Blu-ray Review: Basket Case (Limited Edition)

A fancy cinema chain is moving into my area and the big buzz is that in addition to their theaters, they’re going to have a video rental shop. They’re not going to just have Blu-rays and DVDs like a Red Box machine, but VHS cassette tapes. They’re even going to rent VCRs that have been modified so they can pop in the HDMI slot in your TV. And kids are excited. Having grown up in the VHS era and spent a good part of my college years and post college years in video stores, I have fond memories of cruising the racks and shelves of tapes. Poking at the boxes deciding if they were tempting enough to burn $3.50 for a two night rental. I even worked behind the counter for a while. I will wax nostalgic for hours about Dave’s Videodrome, Video Bar and Videorama. They were a special time. But then DVD arrived and VHS quickly vanished from my life. I know there are folks who will try to convince you that the low resolution tapes are superior home video experience to Blu-ray. I question their sanity and glasses prescription. But let’s find joy in what VHS. The format allowed kids across the country to discover weird, strange and bizarre films without depending on a cool person running your local movie theater. A title that we drove 25 miles to rent the VHS was the iconic Basket Case. We had to drive 25 miles to return it two days later. But I have no desire to see that VHS tape ever again after witnessing the glory of Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of the gritty horror comedy.

This isn’t just another dupe off the same video master. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) tracked down the original 16mm elements to give it a glory that perhaps no one has ever experienced even those who caught Basket Case‘s first screening in 1982. This dark, grainy and gritty Manhattan shot film can be finally fully appreciated as everything isn’t trapped in murky shadows.

Duane Bradley arrives in the heart of seedy New York City with a locked wicker basket. He’s a very peculiar guy who checks into the creepy Broslin Hotel even though he has enough cash in his pocket to stay at the Holiday Inn. Unlike some people who arrive in Manhattan, he has no dream of posing as a supermodel, starring on Broadway or starting a punk band. Duane wants to get revenge for what doctors did to him and his conjoined twin brother Belial. He’s tracking down the medical professionals that split them apart with a pizza slicer. Where’s Belial? He’s in the basket and he’s not happy to be independent of Duane.

Basket Case remains as special as the first time a classmate told me the plot and I said, “Really? Wow.” This is the type of filmmaking isn’t made today because the movie broke so many rules that get inflicted on cinema today. This movie lives to outrage. Duane hooks up with a horrible nurse and Belial creeps out of his basket in order to share the experience. It’s a moment that elicits more gasps of shock than screams of horror. This film is so outrageous and yet filmed with the New York rough feel that it doesn’t feel like camp. It’s the perfect “you won’t believe this” kinda film. Now with the new transfer, it’s easier to see the grotesqueness clear without losing the dirty feeling of New York before the Disneyfication. Funny to think that after being called trash when it was released in 1982, it’s now part of the MoMA’s collection of art. There among the works of Dali and Picasso is Belial.

The video is 1.33:1 anamorphic so there’s bars on side of screen. The transfer from MoMA was a 4K restoration from the original 16mm. It looks great compared to the poor resolution VHS tapes. The audio is Uncompressed Mono Audio. You can hear the weird noises of Manhattan before it was cleaned up. It’s a low budget flick so the mix is a little rough. The movie is subtitled.

Commentary tracks include a new one with writer/director Frank Henenlotter and star Kevin Van Hentenryck. The two have a fun time recounting how they made this no budget classic. There’s also a vintage cast and crew track from a previous release.

Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley (8:30) has Frank Henenlotter track down Duane Bradley in the woods near Woodstock, NY. The star is now a sculptor. They have a little fun with acting like the twin brothers are real.

Me and the Bradley Boys
(16:24) interviews Kevin Van Hentenryck seriously. He talks of approaching the role of swapping off to play either brother in a scene.

A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter (3:50) has Frank surprise transformation.

Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins (8:55) brings us a chance to catch up with Florence and Maryellen Schultz, the twin nurses. Turns out they are connected to Frank.

Blood, BASKET and Beyond (6:04) talks with actress Beverly Bonner. She met Frank while she was working with Divine. Her part grew during the production until she was third lead.

Belial Goes to the Drive-In (6:55) hooks up with film critic Joe Bob Briggs at the Waverly Theater in New York City. The theater was known for breaking a lot of films into the midnight movie mega-sphere. Joe Bob wanted to premiere it after seeing it at Cannes (outside the festival). He talks of champion the film in the early ’80s.

The Latvian Connection (27:33) sits down with producer Edgar Ievins and the folks that brought Beilal alive including casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/effects artist Ugis Nigals and Belial performer Kika Nigals. Edgar now producer baked goods.

Basket Case at MoMA (37:12) is the Q&A with Frank Henenlotter and others after premiere of the restoration in 2017.

What’s in the Basket (78:41) covers all three Basket Case films. Frank talks about how he didn’t think it would ever see the light of day since he had a budget that didn’t come close to covering the script. All the important cast and crew talk of being part of the weirdness that came out of Times Square when it was unsafe. This documentary explains the link between this movie and Ken Russell’s Altered States.

Outtakes (6:13) includes the cast and crew having a little fun before the director shouts action.

In Search of the Hotel Broslin (16:08) has Frank and pals look around Manhattan locations in 2001. He admits the hotel doesn’t exits. It was two apartment buildings. They even converted an elevator into the manager’s desk.

The Frisson of Fisson (23:03) is a video essay by Travis Crawford. He enjoys how the film is weird in its treatment of twins.

Slash of the Knife (30:13) is short film by Frank Henenlotter made in 1972 with people who appeared in Basket Case. It’s about circumcision. There’s a commentary track, outtakes and images from the shoot included.

Belial’s Dream (4:49) is a brand new Basket Case-inspired animated short by filmmaker Robert Morgan. They also include behind-the-scenes footage.

Trailers, TV Spots, Radio Spots, still gallery and even home video covers for the Betamax version.

Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold.

Arrow Video presents Basket Case: Limited Edition. Directed by: Frank Henenlotter. Screenplay by: Frank Henenlotter. Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith & Beverly Bonner. Rated: R. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: February 27, 2018.

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