Basket Case (1982)
By: Griff on May 4, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0 Mono. 91 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Screenplay:Frank Henenlotter
Music: Guy Russo
Tagline: "The tenant in room 7 is very small, very twisted and very mad"
Country: USA
Basket Case, oh, Basket Case! In the realm of super-low budget horror flicks, ultimately very few are worth the broken promises and borrowed money that fuelled them to fruition. With the production value of a platter of egg and salad sandwiches, its no wonder - shoestring flicks can't rely on slick visuals and familiar faces to lullaby their audiences into complacency. Luckily, there' much more to the exotic than mere glitz and glamour - other alluring ingredients such as nudity, gore, cheap scares and even cheaper laughs will do well to provide the requisite razzle-dazzle for a solid night's entertainment. Well folks, strip down to your birthday suit and release the badgers because Basket Case delivers on all counts!

Its seedy early 1980's New York City and young, fresh-faced Duane Bradley wanders the fetid neon-hued streets for the first time, carrying with him a big wicker basket (and even bigger hair - what a fucking mop!). Brandishing a great wad of bills, he checks into the Hotel Broslin, a haven for an eclectic collection of nutters, reprobates and a gigantic flip-frame continuity mistakes. Once settled in his room he proceeds to feed the basket a buncha hamburgers as it shakes and makes various crude digestive noises. Who is this lad and what's his agenda? And what the hell is in that basket? Dirty drawers? Another basket, perhaps? The audience demands answers.

But first: a question. If a bunch of shady underqualified doctors abducted you in the middle of the night, sedated you and surgically removed your hideously deformed mute conjoined twin brother without your prior written consent would you a) be grateful for your new lease on life b) remain mildly resentful but try to make the best of the lamentable situation c) sleep on your other side for a change or d) rescue your half-dead mutilated brother from the garbage pile, go into hiding until early adulthood and then proceed to hunt down and violently kill each and every one of the godless fucks that did this to you both, sealing your inevitable doom in the process?

You bet your vindictive freak-brother-lovin' arse you would.

If you think I just gave away the big reveal of the movie you'd be right - but we're competing with a shameless video cover here that exploits everything in its arsenal so here's another poorly-kept secret: Pssst, that thing in the basket? It's the freak brother. No shit. Picture a head. With arms for ears. There ya go. But its ingenious, I tells ya, because when you see this arseless menace clinging to walls, trashing apartments, screaming like a banshee, leaping onto shrieking victims, onto window sills, offa window sills, leafing through paperwork or attempting a baffling form of sexual intercourse - its an absolute riot - and slightly eerie, even. Like the humble scrotum, there's something to be said for simplicity of design and its inherent potential to disturb. No tentacles, no dripping phallus - just a misshapen yet purposeful blob. Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi's inventive creature design and elaborate animatronics can happily eat shit and die cos some bloke called John Caglione Jr hit it out of the park for about three dollars fifty as far as I'm concerned.

But back to the plot rundown. Having tracked down those responsible for their dilemma, the scheming duo's plight for bloody revenge hits a snag when they encounter a previously unforeseen folly - the affections of a beautiful woman. It isn't long before Duane's playing a unique spin on that old situational comedy classic routine: the stud with two dates for the prom, neither of whom know the other exists - only one's a fat chick in a wig, the other's a human walnut and there's no prom. But Brother Belial is sharper than your average potato head, see, and it isn't long before tensions between the two brothers mount and threaten to explode - with potentially fatal consequences for our heroes. Will they unite and have their revenge? Will they turn on each other and not have their revenge? Will they get laid? Will they? They will? Oh man.

Basket Case is a cautionary tale of what can happen when man meddles with nature and, more specifically, nature's mistakes. It is now more relevant than ever with doctors severing Siamese twins like they needed the frequent flyer points for a round-the-world trip. If such high-paid butchers had any inkling that their failings would undoubtedly come back to brutally murder them, would they be so eager to prove their skills with a scalpel? The sensitive social and medical issue of conjoined twins (aka 'Siamese twins', aka 'fucking two-headed monsters') and their right to a life of perpetual inconvenience gains leverage with the lessons learnt in Basket Case.

Director Frank Hennenlotter isn't just a compelling social commentator, he's a fantastic showman with a flair for entertaining with even only the meekest of resources at his disposal, compiling them into a story worth telling, making for an enchanting fable worth hearing. So let's hear it for the take-cover toilet, the running chop flop, the whore with a heart of gold, the macabre drunken confessional and, most of all, the Bradley Brothers whom, over the course of the movie and its two sequels, we have come to love as our own. Dearest Basket Case, for all your grandiose flamboyance, incandescent casting, heartfelt humour, indefensible violence, complimentary nudity and state of the art animation - we salute you.

And so say all of us.
Video
Basket Case is presented its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio. This DIY wonder was shot on 16mm by a bunch of amateurs and blown up to 35mm so don't be expecting Shrek 4 when you throw it on to impress your neighbours at your next BBQ. I'm willing to trust Henenlotter and Pals when they say this is the best the film has ever looked. Be warned, however: Umbrella have given us a NTSC->PAL transfer which may cause problems on progressive displays. That aside, its identical to the quality R1 Something Weird Video release.
Audio
2.0 Mono, kids. Simple, functional and all the more beautiful for it. The drive-ins never had surround sound and neither did your parents' telly so shut yer face. Glorious!
Extra Features
Something Weird Video's US release had a host of joyous extras and thankfully Umbrella have included just about everything right here.

The screen-specific audio commentary features director Henenlotter, his producer Edgar Ivans, star Beverly Bonner and indi filmmaker Scooter McRae. Henenlotter dominates the track, occassionally aided by Ivans while Bonner and McRae just enjoy the ride. Henenlotter is his usual cheerful and enthusiastic self and has no shortage of anecdotes to share. It's not as riotous as his Brain Damage commentary but its good fun none the less. My only gripe: where's Van Hentenryck?

The 6 minute Behind the Scenes/Outtakes compilation is comprised of goofy production footage capatured before 'action' and after 'cut' since there was obviously wasn't enough funds to facilitate separate documentation. Its good fun and the music chosen to cover up the dead air is worthy of release. Its a shame that the infamous deleted animation wasn't/couldn't be included.

In Search of the Hotel Broslin sees Henenlotter and some personality-challenged wannabe white rapper guy give us a guided tour of some of the locations used in the film. Highlights include a suprise reunion with one of the bit players, an appearance by Belial himself and some guy who looks like a Wookie.

Less fanciful but greatly appreciated are the usual theatrical trailers, tv spots and radio commercials that are included, along with a coupla vintage raido interviews with actress Terri Susan Smith and a fairly impressive 5 minute slideshow of behind the scenes snapshots and exploitation art.

That's about it. So what didn't make the cut? Umbrella have seen fit not to include excerpts from Beverly Bonner's own cable television show. Truth be told, its quite a horrid peace of community TV comedy and while it does have some morbid curiousity value for Basket Case fans, it has no implicit connection to the actual movie itself. The most expendable of the supplements, its been ditched in favour of the aptly labelled 'Umbrella Propaganda' which is just a buncha trailers for other discs. The menus have been completley redesigned to accommodate the changes - a passable effort though I could've done with some images for the scene selections.
The Verdict
I love Basket Case and you should too. Umbrella have given us a local release that's enough to make you think twice about importing. Infact, unless you've got the hots for Beverly Bonner or own a progressive display, I don't see why lobbing down the shops and picking this DVD up wouldn't be the better option. Besides, you could use the exercise.
Movie Score
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