Digi-Schlock: FRANKENHOOKER (Synapse Blu-Ray)

Synapse has been on a roll lately with catalog titles, taking familiar DVD gems and giving them a new bells-and-whistles treatment for blu-ray.  The Exterminator and Maniac Cop are two very good examples of this trend in action.  Frankenhooker is the latest edition to its category and it’s as strong as its predecessors, serving up a new transfer with plenty of high-definition sparkle while also remembering to retain the extras that veteran fans love.

Frankenhooker has a very distinctive late 1980’s look, built around a neon-tinged color palette with vivid blues and pinks.  The new HD transfer does well by this look, retaining the electric color scheme and keeping the detail as sharp as a tack.  The audio boasts a similar revamp, utilizing a new 5.1 Stereo mix that sounds great: the dialogue is crisp, the music is deployed effectively and there are some fun directional effects during key moments (look out for those exploding hookers).

This new blu-ray also preserves the majority of the extras that were produced for the 2006 Special Edition DVD that was produced by Exhumed Films.  The good stuff begins with a commentary track by director Frank Henenlotter and FX man Gabe Bartalos.  This is a very lively track thanks to Henenlotter, who hits the ground running and delivers a fast-paced, enthusiastic series of comments that cover all phases of production.

Highlights of this commentary include how he spontaneously devised the storyline when producer James Glickenhaus asked “what else have you got?” during a pitch meeting and how Bill Murray ended up contributing a quote to the film’s poster. Bartalos is mainly there for backup and to discuss the specifics of effects but he has a nice rapport with Henenlotter and keeps him on track when his enthusiasm threatens to carry him away.  It’s a very good nuts-and-bolts survey of the film’s creation and the energy on display ensures there is a never a dull moment.

There is also a quartet of featurettes that take the viewer further into the film’s history from different vantage points.  “A Salad That Was Once Called Elizabeth” is a brief but fun interview with star Patty Mullen, who is charmingly free of pretension as she discusses how she got the job and the challenges of acting through an array of prosthetics.  Bartalos also gets his own solo segment entitled “A Stitch In Time”: Bartalos walks the viewer through the different effects challenges the film presented, illustrating with vintage video footage from the set and his FX lab.  It also includes the occasional comedic diversion, like an unexpected visit to Nevada’s Bunny Ranch(!).

The other two segments involve supporting cast member Jennifer Delora.  The first is called “Turning Tricks” and features the actress discussing Frankenhooker in the context of her career as a mid-to-late 1980’s b-movie regular.  She’s free with praise for her director and costars but isn’t afraid to criticize those she found difficult to work with (co-star James Lorinz is singled out).  She also tells some interesting tales about how her b-movie acting conflicted with her work as a beauty pageant contestant.  The other piece is a video scrapbook that allows Delora to show off her collection of Polaroids taken on the set, complete with plenty of commentary on the “exploding hookers” setpiece.  Her brassy, fast-talking style keeps both pieces interesting.

The only items dropped from the Exhumed Film extras package are a production stills gallery and some unrelated movie trailers.  The film’s tongue-in-cheek trailer tops the blu-raypackage off nicely.

Simply put, this is another worthwhile upgrade from Synapse.  Even if you own the original DVD, the new transfer here makes this disc of Frankenhooker worth the purchase price for fans.

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