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Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryk) checks into the sleazy Hotel Broslin in Times Square, NY. Inside the wicker basket that never leaves Duane's sight is his hideously deformed twin brother Belial. Determined to settle the score with the doctors who separated them, Duane and Belial begin a rampage of revenge.

Review by Richard Kuipers
Just as home video was putting the final nail in the coffin of midnight movies, Basket Case arrived to give late-night gorehounds one last thrill. Transferred from 16mm original materials and looking a million times better than the grubby 35mm blow-up released in cinemas, Frank Henenlotter's no-budget horror-comedy remains a certified gutter trash classic 20 years after the fact. If you want to see what real "indie" filmmaking is all about, head straight to your video store, slam down the cash and demand a copy of this blood-soaked and very funny variation on the "good twin/evil twin" story.

Filmed in the seediest skid row locations around New York's 42nd Street (almost none of which now exist thanks to "progress"), Frank Henenlotter's film ranks with the most auspicious debuts of all time as it splashes gallons of gore around and gives a cast of enthusiastic amateurs a script loaded with hilarious dialogue. The hub and centre about which all quarters of this lunatic film revolve is the fabulous Hotel Broslin. Populated by the funniest collection of bums, winos and hookers this side of Street Trash (now there's one we want to see on DVD) the Broslin is where nice-looking Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryk) checks in with his not-so-nice-looking brother Belial.

Look carefully at the reception desk - it's actually a lift with its doors prised open! A cavalcade of poverty row treats follow as Duane and Belial skip around town, dispensing justice on the quacks who surgically broke up the double-act. Check out the coiffure on busty blonde doctor's receptionist XXX, played by Terri Susan Smith. A shaven-haired singer for a punk band at the time, Smith parades around the whole movie in one of the most ludicrous wigs you'll se outside a 70s porn movie.

Like just about everyone in front of and behind the camera, Smith was no pro but made up for it with spirit. She's wonderful as the romantic interest of both brothers and her chat-up routine with Duane on his first visit is a scream. Other standouts in the game cast include Beverly Bonner as the meanest hooker on the strip and Robert Vogel as the fleabag hotel manager to end them all. It does have a few flat spots here and there but Basket Case is made with such vigour and, yes, heart that it's impossible not to surrender to its sleazy charms and wish that there was still a theatrical market for films like it.

The extras are a treat befitting a 20th anniversary special edition. Henenlotter and a friend who identifies himself as "Ari the Rugged Man" takes us on a tour of locations, where a few actors and the original Belial puppet pop up. Seven minutes of out-takes give us eye-opening proof of what ultra-low budget filmmaking is all about and a vast collection of stills and foreign release posters will have Basket Case buffs in "Room 7" heaven. Then there's the audio commentary with Henenlotter leading the way with hilarious anecdotes while producer Edgar Ievins and actress Beverly Bonner chime in from time to time on the sidelines.

It's great stuff and one can immediately understand why Henenlotter is so highly regarded by sleaze and trash film aesthetes. Henenlotter proudly presented a series of video releases in the States under the banner "Frank Henenlotter's Sexy Shockers From The Vault" and once declared in the British fanzine Shock Express he wanted to be "the Jess Franco of American filmmakers". The man who later brought us the deliriously twisted Brain Damage (1988, and I can't resist saying I saw it at its world premiere) and Frankenhooker (1990) - "a tale of sluts and bolts" read the ad campaign - clearly loves his work and chances are you will too after finding out what Duane's got hidden in the basket.

Published: May 27, 2004

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(US, 1982)

CAST: Kevin Van Hentenryk, Terri Susan Smith, Beverley Bonner, Robert Vogel

PRODUCER: Edgar Ievins

DIRECTOR: Frank Henenlotter

SCRIPT: Frank Henenlotter


MUSIC: Gus Russo

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1.33:1; Dolby Digital 2.0. Language: English. Subtitles: None

SPECIAL FEATURES: In Search Of The Hotel Broslin featurette (16min), Outtakes (7min), Audio Commentary by director Frank Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievins and actress Beverly Bonner; Radio Interviews with actress Terri Susan Smith; Radio Spots; TV Spot; Behind the scenes photos; Gallery of Exploitation Art; Two Theatrical Trailers

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella Entertainment/The AV Channel

DVD RELEASE: March 20, 2004

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