year it should be Frankenhooker.” – Bill Murray. Yes, that is the Bill Murray and it’s 100% real! This has an interesting story behind it, but I won’t ruin that. You can hear in in the special features on the DVD or Blu-Ray.


I can’t imagine that the majority of you out there reading this haven’t seen this film, but then again the two people with whom I watched it this week were newbies, so who knows? Lucky for you it’s readily available, as I previously mentioned, on a new Blu-Ray from Synapse Films. The DVD I have from Unearthed Films seems to be out of print, so unless you’re set-up for high def, you’re out of luck. Find a way to see this film immediately or enjoy it again. A true classic that never gets old.

Until next week – if your fiancé gets run over by a lawn mower, it’s better to let her stay dead.

Body Count: 14 (1 Guinea Pig)
Time to First Death: 5:23
Best Death: Super Crack Whore Explosions!
Best Cameo: As the weatherman on TV is DJ, songwriter, actor, and horror host – John Zacherle (aka Zacherley)!

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-3/28/12: Fatal Games (1984)
-4/4/12: The Runestone (1990)
-4/11/12: Microwave Massacre (1983)
-4/18/12: The Initiation (1984)


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