An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · August 11, 2001, 12:55 AM EDT
Basket Case

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on August 10, 2001, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

"What’s in the basket? Easter eggs?" asks someone in the trailer that plays on the main menu screen of this terrific new disc. That’ll be some viewers’ cue to start looking for hidden goodies (and there is one lurking in there somewhere), though the hunt might seem superfluous after wading through all the other supplements. Crammed to the gills with every imaginable supplement (and a few you couldn’t have imagined), Basket Case sets a new high-water mark for Image’s genre DVDs.

To start with, the movie has never looked better on either the big or small screen. While there’s unavoidable grain in this transfer of the 16mm feature, the fullscreen image is sharp and stable and the colors excellent—and here’s a film to which the cliché of grain adding to the atmosphere applies. As a result, Basket Case still very much resembles the “product of growing up on 42nd Street” that writer/director Frank Henenlotter describes it as on the audio commentary he shares with producer Edgar Ievins, actress Beverly Bonner and fellow filmmaker/occasional collaborator Scooter McCrae.

Consistently dropping the names of other grindhouse favorites, Henenlotter has a ball reminiscing with his collaborators about the microcost production ("Hey Frank, there’s the budget," Ievins quips over a close-up of a wad of $50 bills). While some of the chat has a humorously self-deprecating streak—Bonner recalls the shoot being “one of the best experiences of my life,” only for the director to shoot back, “That’s so sad”—it’s also enthusiastic and packed with entertaining anecdotes. One of the most interesting stories involves the film’s mishandling at the hands of original distributor Analysis Films (whose logo still appears at the head of the movie), which chopped the gore—and not even for ratings reasons!—before drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs helped get the uncut version released.

Just as much fun is “In Search of the Hotel Broslin,” a featurette shot by McCrae that follows Henenlotter and pal R.A. “the Rugged Man” around Manhattan to the movie’s shooting locales. After a hilarious, unsuccessful attempt to gain entry to the building that served as the Broslin’s exterior and lobby, they pay a visit to the notorious Hellfire Club and have a rooftop reunion with the original Belial puppet. There’s also a six-minute montage of silent (with music) outtakes and bloopers; theatrical, TV and radio spots, the latter utterly ridiculous; a goofy radio interview with heroine Terri Susan Smith; and clips from Bonner’s Manhattan public-access cable show. (Among all the principals, lead actor Kevin VanHentenryck is the one key contributor who’s conspicuous by his absence on this DVD.) The package is rounded off by a great batch of stills and behind-the-scenes photos, including shots of everyone from Henenlotter to a preteen girl wearing the Belial FX “gloves” for various scenes.