• Basket Case (Arrow Video)

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: February 27th, 2018.
    Director: Frank Henenlotter
    Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel
    Year: 1982
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    The Movie:

    When Basket Case begins, a dopey country boy named Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) arrives in Manhattan from a small upstate New York town and needs a place to stay for a few days. He shacks up at the Hotel Broslin, a Times Square fleapit, where he gets himself a room for twenty bucks a night. Though the grouchy hotel clerk (Robert Vogel) is curious as to what Duane has in the wicker basket he’s carrying around, Duane’s answer of ‘clothes’ satiates that curiosity easily enough. He soon befriends a kindly hooker named Casey (Beverly Bonner) and draws the suspicion of a few other tenants, particularly when they see how much cash he’s carrying in his pocket.

    After settling into his new digs and feeding some hamburgers to whatever it is that lives in the basket, we start to learn the true story about Duane and his Siamese twin brother, Belial, so named by his father who considers his ‘child’ a freak and who he holds responsible for the death of his wife who died during the birth. Separated by a trio of squirrely doctors who believed Belial to be dead after the operation, Duane is now in New York City on a quest to track those doctors down so that his brother can get revenge. Complicating this matter, however, is the presence of a bright eyed blonde receptionist, Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), who Duane starts to fall for. Belial, however, is the jealous type and doesn’t react too kindly when Duane pays attention to anyone else but him.

    Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter for $35,000, Basket Case was heavily trimmed upon its initial release but wound up uncut on home video where it gathered a pretty sizeable cult following – and for good reason. A fairly standard monster movie in terms of plotting, it nevertheless wins us over with some truly creative puppet and stop motion animation effects and a few healthy servings of gore. Laced with Henenlotter’s recognizable sense of bizarre humor, Basket Case mixes up elements of black comedy with its more traditional horror movie bits and pieces and the end result is a completely warped and unconventional film, the kind that makes for the perfect cult movie.

    Performance wise, Henenlotter couldn’t have made a better casting choice than that of having Kevin Van Hentenryck in the lead role. Charmingly awkward, he has that ‘small town nice guy’ vibe down pat, qualities not lost on the two ladies in the film who seem completely oblivious to the fact that he’s got a giant, poofy curly haired mullet on the top of his head. His kind eyes and ‘golly gee’ attitude make that easy to overlook. His performance makes it easy for us to feel for him. Torn between doing what is best for him and doing what his obviously troubled brother wants of him, he’s obviously stressing out and, in the later part of the movie, starting to crack. His interaction with the very likeable Casey gives him some comfort, as she’s more of a strange mother to him than anything else, while his romantic feelings for Sharon complicate things in a bad way, even though he wants to explore that route and be with her more than with his brother.

    It all comes together and works far better than it really probably should have, a testament to Henenlotter’s skill behind the camera and to his creativity as a filmmaker, the perfect mix of gore and monster effects and a genuinely involving story set against some great locations (including some great shots of Times Square before it was turned into a Disney run tourist trap).


    Basket Case arrives on Blu-ray on a 50GB disc (with the feature occupying 23GBs of space) in a 1.33.1 transfer taken from a ‘brand new 4K restoration from the original 16mm negative by MoMA’ and it looks fantastic. Compared to the older Image Blu-ray release (reviewed here) detail is vastly improved and there’s a lot more depth and texture to the image. The transfer is also quite clean, showing very little print damage while retaining the film’s grainy aesthetic quite nicely. Color reproduction looks great and skin tones are lifelike and accurate. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or obvious noise reduction at all. The picture quality here is impressive.

    The English language LPCM Mono track on the disc also sounds good. While this is obviously a bit limited by the original recording, the clarity of the track is fine. Balance is good and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

    Extras start off with a brand-new audio commentary featuring writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck. As you’d expect if you’re familiar with Henenlotter’s commentary tracks, this one is quite interesting and frequently very humorous. The two men recount their work together on the film, discuss the seedy locations, the effects and their co-stars as well as the film’s legacy and how it’s been received over the years. Carried over from past editions is the commentary track from Henenlotter who is joined by actress Beverly Bonner, producer Edgar Ievins and filmmaker Scooter McCrae. For those who haven’t already heard it, this track is a good one with Henenlotter and Ievins spearheading the discussion and covering everything from the stop motion effects and props used in the film to locations to casting to the film’s scattered distribution history and more. While McCrae and Bonner don’t chime in as often as they could have, the other two participants more than make up for that – there’s a lot of information here and almost all of it is quite interesting.

    From there, check out Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview With Duane Bradley in which Henenlotter visits with ‘Duane Bradley’ for eight-and-a-half-minutes. Henenlotter travels out to Woodstock NY where Bradley now works as a sculptor. It’s fun to hear the two men catch up and stroll down memory lane together and sharing some stories from the shoot – this is a pretty amusing piece. In Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins we spend nine-minutes with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses from Basket Case, talking about their experiences on the shoot, their thoughts on the film and its director and their interesting connection to Henenlotter. Me And The Bradley Boys is a sixteen-minute interview Kevin Van Hentenryck where he talks pretty frankly about his experiences on the film, his thoughts on his character, what it was like shooting a low budget movie in the middle of Times Square in the eighties and lots more. Obviously, this is a bit more serious than the interview with Duane Bradley. There’s also a quick – and funny – four-minute interview here with Henenlotter that we won’t spoil, as well as a new six-minute interview with Beverly Bonner entitled Blood, BASKET And Beyond where she looks back on the film, her character and her thoughts on all of this madness with a good sense of humor. In the seven-minute Belial Goes To The Drive-In, we see the great Joe Bob Briggs hanging out in New York City’s Waverly Theater talking about the impact that the film had when he first saw it in the eighties as well as what makes it important and what makes it work as well as it does.

    More substantial is a twenty-eight-minute long making-of featurette entitled The Latvian Connection that is made up of new interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals. Throughout this interesting piece we learn how each of the participants became involved with the film, the specifics behind their contributions to what is now a legitimate cult classic, some of their background and training and what they’ve been up to since Basket Case was made. Great stuff.

    Henenlotter flies solo in a thirty-seven-minute piece that documents the Q&A that he did at New York City’s Museum Of Modern Art in 2017 where the restored version of the film was given a surprisingly lavish premiere. Here he fields questions from an enthusiastic crowed about the picture and its legacy and while some of this is covered in other extras on the disc, it’s still a fun watch. Henenlotter is just a really likeable guy with a great sense of humor.

    Maybe the best extra on the disc is What’s In The Basket?, which is a feature length documentary covering the making of all three films in the Basket Case trilogy over the span of seventy-eight minutes. As you can imagine, this covers a lot of ground and Henenlotter, as you’d expect, is all over it as are pretty much all of the principal cast and crew members already mentioned. There’s a lot of emphasis here on the first film, how Henenlotter didn’t have the money he needed to complete it and how he figured it would never be seen, the Times Square locations and the effects work. The sequels get less love, but that’s okay, there’s still a lot of great information in here about how they came to be, what it was like working on them and how the various participants feel about them.

    Film critic Travis Crawford contributes a twenty-three-minute visual essay on the film entitled The Frisson Of Fisson which offers up an interesting interpretation and reading of the movie with an emphasis put on how it deals with the idea of twins. He also talks about what he appreciates in the film, what sets it apart from other pictures, the effects and the performances and quite a bit more.

    Also found here is the In Search of the Hotel Broslin featurette in which Henenlotter and rapper Rugged Man (who would later work with the director on Bad Biology) wander around Manhattan and point out the various locations that were used as the hotel seen in the film. Interestingly enough, the lobby and hotel clerk’s desk were shot around an elevator area in one building while the fire escape and sign were shot at a completely different location. We also check out the building that was used for the bar scene where Dwayne and Casey go for a nightcap before it all hits the fan. This building is now the Hellfire Club, NYC’s notorious S&M playground. Here Henenlotter explores the building and then interviews Joe Clarke who has a small role as one of the hotel tenants. They finish this feature off with a look at some of the props from the film shot on the rooftop of Henenlotter’s apartment.

    Arrow has also included a very cool half-hour short that Henenlotter made in 1972 entitled Slash Of The Knife. This is a fairly twisted little low budget movie that parodies health/sex/hygiene films of the era and that deals, quite humorously, with the ‘horrors’ of circumcision. Henenlotter provides an optional commentary track for this that goes into quite a bit of detail about his intentions with this picture and how and why it got made, as well as how he used two future Basket Case partners in the film. We also get a few minutes of outtakes from the film and some behind the scenes images as well.

    Also worth checking out is a five-minute animated short directed by Robert Morgan in 2017 entitled Belial's Dream that was clearly inspired by Basket Case. Some interesting behind-the-scenes footage form the making of this short is also included here and worth checking out.

    Rounding out the extras is an assortment of theatrical trailers, six minutes of outtakes, TV spots, radio spots and still galleries as well as menus and chapter selection.

    As to the packaging, Arrow has supplied some cool reversible sleeve featuring the original poster art on one side and and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck on the reverse. This release also comes with a slipcover and the first pressing includes a full color insert booklet containing cast and crew credits for the feature, credits and technical information for the Blu-ray release and an exclusive essay on the film penned by Michael Gingold.

    Minor complaint time? Note that there are few extras from past releases not included here - Henenlotter’s intro, the clip of Beverly Bonner on a comedy TV show and some radio interviews with Terri Susan Smith. Hardcore Basket Case fans might want to hold onto older editions for that reason.

    The Final Word:

    Basket Case is a great film, a wildly creative mix of horror and black comedy with some fine performances and great FX work. Arrow Video has truly gone above and beyond with this release, stacking the disc with extras and presenting the feature attraction in an absolutely beautiful presentation.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!