Basket Case - The Trilogy

Basket Case - The Trilogy

Blu-Ray Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Basket Case - The Trilogy

Discs Two and Three in the Basket Case Trilogy boxset come with no extras, but Disc One more than compensates, with enough featurettes, galleries and trailers to fill several baskets – but even more important than all this is the presentation of Basket Case (1982) itself.

As he explains in both his director's commentary (joined by actress Beverly Bonner, producer Edgar Ievins and Basket Case 2 production assistant Scooter McCrae) and in the two-minute introduction to the digital transfer, Frank Henenlotter shot his feature debut for an ultra-low budget $35,000) on 16mm, and was never happy with the the cheap 35mm blow-up which "always looked lousy." The 35mm version that screened in cinemas was colourless and so dark in some scenes that it was impossible to discern what was going on. "It killed me before we did this digital transfer, " Henenlotter explains, "I could not look at it." Now, though, it has been restored to replicate the original 16mm release print, retaining its boxed aspect ratio – and the results are a visual joy of lurid early-Eighties New York sleaze.

Copy picture

We also learn from the commentary that the original crew was minuscule (mostly Henelotter plus one or maybe two at any give time), and that the long list of names in the closing credits is mostly invented to give the production the veneer of professionalism. Similarly, the thanks given in the closing credits to the staff of the Hotel Breslin (a key setting in the film) is another jokey fiction. There is no real Hotel Breslin, which was in fact composited from a number of different locations around New York, some of which are revisited in the included featurette In Search Of The Hotel Breslin (2002) – even if, in interviews after the relkease of Basket Case, Henenlotter went out of his way to perpetuate the myth that the establishment existed.

The substantial featurette What's In The Basket? (78 minutes) retreads much of the hilariously ramshackle production history of Basket Case, with reminiscences from key personnel, before turning to the rather different, less amateurish productions of the sequels (which Henenlotter resisted making for years). Henenlotter is "very proud" of Basket Case 2, for which he had never intended to reproduce the original's 'Skid Row' milieu – but he is less enthusiastic about the "unfinished" Basket Case 3: The Progeny, "the one and only film I've worked on that I'm disappointed in".

Now, after decades of spurning requests to make Basket Case 4, he claims to have a "crackpot" script that is "quite a departure" – but even more tantalising are the many references in this featurette to other film projects that Henenletter has prepped and then had to abandon, includng Ooze (originally cast with Divine in his first non-drag role), Insect City and Voodoo Doll. This is the Holy Grail for fans of transgressive bad-taste midnight movies.

Also included is a 19-minute featurette on British genre poster designer Graham Humphreys, who painted the cover art not just for previous Basket Case home releases, but also for this boxset. The six minutes of Outtakes, though ostensibly a series of disposable behind-the-scenes footage and on-set clowning, document an extraordinary time and place in New York that has long since disappeared beneath a wave of gentrification.

Reviewed on: 22 Oct 2012
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Basket Case - The Trilogy packshot
Trilogy of films about a man and his basket-bound mutant brother
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Product Code: 2NDBR4010

Region: 0

Ratio: 1.37:1

Sound: Dolby mono

Extras: Director's commentary, What's In The Basket featurette, Grisly Graham Humphries profile, Director's introduction to HD version, In Search Of The Hotel Breslin featurette, outtakes, trailers, radio spots, photo galleries

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