Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Written by Frank Henenlotter
Produced by Edgar Ievins
Cast: Kevin VanHentenryck, Terry Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel & Joe Clarke
1981/ 91 mins/Color/Dolby Digital Mono
1:33.1/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Something Weird Video DVD
"BASKET CASE is the sickest movie I've ever seen!" This statement by film critic Rex Reed was originally used to promote the film during an ad campaign while the film made its rounds in the midnight film circuit. Theater goers were even given surgical masks at these screenings to "keep the blood of their faces". Well twenty years later, the film has finally been released in a Special Edition DVD -- brought to you by none other than Something Weird Video.
Equipped with his locked wicker basket, Duane Bradley (Kevin VanHentenryck) arrives in a sleazy district of Manhattan and checks into a hotel. On the outside Duane looks like a regular young man, but on the inside (and in the basket specifically) he hides a disturbing secret. The Hotel Broslin will never be the same. You see inside the basket is Belial - Duane's deformed Siamese twin brother (fraternal twins to be exact since poor Belial looks more like a psychotic cottage-cheese-monster). He was once attached to Duane's side, but their father put an end to that when hiring some second rate doctors (one of which being a veterinarian) to surgically remove him, later to be left for dead in a garbage bag like an unwanted tumor. This particular sequence told through a flashback is particularly disturbing. Even though the film is filled with cheese, this still doesn't take away from the fact that sequences such as these are still horrifically unsettling. Belial survived of course, due to Duane taking care of him (unbeknownst to his father) all these years, so now they land in Manhattan to inflict revenge on the surgeons who split them apart.
BASKET CASE is full of over-the-top and unique oddball characters which adds a lot to the appeal in the film. Characters such as the balding greasy manager of the Hotel Broslin (Robert Vogel who died a few years after the films completion), who stops at nothing to find out what the Hell is going on in room number seven. Another goofy character, Casey played by Beaverly Bonner (who has acted in every Henenlotter film to date) was the hooker of the Hotel whose shrieking was put to an end by Duane's disgruntled tumor. We can't forget the star of the show Kevin VanHatenryck, none other than Duane, the wide-eyed brother sporting a superb curly Caucasian-afro, and his romantic love interest Sharon (Terry Susan Smith), the big breasted blond receptionist who of course detours the discontented duo from their prime directive.
Filmed for $35,000, Henenlotter makes the most of such a small budget for a 16mm feature. This goes to show that it doesn't matter what budget or when you make a film but the energy and effort one puts forth. Look at all the fifty-million-dollar bombs Hollywood churns out of the money machine that never work. BASKET CASE contains all the goods including some pretty damn good aftermath gore, and makes use of the times with some tasteless stop motion animation and puppetry. Even though Belial is obviously a latex puppet, when his eyes glow and he projects his ear piercing war cry (also done by VanHentenryck), the little blob of latex sure delivers the goods. Initially released butchered by Analysis Releasing, it failed to find an audience, but after three months of little success, Analysis came to their senses and released the film in its uncut glory quickly spreading by word of mouth while making its rounds through sold-out midnight showings.
Something Weird Video presents BASKET CASE 20th Anniversary Special Edition digitally remastered in its original full frame 1:33.1 aspect ratio, and the film has never looked better. The original VHS release by Media Home Entertainment looked horrible. It was extremely dark, and dull, and even Henenlotter couldn't watch the film. Apparently the film was blown up and cropped so badly to 35mm film that during screenings of the film Henenlotter couldn't bring himself to watch it, but would merely sit in the audience to gather their response to the film. Now, the film is a hundred times brighter and alive, with only minor black flecks and grain. SWV did an overall fantastic digital overhaul. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono and while the sound FX and dialog are rather crisp and clear, it still isn't great, containing some background hiss and muffling throughout. Otherwise a decent job.
"What's in the basket" (as questioned many times throughout the film) in the supplemental department you ask? First in the 'Special Features' we get two BASKET CASE theatrical trailers. The first was released by Analysis Releasing, and the latter by Rugged Films Inc. Then we have an RFI television spot which shows how terrible the film has looked. The film is so dark you can hardly recognize the backgrounds. 'Outtakes and Behind-the-Scenes Footage' is next up which is a six minute sequence of clips of outtake footage where the cast make goofy faces and screw up their lines and such, all with background 70's porno style music. The 'Video Short: IN SEARCH OF HOTEL BROSLIN' is an excellent little docu for fans filmed by Scooter McCrae (of SHATTER DEAD fame) which basically follows Frank Henenlotter to various locations where BASKET CASE was shot. This is quite interesting, with plenty tidbits of info about the shooting of the film. Then we have some 'Rare BASKET CASE Radio-Spots' as well as two radio interviews with Terry Susan Smith, one of which sounds like she's half asleep. Then there are excerpts from Beverly Bonner's local low budget cable TV show 'LAUGH TRACK' which is a show of comedic skits performed by her and some guests, but are more painful than funny. Following that we have 'Gallery of BASKET CASE Exploitation Art & Behind-the-Scenes Photos' showing some cool on set photos in addition to an assortment of BASKET CASE posters from around the world. We round off the extras with an audio commentary with director Frank Henenlotter, producer Edger Ievins and actress Beverly Bonner. This is an excellent commentary, with no sound gaps whatsoever and is very much informative and comical as they all joke and reminisce while watching the feature. Cool pieces of info such as Henenlotter and Ievin forking over $8,000 each from their own pockets to get the shooting of the film started, to Terry Susan Smith breaking her leg on set from Henenlotter's direction to run down the stairs faster, as well as talk of covering 'glory holes' in the S&M club that they turned into a basement for the shoot. All fans of BASKET CASE will no doubt enjoy this. Some Liner notes by Vince Bonavoglia of Media Unleashed (R.I.P.) have also been added as a foldout insert in the packaging, which alone are highly informative on the films history and is a great read. This disc also contains a hidden trailer easter egg for the film BRAIN DAMMAGE. All you have to do is, from the main menu press the left arrow key, and the trailer will automatically play.
BASKET CASE has spawned two sequels and is undoubtedly, to this day, a Cult classic. Something Weird Video puts time and care into the packaging of their DVD's, and BASKET CASE certainly is no exception to their rule. I can 't imagine this film looking any better so fans of this little gem rejoice. Get rid of your murky VHS tapes, pick up this disc and find out for yourself, "What's in the basket"!
This Film Features:
Review by Chris Mayo. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©
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