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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Frank Henenlotter
Cast:
Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Writing Credits:
Frank Henenlotter

Synopsis:
A young man carrying a big basket that contains his extremely deformed Siamese-twin brother seeks vengeance on the doctors who separated them against their will.

MPAA:
Rated NR.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio:
English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 2/27/2018

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank Henenlotter and Actor Kevin Van Hentenryck
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank Henenlotter, Producer Edgar Ievins, Production Assistant Scooter McCrae and Actor Beverly Bonner,
• “Basket Case 3-1/2” Featurette
• Interview with Actor Kevin Van Hentenryck
• “A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter”
• Interview with Actors Maryellen and Florence Schultz
• Interview with Actor Beverly Bonner
• “Latvian Connection” Featurette
• Interview with Critic Joe Bob Briggs
• MOMA Q&A
• “What’s In the Basket?” Documentary
• “In Search of the Hotel Broslin” Featurette
• Outtakes
• “The Frisson of Fission” Video Essay
• Promo Gallery
• Image Galleries
The Slash of the Knife Short Film
Belial’s Dream Animated Short
• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


Basket Case [Blu-Ray] (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 22, 2018)

A goofy mix of horror and comedy from 1982, Basket Case introduces us to Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck), a somewhat odd young man who carries a basket with him everywhere he goes. Unsurprisingly, this choice piques the curiosity of those he encounters, all of whom ask about the contents.

So what’s in the basket? Duane’s horribly deformed Siamese twin brother “Belial”, that’s what. Doctors separated the two against Duane’s will, and the pair pursue violent vengeance.

Case earned enough of a following to spawn two sequels: 1990’s Basket Case 2 and 1991’s Basket Case 3. I’d be curious to watch those not because I loved the first film but instead because I wonder if they correct arguably the biggest problem on display here: the project’s amateurish nature.

Obviously an extremely low-budget affair, Case suffers from a mix of concerns, and one suspects many of these stem from monetary issues. Production values always seem cheap and visual effects become a persistent problem.

Given the nature of the story, these areas become amplified. Belial plays a major role and if we don’t buy into that character, the film loses a lot of impact.

For the most part, the Belial effects – and other stabs at gore – flop. Every once in a while, Case makes an incarnation of Belial seem acceptably convincing, but he usually comes across as the cheap puppet he is, and the absence of a believable character leads to more unintentional laughs than anything else.

More money theoretically could’ve brought in a more talented cast, too, as the actors in Case< also hamstring it. They vary from dishwater dull to absurdly campy, with little room for anything in between those poles.

As our lead, Van Hentenryck seems only slightly more believable than his rubber-made brother. He can’t decide whether to make Duane a sympathetic loner, a likable boy next door, or a raving lunatic, so his performance jumps all over the place without any consistency.

Well, I guess that beats most of the others, as the rest of the actors flop even worse. Of particular note: Terri Susan Smith as Sharon, Duane’s erstwhile love interest.

For no apparent reason, Smith plays the part like Sharon’s about to get locked away in a mental hospital. Sharon really should be the sweet stabilizing force in Duane’s life, but Smith’s wild-eyed performance makes her seem more nuts than anyone else in the film.

Case simply seems amateurish across the board, and not just because of the low budget. We find weird shot choices, clumsy editing and a mix of other issues that can’t be explained solely due to a lack of funds – it’s more a dearth of talent.

Despite these issues, Case manages sporadic bouts of entertainment value. In particular, a flashback that shows Duane’s childhood works surprisingly well, as it brings pathos and drama to the proceedings. This sequence develops the characters in a reasonable manner and creates an investment in the proceedings.

And then we immediately hop back to adult Duane and more cheesiness. Too bad – the flashbacks show hints of a more compelling tale.

Though the “adult Duane” story has potential as well – it just can’t overcome the crumminess of the production. Basket Case comes with some oddball, freaky charm but its inconsistency and cheapness make it less than engaging.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C/ Bonus A

Basket Case appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As expected, this low-budget effort offered an erratic presentation.

Sharpness became one of the variable elements. While much of the movie showed reasonable delineation, a fair amount of softness interfered as well, primarily during wider shots.

Still, the film usually came across with acceptable delineation, and I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects. Edge haloes remained absent, and print flaws were essentially absent. I saw some gate hairs but no other concerns.

Colors appeared mediocre. At times the hues demonstrated a bit of pop, but they usually came across as somewhat flat and dull.

Blacks seemed reasonably dense, while shadows offered acceptable delineation. Given the movie’s age and origins, this was an acceptable image.

Similar thoughts greeted the PCM monaural soundtrack of Attack, as it betrayed its roots. Music sounded thin and strident, and effects fell into the same category, as those elements lacked range or impact.

Dialogue remained intelligible but also tended to appear somewhat tinny, without a real natural impression. A little distortion crept into the proceedings at times as well. Again, this seemed like an adequate mix due to the limitations of the source, but it never fared better than that.

Two audio commentaries appear here, and the first presents writer/director Frank Henenlotter and actor Kevin Van Hentenryck. Recorded for this Blu-ray release, both sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the project’s roots and development, budgetary issues and the shooting schedule, cast and crew, sets and locations, audio, music and effects.

Though Van Hentenryck gets in an occasional remark, this becomes Henenlotter’s show – and given how lively and informative the filmmaker proves to be, that’s 100 percent fine with me. Henenlotter chats constantly and divulges a wealth of good information, all while he maintains a fun, engaging personality. This becomes a very good commentary.

For the second commentary, we hear from writer/director Frank Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins, production assistant Scooter McCrae and actor Beverly Bonner. (Note that it doesn’t appear McCrae worked on Basket Case - instead, he was part of the Basket Case 2 crew.) Created circa 2001 for a DVD, all four sit together for a running, screen-specific chat about the same topics covered in the aforementioned Henenlotter/Van Hentenryck track.

Inevitably, that means a whole lot of repetition, as we get a lot of material provide in the other discussion. Despite the redundancy, the 2001 commentary remains enjoyable and entertaining, with just enough fresh facts to make it worth a listen.

Something unusual, Basket Case 3-1/2 presents “an interview with Duane Bradley”. In this eight-minute, 30-second short film, Henenlotter chats with Van Hentenryck in character about “Duane’s” life.

We learn two facts from 3-1/2: Van Hentenryck hasn’t updated his haircut from the 1980s, and he hasn’t improved as an actor. Still, this becomes a mildly fun update.

Next comes Me and the Bradley Boys, a 16-minute, 24-second chat with Van Hentenryck. Interviewed by Henenlotter, he discusses aspects of his career as well as his work on the film. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but we still get an enjoyable chat.

A strange affair, A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter goes for a mere three minutes, 50 seconds. A much younger, totally-naked man pretends to be Henenlotter and he makes up “facts” about the movie while the actual Henenlotter asks questions – and corrects the lies. It’s decidedly odd but it’s kind of funny.

With Seeing Double, we discover an eight-minute, 55-second interview with actors Florence and Maryellen Schultz. They cover their relationship with cousin Henenlotter as well as aspects of their work on the film. Their stories about childhood with Frank make this an entertaining chat.

We hear more from actor Beverly Bonner in Blood, Basket and Beyond, a six minute, four second interview. She chats about her work during the film. It’s not the deepest discussion, but Bonner throws out a few decent notes.

Another new featurette, The Latvian Connection goes for 27 minutes, 33 seconds and features Ievins, casting director/actor Ilze Balodis, associate producer/special effects artist Ugis Nigals and “Belial performer” Kika Nigals. They look into their connections to Henenlotter and their work on his films. We find more useful insights in this brisk program.

For a critical perspective, we head to Belial Goes to the Drive-In. In this six-minute, 55-second piece, critic Joe Bob Briggs discusses his experiences with the film and an appreciation for it. Ievins tosses in a couple of tidbits connected to the uncut version, too. Briggs offers a smattering of decent thoughts.

A 2017 Q&A, Basket Case Goes to the MOMA fills 37 minutes, 12 seconds and offers a screening with Henenlotter, Van Hentenryck, Booner, the Schultz twins and Nigals. They offer info about a mix of filmmaking topics, most of which appear in the commentaries, though we find a few unique elements via audience questions.

This means we don’t learn a whole lot from the chat, and the crummy production values don’t help, as it can be tough to understand the questions or replies. While we get a few good nuggets, this ends up as a lackluster program.

We get a view of the entire movie franchise via What’s In the Basket?, a one-hour, 18-minute, 41-second documentary. It features notes from Henenlotter, Van Hentenryck, Bonner, Ievins, McCrae, special effects makeup artists Kevin Haney, Gabriel Bartolos and John Caglione Jr., executive producer James Glickenhouse, writer Robert Martin, and actor Annie Ross.

As anticipated, “Basket” gives us an overview of the three Basket Case movies. I’d probably like it more if it ignored the original and focused entirely on the sequels, as we already learn so much about that flick elsewhere.

Still, I’m glad to get the insights about the series’ continuations in this engaging show. Oh, and the shots from the sequels demonstrates that Van Hentenryck did cut his hair at some point since the early 1980s, so I was wrong that he’d never altered his old ‘do!

An archival featurette from 2001, In Search of the Hotel Broslin includes Henenlotter and rapper RA “Rugged Man” Thorburn. It fills 16 minutes, eight seconds as the pair revisit movie locations.

Some of this seems moderately interesting, but Thorburn comes across as one of the most obnoxious people ever filmed. It’s unclear why he accompanies Henenlotter but this would be a better reel without him.

A collection of Outtakes goes for six minutes, 13 seconds. Though it includes some behind the scenes elements, it’s mostly bloopers – and bloopers framed with annoying sound effects that make it a chore to watch.

A video essay, The Frisson of Fission occupies 23 minutes, three seconds and brings notes from Travis Crawford. He brings thoughts about Basket Case as well as historical info about conjoined twins and the cinematic treatment of “freaks” over the years. Crawford makes this a solid overview.

Under Image Galleries, we get five domains: “Promotional Stills” (47 frames), “Behind the Scenes” (112), “Ephemera” (24), “Advertisements” (49) and “Home Video Releases” (9). All offer useful shots.

Promo Gallery contributes some ads. We find three trailers, one TV Spot and two Radio Spots.

The Slash of the Knife presents a 1972 short film made by Henenlotter. It takes up 30 minutes, 13 seconds and presents a weird farce about a circumcised baby whose father insists the doctors reattach his foreskin.

Slash can be seen as a partial precursor to Basket Case because the lead’s “re-uncircumcised” unit becomes a monster that acts on its own. It’s also relentlessly amateurish, of course, though it comes with some cleverness at its root.

But not enough for a 30-minute movie. Slash would work as a 10-minute short but this version runs way too long.

We can watch Slash with or without commentary from Henenlotter and friend/colleague Mike Bencivenga. They give us a screen-specific look at aspects of the Slash shoot in this rollicking, informative chat.

The disc also includes a collection of Knife Outtaktes that goes for five minutes, 30 seconds. Like the sister collection for Basket Case, these outtakes aren’t especially interesting.

A Knife Image Gallery appears as well. No photos appear, as instead we get the first six pages of the movie’s script. I’m not sure why we fail to find the rest, but it’s still fun to see parts of the screenplay.

Belial’s Dream provides a 2017 animated short inspired by Case. In this four-minute, 49-second segment, we get a creepy tale with our favorite deformed twin. It’s pretty nightmarish.

Making Belial’s Dream runs two minutes, six seconds and gives us a narration-free view of the production. This means we see the physical creation of the stop-motion puppets and aspects of the shoot. It’d work better with some comments, but it still offers a decent look at the rigors of this kind of aniamtion.

Finally, the package concludes with a booklet. It provides credits, photos, an essay from film writer Michael Gingold and a Case-based comic strip by Martin Trafford. The booklet adds value to the set.

A low-budget cult classic, Basket Case comes with a decent premise and a few scenes that hit the mark. However, too much of it suffers from the lack of talent involved, so the end result fails to prosper. The Blu-ray offers adequate picture and audio along with an extensive selection of supplements. Though the movie doesn’t do much for me, I recommend this excellent Blu-ray to fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main