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Image Entertainment presents

Basket Case: SE (1981)

Hotel Manager: Hey kid, what's in the basket?
Duane: Umm..clothes. Just clothes.- Bob Vogel, Kevin Van Hetenryck

Stars: Kevin Van Hetenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Other Stars: Joe Clarke
Director: Frank Henenlotter

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity, violence, gore, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:30m:54s
Release Date: 2001-07-17
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB-B- A-


DVD Review

It boggles my imagination how some movies manage to get made. It makes me wonder how anyone could have amassed funding and crew support for some of the twisted and bizarre ideas that pop up. Such an example is Basket Case, one of the great, all-time 'cult' films that made its debut in the now infamous row of 42nd Street theaters in New York City. It's no surprise that "established" film critics were largely perplexed and disgusted by director Frank Henenlotter's fable of a young boy on a journey through the seedy world of New York. Of course, the inclusion of a homicidal blob of flesh carried around in a basket probably helped.

Our tender story begins when young Duane (Kevin Van Hetenryck) arrives in the Big Apple and decides to reside in the Hotel Broslin, a flophouse populated by some colorful characters. He carries with him an impressive stack of cash and a mysterious, locked basket. Unbeknownst to those around him, the basket contains Belial, Duane's freakish brother who was once attached to his body but was lopped off in an operation. Angry about having been separated, Duane and Belial now exact revenge on the doctors and surgeons who all had a part to play in the surgery. If only things were that simple, though. Duane also has to deal with a host of strange, nosy neighbors in the Hotel Broslin, and a romantic interlude with Sharon (Terri Susan Smith) that drives Belial insane with jealousy.

Undoubtedly, what's endeared Basket Case to most people is the clever humor with which it was made. It was obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and it works as a black comedy that pokes fun at living in New York. Belial may kill and mutilate people in his homicidal rage, but very few of the characters rate any sympathy because they're so scummy to begin with. Everyone wants to victimize Duane, and that idea works mainly because of Kevin Van Hetenryck's amazing performance as the na‘ve Duane, who's complete inexperience in the big city is perfectly indicated by his meek performance. He even manages to emotionally interact with the Belial character even though, for most of the movie, there isn't even a prop to respond to. Of course, one of the longest myths about Basket Case is that it was actually filmed in some fleabag hotel, when in actuality, only the lobby and the exterior shots were a real location.

Underneath all the gore and the strange special effects (including some creepy stop-motion on Belial), Basket Case is a textbook example of excellence in streamlined, low-budget filmmaking. It's fun, entertaining, and stylish, yet all done on shoestring finance with inexperienced actors and crew. You can really feel the desire to just make an entertaining, weird movie. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the 2 sequels that followed over the years. While they have their fans, the same spirit just didn't seem to be present there. Regardless, the original truly has all the elements that define a horror classic (at least in the 'cult' sense), and with this new release, hopefully a whole new generation of film-goers will discover this quirky little masterpiece of mayhem.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The phrase that is best applied to Basket Case is: you've never seen it look this good. While, yes, it's an old film that was never state-of-the-art to begin with, the new master, from a personal print of Frank Henenlotter's, is gorgeous. Most notably, it has brilliant new colors and much more depth than previous editions. It's very clean and crisp, despite some moments of damage. According to some chatter on the commentary, a lot of work was done with the film to improve its overall quality when the DVD was put into the works, and it certainly shows. Even in its original theaterical run, I doubt it looked as smooth and well-rendered as this. One of the more dramatic elements is how this new transfer has allowed the wonderful, grim, cinematography to really come alive.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is the original mono, done as a Pro-Logic center channel mix. Since the film was primarily created with on-set mics, some of the dialogue is a little harsh and hollow, but there are very few complaints. The weird, electronic musical sounds better than ever. Other than natural problems, the audio is remarkably clean, without pops or hisses.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Frank Henenlotter, Producer Edgar Ievins, Actress Beverly Bonner
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes reel.
  2. Gallery of promotional and behind-the-scenes art.
  3. Clips from Beverly Bonner's cable show "Laugh Track"
  4. Radio spots and radio interviews with Terri Susan Smith.
Extras Review: Basket Case gets a long overdue, royal treatment here, and we have the fine folks at Something Weird Video to thank. To begin with, there is a new commentary track featuring director Frank Henenlotter, original producer Edgar Ievins, and actress Beverly Bonner (who plays the Hotel Broslin hooker Casey, and has since become a local cable phenomenon). Also present on the track is a special effects technician from Basket Case II, who remains uncredited on the disc. Recorded in Henenlotter's apartment, the track is very busy and active, and there are virtually no gaps or silences. The four people just constantly remember anecdotes and all sorts of information on how things were made. It's a lot of fun, very humorous, and very educational for the true Basket Case fan.

Next is a reel of outtakes from Henenlotter's personal collection of deleted footage. The reel is mainly just scene preparation, footage of multiple takes, mistakes, and goof-ups. Perhaps the best part of of the reel is the infamous attempts at a scene in which Belial was supposed to break a window, but Henenlotter (who operated the puppet) could simply not punch through the glass, so the scene never went into the film.

A brand new featurette entitled In Search Of The Hotel Broslin has Frank Henenlotter, and a friend, wandering the streets of New York to show some places where Basket Case was filmed. Although they find the building that served as the Hotel Broslin, they are unable to get inside it (no one will let them in). Not to be daunted, though, they head over to the location where certain other scenes were filmed, which has now become a rather infamous S&M club featured in many television shows and also used in the film Crusin'. In the club, they meet up with Joe Clarke, the actor who played Mickey O'Donovan in the film, which is good for a few laughs. Henenlotter then shows off some merchandise and effects props in his personal possession.

A series of excerpts from Beverly Bonner's television show Laugh Track are presented. Her show, which runs on community cable, is basically a weird collection of skits and other variety acts. It should be noted that, apart from this cable show, her only other acting appearances have been in Henenlotter's films.

Some old, rare, radio interview with actress Terri Susan Smith can be heard. It's odd to think of doing press for a movie like this, but you can't say they didn't try. The interviews are interesting and certainly a wonderful slice from the time period.

The rest of the disc is devoted to promotional material, such as trailers, TV spots, and a collection of artwork from the film. Mixed in with the advertising are also some other photos and behind-the-scenes clips. The case insert features a brief history of the film, as written by Vince Bonavoglia, webmaster of DVD Unleashed (which currently seems to be down) Overall, this is an outstanding disc and a wonderful tribute to the movie.

An easter-egg from the main screen plays a trailer for Brain Damage.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

Something Weird delivers the goods again with a stellar DVD of a long-ignored classic. If you're already a fan, this is a must-have. If not, now you can see a great version for the first time going in.

Dan Lopez 2001-08-23