Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Being reviews of new editions  of Frankenhooker and Street Trash, two of my favourite cult movies. I had both of these in cheaper editions but they were reissued by the Arrow label which claims to release definitive editions of cult films with lots of extras.It's true that all have reversible covers and an introductory booklet of varying length but their publicity does go overboard in extolling these extras and other virtues which vary wildly. These two movies provide a good example.

Both editions of these films are identical in picture quality and length to the cheapo DVDs I already had. Frankenhooker's sole extra (in addition to the booklet) is a 20 minute making of which, to my disappointment, doesn't include an interview of any kind with Patty Mullen the talented actress who brilliantly plays the title role. Street Trash doesn't include a recent interview with director Denis Muro who moved on bigger and more lucrative things as steadicam boss for people like James Cameron. On the other hand the making of is so long as to need a separate disc which also includes a five minute interview with one of the actresses who married a musician who's been part of the Rolling Stones live band for nearly 30 years.
Now, despite the seeming superficial resemblance between these two movies -low budget, black comedy, bad taste, and the actor James Lorinz- they couldn't be more different in tone.

Frankenhooker is a comedy-horror with the emphasis on comedy and its directed by cult figure Frank Henenlotter of Basket Case fame. When the fiance of electrian and secret mad scientist Jeffrey Franken (Lorinz) is turned into mince by a runaway lawn mower, Jeffrey, who never stops talking to himself, rescues her head and a few other body parts. He keeps these fresh in a tank while he works out a way to revive her, taking dinner with her head and thoughtfully pours wine into her mouth and you can guess where the wine goes next. He finally decides to murder some hookers with a supercrack he's invented and use their body parts. Yes, this is the exploding hookers movie. Needless to say it mostly goes wrong though he does manage to revive the girl which then goes wrong again as, dominated by the instincts of a dozen hookers and quoting chunks of their earlier dialogue, she goes on a customer rampage, blowing up everyone with whom she comes in physical contact. It all ends with a mass of revived pissed-off hooker parts, their pimp, the title character, and I won't spoil what happens to our anti-hero. 

The gore on show is cartoon gore with little or no attempt at realism. The exploding hookers are clearly store dummies, not even bits of dead animals, so you can laugh without even the faintest wince. Some of the reanimated parts are a bit disturbing to look at but nothing too grotesque. There is, however, frequent female nudity, copious bad language, drug taking, sexual references by the bucket load which makes it all the more astonishing to me that this DVD (despite the sleeve above) was given a 15 rating. The BBFC really have got lenient.

Basically it's an entertaining romp, a real crowd pleaser for cult and horror movie buffs and my favourite of the director's movies. It's also curiously inoffensive and good-natured, a description which could not remotely be applied to Street Trash.

And if you're easily offended, look away now.

Here's my original 5* Amazon review entitled: 
Oh, you'veneverseenanythinglikeitinyourlife.

 You really haven't. However, let's get one thing straight right away.

This is not a horror movie.

That's right, this isn't a horror movie. Oh sure, there is horror in it, but the body-melting of the Tenafly Viper drink is just the macguffin. Apart from introducing it early on in the movie it doesn't play that much of a part until near the end.

What this really is is a movie about society's invisibles, the street people on the fringes that we pretend we don't see -the winos, the derelicts, the brain-damaged, the lost, all struggling to survive one day at a time. Without the horror element I doubt if this film could have been made. And if it hadn't been made as a black comedy (often more often black than comic) it would have been completely unbearable.

Technically, it's more than accomplished. The camera-work is fluid, the image is crisp, the editing sharp, and the ensemble acting is mostly of a high standard. You are in the hands of people who know exactly what they are doing which is to create a genuinely enjoyable and original film. At least for those who can take the brutality and squalor along with the humour and the gore.

I think it's an amazing piece of work that should be far better known than it is. In its own ugly way, this is Art.

Watching it again over five years later I have no reason whatsoever to change my opinion in the slightest. Seeing as I don't need to avoid spoilers, I will just mention a few elements and one caveat. The horror macguffin is the only cartoony element in it when someone disintegrates into a distorted gooey multi-coloured  mass which is out of tone with the rest of the movie and completely disappears for the second of the three acts. On the other hand you've got a game of catch using a freshly severed penis with penis's owner trying to get it back, brutality, rape and necrophilia (both thankfully off-screen), completely untitillating sex scenes, and more. But horrifying and comic as it is, this is also a film with a genuine heart and compassion. Perhaps they're well-hidden but they're there.

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