Basket Case Blu-ray
by Jason Coffman
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There are certain films that do not seem to be candidates for a high-definition Blu-ray release, and writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s classic debut feature Basket Case is definitely one of them. Shot on 16mm in the early 1980s for very little money, Basket Case is a textbook example of the sort of nasty, no-budget films being shown on the screens of New York’s legendary 42nd Street grindhouses after being shot on the same streets. And so it’s something of a shock that Something Weird Video has made one of their first forays into the world of Blu-ray with a new release of Basket Case, although their approach is much different from that of most high-definition releases.
For those unfamiliar with the film, Basket Case is the story of unfortunate Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his even more unfortunate twin brother Belial. Belial is hideously disfigured, and Duane carries him around in a wicker basket. Unsurprisingly, Duane gets asked “What’s in the basket?” an awful lot. Duane has tracked the doctors responsible for the brothers’ separation surgery to New York, where he takes Belial to exact revenge. In his downtime, Duane interacts with the oddball tenants of the Hotel Broslin, his temporary home, and tentatively dates Sharon (Terri Susan Smith), secretary to one of the doctors.
While they arrived in New York with the common goal of revenge, the relationship between Duane and Belial begins to fall apart as Duane wants the things any normal guy wants— like sex— but Belial prevents him from having anything like a normal life. As Duane makes connections with his neighbors and Sharon, Belial becomes increasingly violent and difficult to hide. The brothers once connected physically are still inextricably bound by an inevitably tragic fate, but not before Belial tears through as many people as he can get his claws on.
In a new video introduction to the film, Frank Henenlotter explains the concept behind the new Blu-ray HD transfer of the film. Instead of using digital trickery to bring the blown-up 35mm version of the film to Blu-ray, Henenlotter located a 16mm print of the film and the disc was mastered from this 16mm source. The result is not a typically slick HD film as most studios aim for, but instead a faithful replication of how the film originally looked in its 16mm incarnation, film grain and all. The transfer looks great, and really captures the grimy look and feel of the film in a way the previous DVD version did not.
In addition to the new HD transfer (in the film’s original full-frame aspect ratio, naturally), this Blu-ray release of Basket Case includes a full-length commentary track with Henenlotter, producer Edgar Ievens, and actress Beverly Bonner as well as rare outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, theatrical, TV and radio trailers, a short featurette from 2001 (“In Search of the Hotel Broslin”) and a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and advertising art for the film. Overall, this is a great package and a huge upgrade to the previous DVD release, well worth the price of admission for the new transfer alone. With this and the new Blood Trilogy Blu-ray, Something Weird is off to a hell of a start in the Blu-ray market!
Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment release Basket Case on Blu-ray on 27 September 2011.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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