Posts Tagged ‘Frank Henenlotter’

Basket Case

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Region: Region A & B

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1


Basket Case (1982) was the feature film debut of Frank Henenlotter—the mastermind behind a number of schlocky genre titles including Brain Damage (1988), Frankenhooker (1990), and the two completely unnecessary sequels to Basket Case. The most infamous of these is undoubtedly this debut effort. Many will be surprised to learn that the film has earned the privilege of a 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Wonders never cease…

The story is as simple as it is ridiculous as it follows the adventures of an oddball named Duane Bradley (when you see the word “oddball,” read “bat-shit crazy guy”). The back of the Blu-ray case claims that he is a “pretty ordinary guy,” but this is only true if you happen to live in an insane asylum. He carries his formerly conjoined and grossly deformed twin around in a padlocked basket. He and his twin travel around and exact revenge on those responsible for separating them, but the freak in the basket sometimes becomes jealous when Duane’s focus isn’t entirely on him and this causes him to murder anyone that he believes may come between them.

The Twin in the Basket

Belial in his basket.

The film was filmed on 16mm film in 1980s New York with a shoestring budget and became a staple of the 42nd Street grindhouse circuit, and its reputation grew with time (with some help from the home video market). The film’s cult status is especially significant because these films tend to split audiences. Either you love a certain cult film or you hate it… This particular reviewer must confess that he isn’t loving this one. It is simply too campy and outlandish, but these qualities are exactly what endears the film to those who enjoy it.


The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray disc in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and artwork based on the original one-sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) with additional artwork that sweetens an already attractive presentation.

One Sheet

The film’s original one-sheet.

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled “Case History” by Michael Gingold and a comic strip by Martin Trafford entitled “Cham-pain in the Park!” Transfer information and production credits are also included.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Limited Edition Display

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate. Supplemental materials are generously described within the menu so that the viewer knows exactly what they are about to watch. This is helpful because some of these features have vague titles.


Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

By some phenomenon that calls all reason and logic into question, Basket Case has been given an outstanding 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art from the film’s original 16mm negative (with a 35mm interpositive utilized as a secondary source for certain moments in the film). The restoration was approved by Frank Henenlotter and the results are much better than this film deserves. Obviously, the film suffers from its own production methods, but this transfer certainly represents the film in the best possible light. The transfer’s grain structure is kept in check throughout most of the film but can occasionally shift and become more prominent during those moments when the original negative couldn’t be used. Fortunately, this never really becomes problematic or distracting. As a matter of fact, it is preferable to see the format’s heavy grain than to have it scrubbed clean. It adds a filmic texture to the proceedings that actually adds to the film’s gritty atmosphere. This is an extremely clean image for the most part with only occasional instances of dirt and debris. Fine detail, depth, and clarity are about as good as anyone could possibly expect from a low budget 16mm production. The film also looks quite good in motion when compared to other transfers of the film.


Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s English Mono Linear PCM audio transfer of the restored audio track features clean and clear dialogue and featured reasonably well-rendered effects and music. It suffers from the low rent production methods but these issues aren’t terribly distracting and it is unreasonable to expect anything better than what we are given here.


Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter and Kevin Van Hentenryck

Arrow has seen fit to produce this brand new commentary track that brings the director and primary actor responsible for the film together. This is a light and enjoyable track that fans are sure to enjoy and the duo actually gives the listener some interesting information about the production along the way.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter, Edgar Ievins, Beverly Bonner, and Scooter McRae

This archival track has been carried over from one of the film’s other releases and actually covers similar territory as the first. Luckily, this older track is unique enough to offer the listener enough substantial information to make it worth the avid fan’s time.

Basket Case Outtakes – (06:13)

This is a short reel of outtakes from the production.

Slash of the Knife (1976) — with optional Commentary Track – (30:13)

It’s too bad that more supplemental packages don’t include short films by the filmmaker responsible for the main feature. It seems like such additions should be standard by now. This rarely seen black and white short was made by Henenlotter years before Basket Case became a reality. It is mentioned a number of times in some of the other features on this disc, so including it here is more than appropriate. As a matter of fact, many cast members from Basket Case are featured in the short. It is a mock public service announcement of sorts about “America’s Uncircumcised” (no really). The optional commentary track by Frank Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga offers the viewer a certain amount of background information and sweetens the deal considerably.

Slash of the Knife Outtakes – (05:30)

Surprisingly, Arrow also includes an outtake reel from Slash of the Knife as an adjunct to the short.

Slash of the Knife Image Gallery

As if the commentary track and outtake weren’t enough, fans are also given a still gallery from the Slash of the Knife short.

Belial’s Dream (2017) — with optional Commentary Track – (04:49)

Belial’s Dream is an unusual stop-motion short directed by Robert Morgan. It covers a dream in the mind of the famous deformed twin known as Belial.

Making Belial’s Dream – (02:06)

This extremely short “making of” featurette about the production of Belial’s Dream isn’t particularly comprehensive, but who really expects a two-minute featurette about the making of a five-minute film to be brimming with information?

What’s in the Basket? – (01:18:41)

This feature-length examination of all three of Henenlotter’s Basket Case films is certain to thrill those who admire the series. It is also a good way for those who have not yet seen the sequels to learn a bit about them. Most will agree that this is one of the most substantial supplements on the entire disc.

The Latvian Connection: The Making of Basket Case – (27:33)

The Latvian Connection is presented in sepia and covers the making of Basket Case through interviews with Edgar Ievins (producer), Ilze Balodis (actress and casting), Ugis Nigals (special effects artist and associate producer), and Kika Nigals (Belial handler). The half-hour program covers a lot of territory and is certainly worth seeing if you happen to be a fan of the film.

Basket Case at MoMA – (37:12)

The Museum of Modern Art held a special restoration screening of the film and this feature presents the special Q&A panel that was held at that event. Frank Henenlotter, Kevin Van Hentenryck, Beverly Bonner, Maryellen Schultz, Florence Schultz, and Ugis Nigals were all participants and are featured throughout this footage. The audio quality isn’t always top-notch, but the material discussed is consistently interesting—and will be twice as engaging if one actually enjoys the movie. There is a lot of information here.

The Frisson of Fission: Basket Case, Conjoined Twins, and ‘Freaks’ in Cinema – (23:03)

The Frission of Fission is an instructive visual essay by Travis Crawford that contextualizes Basket Case as one in a line of films about “freaks” and “outcasts.” It adds to one’s appreciation of the film and is an extremely engaging experience.

Me and the Bradley Boys – (16:24)

Kevin Van Hentenryck discusses a number of pertinent areas of interest in regards to Basket Case—including production memories, his approach to portraying the role of Duane, his acting experiences, and secrets about how certain scenes were pulled off by the production team.

Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins – (08:55)

Those who were paying close attention to the film might remember seeing a pair of twin nurses. This short piece focuses in on the actresses who portrayed these nurses (Florence and Maryellen Schultz). The Schultz sisters were Frank Henenlotter’s cousins and have therefore known the director all their lives. They discuss him and their roles in the film. Fans should find it pretty interesting.

Blood, Basket and Beyond – (06:04)

Beverly Bonner discusses her memories of the low budget production and a comedy piece that she wrote about her character for the theatre (Casey: 30 Years Later). It is short and engaging.

Belial Goes to the Drive-In – (06:55)

This featurette consists of an interview with Joe Bob Briggs who discusses his role in building the film’s “cult film” status. Edgar Ievins also chimes in on occasion. He discusses his discovery of the film at Cannes and taking it to Texas for a premiere. It is an interesting glimpse into the history of the film’s reputation.

In Search of the Hotel Broslin – (16:08)

Frank Henenlotter and R.A. “The Rugged Man” Thorburn trace the film’s locations (or they trace those that still exist). The footage was shot in 2001 and offers a chance for comparison.

A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter – (03:50)

This isn’t really an interview with Frank Henenlotter. It is an interview with a younger nude actor who spouts nothing but nonsense. It is meant to be humorous and it may be mildly amusing. However, it really serves no practical purpose.

Basket Case 3 1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley – (08:30)

This is another tongue-in-cheek featurette that serves as a mockumentary about the fictional Duane Bradley. Again, it may be mildly amusing but doesn’t really earn its place on the disc.

Promo Gallery

The promo gallery contains theatrical trailers, television spots, and radio spots and offers a real look at how the film was marketed upon its release.

Theatrical Trailers – (04:54)

Television Spot – (00:55)

Radio Spot – (01:51)

Image Galleries

The image galleries aren’t unlike those on other releases and offers promotional stills, behind the scenes photos, and ephemera from the release of the film.


Final Words:

Those who enjoy Basket Case should know that this is the ultimate version of the film on home video. The 4K restoration transfer is masterful and the supplemental package is overwhelming. However, the film isn’t for everyone. Even those who enjoy slasher and splatter films might be less than impressed with this one.



Blu-ray Cover (2)

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 09, 2017

Region: Region Free (A & B)

Length: 86 mins

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.


The name, Frank Henenlotter, carries a bit of weight in certain circles. He is the man behind such cult horror favorites as Basket Case, Frankenhooker, and Brain Damage, which is making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Arrow Video. Elmer is your friendly neighborhood parasite that has the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source—brains! Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious ‘brain-pulling’ sequence and a blowjob that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax.

In case the above description doesn’t make it abundantly clear, it should be said that this darkly comic horror confection will divide audiences. It certainly makes a distinct impression on the viewer, but whether this impression is positive or negative will depend on the viewers personal viewing tastes. Just don’t try watching this one with dear old grandma. That would just be awkward.


The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray and DVD discs in their usual sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck and the original Manson International one sheet design. This case and its artwork are further protected by an O-Card (or slipcover) with additional artwork that sweetens an already attractive presentation.

Blu-ray Cover

Arrow’s Limited Edition Slip Cover

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes an essay entitled A Mind and a Terrible Thing: The Story of Brain Damage” by Michael Gingold. The essay gives the reader a glimpse into the film’s production as well as an affectionate appreciation of the film that should add to the viewer’s experience (though we suggest watching the film before reading this essay or watching any of Arrow’s supplemental material). Transfer information and production credits are also included amongst a generous helping of production photographs and marketing artwork.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet and O-Card are only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.


Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s included transfer and restoration information is less detailed than is usual, but it is suggested that some effort was put into this new presentation:

Brain Damage is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono sound. The High Definition master was supplied for this release by Mark Holdom/Mackinac. Additional picture restoration was completed by Deluxe, London.” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image is an undeniable improvement over previous releases with the film’s vivid colors well realized and a layer of grain that is reasonably well resolved most of the time but can occasionally look a bit awkward. There is a reasonable level of fine detail on display throughout the duration of the film. If there is a deficiency in the level of detail in some of the scenes, this is the result of the lighting design and doesn’t seem to be an issue with the transfer. Unfortunately, clarity isn’t always one of the transfer’s stronger attributes. The darkness inherent in many of the film’s scenes is served well by attractive and inky black levels. The overall result is probably the best that one can reasonably expect from the source material—even if it isn’t as solid as viewers might expect from the Blu-ray format.


Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes two different audio mixes: the original mono mix is presented as a Linear PCM Audio track and a new 5.1 stereo mix is available in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. The independent nature of the film’s production makes for a sometimes flawed audio presentation, but these tracks certainly aren’t responsible for these deficiencies. Both tracks are reasonably solid, though it is unreasonable to expect the 5.1 mix to be as dynamic as one expects from more recent films. The score does seem to benefit from the subtle separations on display in this mix and effects are sometimes well served by this mix as well. However, purists will probably opt for the Mono track.


Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Frank Henenlotter (Writer and Director)

While the commentary originally available on the previous Synapse release of the film hasn’t been carried over to Arrow’s superior new Blu-ray release, they have made up for this fact by providing this brand new commentary track by Frank Henenlotter that is moderated by Mike Hunchback. The result is a humorously engaging conversation that covers a variety of pertinent topics without ever becoming too dry and pretentious. The track is informative about the production without ever becoming too precious about the film itself.

Isolated Score

Arrow gives fans the opportunity to watch the film with the score highlighted without distraction from the other sound elements. The track is presented in a 2.0 Linear PCM audio transfer.

Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (54:13)

The disc’s greatest supplemental attribute is this excellent retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Rick Herbst (actor), Edgar Ievins (producer), Al Magliochetti (visual effects supervisor), James Kwei (editor), Dan Frye (makeup supervisor), and Gregory Lamberson (assistant director). The unfortunate absence of Frank Henenlotter is undeniably awkward, but those who participated in this program do a good job of providing the viewer with an abundance of interesting background information on the film’s production. The interviews are illustrated with footage from the film, video footage from ‘behind the scenes’ of the production, and production stills. Fans will be very pleased!

Q&A with Frank Henenlotter – (1080P) – (20:36)

Arrow makes up for Frank Henenlotter’s absence in Listen to the Light with the inclusion of this informative question-and-answer session recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival. It covers some of the same information included in his commentary track, but there is plenty of new information revealed here to make it well worth the viewer’s time (especially if they are a fan of the film).

The Effects of Brain Damage – (1080P) – (10:00)

Gabe Bartalos—the man responsible for bringing “Elmer” to life—discusses his excellent effects work on the film in a reasonably in-depth fashion. His interview reveals some interesting revelations about how various Elmers were employed to perform different specific functions throughout the film. The discussion is illustrated with some interesting “behind the scenes” footage.

Animating Elmer – (1080P) (06:40)

Al Magliochetti discusses his contributions to Brain Damage as the film’s visual effects supervisor. His memories of working on the film’s stop motion effects for a few of the shots are especially interesting as is the revelation that he included some subliminal messages throughout the film.

Karen Ogle: A Look Back – (1080P) (04:29)

Slightly less essential is this short interview with Karen Ogle—the film’s stills photographer, script supervisor, and assistant editor. Ogle’s memories of the production were obviously happy ones—even if her multiple jobs created a challenge. She also seems to have a particular fondness for Frank Henenlotter.

Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of “Brain Damage – (1080P) (08:48)

This featurette features Michael Gingold and Frank Henenlotter as they revisit some of the film’s shooting locations. Fans will be grateful to have this included here (even if it isn’t particularly revelatory).

Tasty Memories: A “Brain Damage” Obsession – (1080P) (10:00)

One wonders why Arrow even bothered with this somewhat unusual interview with Adam Skinner—a Brain Damage “superfan” that doesn’t have any real connection with the film’s production. It is somewhat interesting to see his collection of posters, videos, and other oddities—and the interview does reinforce the film’s undeniable cult status. We simply grow weary as he shamelessly hypes his band (The Statutory Apes)—and while we understand its inclusion here, their music video is just too much.

Bygone Behemoth(1080P) (05:08)

Harry Chaskin’s animated short features an appearance by John Zacherle that ended up being his final onscreen credit. Fans of stop-motion will enjoy this short tale about an old dinosaur living in a contemporary urban setting.

Aylmer: The Brain, The Voice, The Worm – (03:40)

This is a silly puppet show performed on a trash can that features Aylmer jamming out to music. Fans will find it entertaining, but it won’t quench one’s thirst for production information or analysis.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (1080P) (01:15)

The very eighties theatrical trailer doesn’t really do proper justice to the film. It focuses more on the silly tonal qualities of the film without hinting at its darker thematic elements that elevate the material and make it interesting.

Image Galleries:

This collection of photographs and marketing art is divided into three separate categories:

Stills – (1080P) (04:18)

Behind the Scenes – (1080P) (01:35)

Ephemera – (1080P) (00:52)

The photographs are a nice way to round out the disc, but one wonders if they wouldn’t have been more enjoyable if they had been included as part of the included collector’s booklet.


Final Words

Arrows Blu-ray upgrade earns an easy recommendation for the film’s many fans. However, those who haven’t seen the film might want to do some preliminary research before making a blind purchase.

Review by: Devon Powell