Basket Case

Basket Case poster

A native of Glens Falls, New York, it is Duane Bradley’s first trip to the big city, an apparently innocent young man but one who is focused on his purpose, polite to the strangers and hustlers who approach him in Times Square but not allowing himself to be distracted as he makes his way to the Hotel Broslin and takes an upstairs room, flashing a thick wad of cash to the colourful characters in the lobby not to show off but because he is genuinely naïve.

Yet he is a man who has had a difficult if sheltered life, his mother dying as she gave birth to him and rejected by his father, cared for only by his aunt who has died recently and brought up almost in isolation, rejected by the other children and refused a place in school for his deformity but now seeking out the remaining doctors who treated him as a child, Harold Needleman and Judith Kutter, Julius Lifflander already dead in a pool of his own blood.

Basket Case; bad memories, as Duane (Sean McCabe) is separated from his twin Belial.

An independent horror originally released in 1982, Basket Case was the debut feature of writer and director Frank Henenlotter, a New York native whose home city and its eccentric inhabitants formed a backdrop for the tragic tale of Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and his conjoined twin Belial, forcibly separated and not expected to survive, now seeking revenge on the doctors, one of them actually a vet rather than a surgeon, who performed the unsanctioned operation.

Belial non-verbal, his mind apparently as incomplete as his half-formed body, there is little surprise that he is resentful about being excised and abandoned to die although he is not unsympathetic, close to his brother with whom he communicates telepathically and jealous of Duane’s growing circle of friends which he cannot be a part of and fears will displace him, the dark secret hidden away in a wicker basket as though his very existence were shameful.

Basket Case; Sharon and Duane (Terri Susan Smith and Kevin Van Hentenryck) enjoy a moment in the sunshine.

The ideas bigger than the inescapable ceiling of the low budget and evident in the limitations of the production and the semi-rehearsed performances, seeming at times almost as if John Waters took a plunge to splash about in gory body horror, regardless the influence of Basket Case is undeniable, for example the three instances apparent in a single season of The X-Files, most obvious the murderous conjoined twin of Humbug but also the secret cabal of doctors targeted for execution in Colony and, more tangentially, the phonetically similar title character of Duane Barry.

Remastered from the original 16mm negative and as unique and fascinating as it was four decades ago, Arrow’s new edition of Basket Case is supported by a plethora of additional material with new and archive commentaries, multiple interviews with Frank Henenlotter, Kevin Van Hentenryck, Florence and Mary Ellen Schultz who play Kutter’s nurses and Beverly Bonner who plays Hotel Broslin tenant Casey, a location featurette, outtakes, short films and assorted promotional ephemera.

Basket Case is available now on Blu-ray from Arrow and is streaming on the Arrow platform

Basket Case; Doctor Judith Kutter (Diane Browne) receives a taste of her own medicine.



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