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    Ian Jane
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  • Basket Case (Blu-ray)



    Released by: Image Entertainment/Something Weird Video

    Released on: September 27, 2011.

    Director: Frank Henenlotter

    Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner, Robert Vogel

    Year: 1982

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    When Basket Case begins, a dopey country boy named Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) arrives in Manhattan from a small upstate New York town and needs a place to stay for a few days. He shacks up at the Hotel Broslin, a Times Square fleapit, where he gets himself a room for twenty bucks a night. Though the grouchy hotel clerk (Robert Vogel) is curious as to what Duane has in the wicker basket he's carrying around, Duane's answer of 'clothes' satiates that curiosity easily enough. He soon befriends a kindly hooker named Casey (Beverly Bonner) and draws the suspicion of a few other tenants, particularly when they see how much cash he's carrying in his pocket.


    After settling into his new digs and feeding some hamburgers to whatever it is that lives in the basket, we start to learn the true story about Duane and his Siamese twin brother, Belial, so named by his father who considers his 'child' a freak and who he holds responsible for the death of his wife who died during the birth. Separated by a trio of squirrely doctors who believed Belial to be dead after the operation, Duane is now in New York City on a quest to track those doctors down so that his brother can get revenge. Complicating this matter, however, is the presence of a bright eyed blonde receptionist, Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), who Duane starts to fall for. Belial, however, is the jealous type and doesn't react too kindly when Duane pays attention to anyone else but him.


    Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter for $35,000, Basket Case was heavily trimmed upon its initial release but wound up uncut on home video where it gathered a pretty sizeable cult following - and for good reason. A fairly standard monster movie in terms of plotting, it nevertheless wins us over with some truly creative puppet and stop motion animation effects and a few healthy servings of gore. Laced with Henenlotter's recognizable sense of bizarre humor, Basket Case mixes up elements of black comedy with its more traditional horror movie bits and pieces and the end result is a completely warped and unconventional film, the kind that makes for the perfect cult movie.


    Performance wise, Henenlotter couldn't have made a better casting choice than that of having Kevin Van Hentenryck in the lead role. Charmingly awkward, he has that 'small town nice guy' vibe down pat, qualities not lost on the two ladies in the film who seem completely oblivious to the fact that he's got a giant, poofy curly haired mullet on the top of his head. His kind eyes and 'golly gee' attitude make that easy to overlook. His performance makes it easy for us to feel for him. Torn between doing what is best for him and doing what his obviously troubled brother wants of him, he's obviously stressing out and, in the later part of the movie, starting to crack. His interaction with the very likeable Casey gives him some comfort, as she's more of a strange mother to him than anything else, while his romantic feelings for Sharon complicate things in a bad way, even though he wants to explore that route and be with her more than with his brother.


    It all comes together and works far better than it really probably should have, a testament to Henenlotter's skill behind the camera and to his creativity as a filmmaker, the perfect mix of gore and monster effects and a genuinely involving story set against some great locations (including some great shots of Times Square before it was turned into a Disney run tourist trap).


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Basket Case arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe transfer that presents the film in its original aspect ratio. As you'd expect given its 16mm roots, it can be grainy in spots but never intrusively so or to the point where it becomes particularly distracting. What was distracting, at least to this viewer, are noticeable horizontal blue scratches that appear for less than a second here and there throughout the movie. These were evident on the DVD too, but not as obvious on that format as they are here - here's a shot from the DVD with the scratch circled in red and here's a shot from the Blu-ray with the scratch circled in red and you can plainly see how more pronounced the scratches are on Blu-ray. A lot of people probably won't notice them as they happen so quickly but they are there and this is probably something that stems back to what elements were available for the transfer. With that complaint pushed to the side, however, the good does certainly outweigh the bad here. Detail is considerably improved as is clarity in general. Darker scenes show good shadow detail and thankfully there are no problems with crush or compression artifacts to complain about here. Texture is a lot stronger than it ever was on standard definition, you'll not only notice some fibers on clothing but you'll even be able to pick out lines left from the mold that made the Belial puppet! Colors look great, nice and natural without appearing oversaturated or pumped up while contrast also looks dead on.


    The only audio option for the feature is an English language Linear PCM Mono track. There are no alternate language options, subtitles or closed captioning options available. As far as the track itself goes, it sounds fine. The levels are well balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The deafening screams of some characters in a few scenes have an appropriate amount of power behind them while the screwy score used in the movie is nice and punchy without sounding too pumped up in the mix. This is still an older mono mix, so some might find it a bit on the flat side, but those who know and love this movie will have no problems with this mix at all.


    The only new extra on this release is an introduction from Frank Henenlotter in which he explains why Basket Case is on Blu-ray in the first place and provides some details about its origins, how it was shot on 16mm and how they tried to make sure that it didn't wind up looking like a different movie on its high definition debut (which is why it's fullframe and not matted for widescreen TVs).


    Image/SWV have, however, carried over most (though not all) of the extra features from the twentieth anniversary edition, starting with the commentary track from writer/director Henenlotter who is joined by actress Beverly Bonner, producer Edgar Ievins and filmmaker Scooter McCrae. For those who haven't already heard it, this track is a good one with Henenlotter and Ievins spearheading the discussion and covering everything from the stop motion effects and props used in the film to locations to casting to the film's scattered distribution history and more. While McCrae and Bonner don't chime in as often as they could have, the other two participants more than make up for that - there's a lot of information here and almost all of it is quite interesting.


    Also found here is the In Search of the Hotel Broslin featurette in which Henenlotter and rapper Rugged Man (who would later work with the director on Bad Biology) wander around Manhattan and point out the various locations that were used as the hotel seen in the film. Interestingly enough, the lobby and hotel clerk's desk were shot around an elevator area in one building while the fire escape and sign were shot at a completely different location. We also check out the building that was used for the bar scene where Dwayne and Casey go for a nightcap before it all hits the fan. This building is now the Hellfire Club, NYC's notorious S&M playground. Here Henenlotter explores the building and then interviews Joe Clarke who has a small role as one of the hotel tenants. They finish this feature off with a look at some of the props from the film shot on the rooftop of Henenlotter's apartment.


    Aside from that, there are six minutes of outtakes from the shoot included here, as well as two trailers for the feature, a TV spot, some radio spots, and a decent sized still gallery of behind the scenes stills and promotional artwork from various territories. Animated menus and chapter stops are also included. All of the extras are in standard definition and long time Something Weird Video fans will lament the absence of their trademark opening musical montage on this release. The DVD release included a clip of Beverly Bonner on a comedy TV show and some radio interviews with Terri Susan Smith as well as an insert booklet with liner notes - completists note that those are missing from this Blu-ray release.


    The Final Word:


    Minor transfer complaint and a few missing extras aside, this is a pretty solid inaugural Blu-ray release from the Something Weird Video catalogue. The increase in clarity and detail on the transfer more than make up for the minor shortcomings noted in the review, and as to the movie itself? It's still a classic, a creative and entirely twisted monster movie with some fun performances and great locations.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

































    • Ian Jane
      #1
      Ian Jane
      Administrator
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      Oh, and to answer the question on asked on the forum, when I set my Momitsu to Region B, this disc won't play, so it seems to be locked to Region A.

    • Goldberg
      #2
      Goldberg commented
      Editing a comment
      The screen grabs look really nice, since I've only seen this in scummy vhs versions. But that issue with the lines on the film print are a bit of a shame, considering when you see the trailer BU made for their Zombie restoration..I guess Something Weird are a bit more ghetto than BU...
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