Basket Case (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Apr 23, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Basket Case (4K UHD Review)


Frank Henenlotter

Release Date(s)

1982 (April 30, 2024)


Basket Case Productions/Analysis Film Corp/Rugged Films (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A

Basket Case (4K UHD)



Considered one of the last true pieces of exploitation cinema before home video took over much of the market, Basket Case was Frank Henenlotter’s pet project turned full-blown success story. The horror gem about two brothers, one a normal-looking man and the other a killer mutant in a basket, who travel to New York City exacting revenge against the doctors who surgically separated them against their will, made waves when it was released to theaters in its uncut form after its distributor attempted to excise the gore. Shot for very little money, it put Henenlotter’s name on the map and allowed him to go on and make more off the wall horror films like Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, Bad Biology, and no less than two Basket Case sequels.

This trashy classic was an early staple of many home splatterfest viewings throughout the 1980s. Heralded by Joe Bob Briggs as one of the best horror movies ever made, it actually has more going for it than what’s on the surface. As the director himself admits, the idea of a guy carrying around his brother in a basket was a crazy idea from the start, and he had no intention of anyone ever actually seeing the film in such a wide capacity. Still, he was able to interject some humanity into it, even playing off of an oddball brother-to-brother psychic connection. Basket Case is also a dark comedy of sorts. Without ever really going for overt laughs (or unintentional ones for that matter), the cast and crew basically went for it and hoped for the best, throwing in things like stop-motion animation, which even Henenlotter was initially skeptical about.

On the other hand, some of the gore effects, including the doctor with the face full of scalpels, is still arresting and impressive all these years later. It’s also a perfect snapshot of a version of New York that doesn’t exist anymore. The gritty, grimy, and less than savory aspects of that area of the city, including the grindhouse theaters, the prostitutes, and the drug pushers, all have an old-fashioned charm that only aids the film’s low budget aesthetic. Despite its lack of financial backing, relying on intuition and resourcefulness to complete it, Basket Case proves that even a know-nothing filmmaker can pull off something special if the talent is there and it’s utilized well.

Basket Case was shot by director of photography Bruce Torbet on 16mm film using Arriflex 16 cameras and spherical lenses in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1, and blown up to 35mm in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 for its theatrical presentation. Arrow Video revisits the film, having released it on Blu-ray in 2018, utilizing a 4K restoration performed by the Museum of Modern Art of the original 16mm AB camera negative using a wetgate scanner, with 35mm interpositive and 35mm dupe negative inserts, and the final approval of Frank Henenlotter. The film is presented here on 4K Ultra HD for the first time in its original aspect ratio, graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 and Dolby Vision by David Mackenzie of Fidelity in Motion, and presented on a BD-100 disc.

Sitting primarily between 90 to 100Mbps (spiking as high as 135!), this thoroughly organic, high quality presentation features heavy but well-managed grain, with even the lesser quality inserts blending much better with each other than they did in the past. Even the stop-motion Belial scenes look better than they ever have. The film obviously retains its down and dirty aesthetic, meaning some of the flaws are just built in to the original photography, but through the clearest and most authentic lens possible. The HDR grades enrich the detail found within the film’s color palette, including the beiges, greens, and reds of early 1980s New York City. Shadow detail is off the charts with deep blacks and perfect contrast, and the frame is stable throughout. The fades and titles appear to have been digitally re-created during the restoration, which is more obvious now with the added clarity. Nevertheless, this is a major upgrade in the video department.

At this point, many may feel that releasing a 4K UHD of Basket Case with new HDR grades is a bit like polishing an already well-polished turd, but even if that’s the case, it’s still the finest home video presentation of the film available on any format. In fact, I was blown away by the leap that this release makes over its 6-year-old Blu-ray counterpart. It was excellent for the time, but this surpasses it. I’m actually tempted to give it a video grade of A+, but just so I don’t oversell it too much, I’ll stick with a simple and straight A grade.

The sole audio option is an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It too has been repaired to the best of MoMA’s abilities, but with obvious limitations. The music cue during the opening credits, for example, doesn’t sound much better than it did in previous home video editions. That said, this is a fine track without any hiss-related issues, nor is there any leftover crackle or dropouts. Some light distortion, which is built into the soundtrack, pops up occasionally, but that’s to be expected. The on-set dialogue and occasional overdubs are clear and distinct from each other, but sound effects, including noises from Belial, have much more fidelity to them and are the most effective aspect of the track as a whole. The score comes through well enough and everything is fairly well-balanced.

Basket Case on Limited Edition 4K UHD sits in a clear Amaray case alongside a 28-page insert booklet featuring a set of cast and crew credits, the essay Case History by Michael Gingold, Cham-pain in the Park!: A Basket Case Comic Strip by Martin Trafford, restoration details, and a set of technical credits. Also included is a double-sided poster, featuring the original theatrical artwork on one side and artwork by Sara Deck on the other; an insert that also features the original theatrical artwork on one side and alternate artwork by Sara Deck on the other; and an embossed slipcover that also features yet more alternate artwork by Sara Deck (she seems to have been very busy). The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary with Frank Henenlotter and Kevin VanHentenryck
  • Audio Commentary with Frank Henenlotter, Edgar Ievins, Beverly Bonner, and Scooter McRae
  • Basket Case 3-1/2: An Interview with Duane Bradley (HD – 8:39)
  • Me and the Bradley Boys: Kevin VanHentenryck on Basket Case (HD – 16:25)
  • A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter (HD – 3:58)
  • Seeing Double: The Basket Case Twins (HD and Upscaled SD – 9:00)
  • Blood Basket and Beyond with Beverly Bonner (HD – 6:09)
  • The Making of Basket Case: The Latvian Connection (HD – 27:37)
  • Belial Goes to the Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs (HD – 7:00)
  • BC at MoMA (HD – 37:17)
  • What’s in the Basket? (HD – 78:44)
  • In Search of the Hotel Broslin (SD – 16:13)
  • The Frisson of Fission: Basket Case, Conjoined Twins, and “Freaks” in Cinema (HD –23:03)
  • Basket Case Outtakes (HD – 6:23)
  • The Slash of the Knife:
    • The Slash of the Knife (HD – 30:30)
    • Optional Commentary by Frank Henenlotter and Mike Bencivenga
    • Slash of the Knife Outtakes (HD – 5:39)
  • Belial’s Dream:
    • Belial’s Dream (HD – 4:59)
    • Making Belial’s Dream (HD – 2:06)
  • Image Galleries:
    • Promotional Stills (HD – 46 in all)
    • Behind the Scenes (HD – 108 in all)
    • Ephemera (HD – 21 in all)
    • Advertisements (HD – 43 in all)
    • Home Video Releases (HD – 9 in all)
  • Trailers (HD – 3 in all – 5:10)
  • TV Spot (HD and Upscaled SD – 1:04)
  • Radio Spots (HD – 2 in all – 1:51)

The first audio commentary was recorded for Arrow Video’s previous Blu-ray release in 2018, while the other was recorded for the Image Entertainment/Something Weird Video DVD release from 2001. Both are well worth a listen. Basket Case 3-1/2 is a faux interview with “Duane Bradley” by Frank Henenlotter himself. Me and the Bradley Boys offers an interview actor Kevin VanHentenryck, who discusses his experiences on the film. A Brief Interview with Director Frank Henenlotter is a deceptive bit of fun. Seeing Double features an interview with Florence Schultz and Maryellen Schultz, who play the two nurses in the film that walk in on Dr. Kutter’s scalpel-faced demise. Blood Basket and Beyond speaks to Beverly Bonner, while The Latvian Connection contains interviews with producer Edgar Ievins, casting person/actress Ilze Balodis, associate producer/special effects artist Ugis Nigals, and Belial performer Kika Nigals. Belial Goes to the Drive-In talks to drive-in film critic extraordinaire Joe Bob Briggs and producer Edgar Ievins, with Briggs recounting the premiere of the uncut version of the film in Irving, Texas.

BC at MoMA features a Q&A from the October 30th, 2017 restoration premiere at the Museum of Modern Art with Henenlotter, Hentenryck, Bonner, Maryellen Schultz, Florence Schultz, and Ugis Nigals all in attendance. What’s in the Basket? is a feature-length documentary on the entire Basket Case series from the memorable Second Sight Films release of all three films. In Search of the Hotel Broslin is a 2001 featurette with Henenlotter and rapper R.A. “The Rugged Man” Thornburn searching for the filming locations. Next is an Outtakes reel in HD from a 2K scan of a 16mm print, offering a series of behind-the-scenes moments, blown takes, and glimpses at deleted and alternate scenes. The Frisson of Fission is a video essay by Travis Crawford discussing the history of films featuring “freaks of nature.” Next are a set of five Image Galleries containing a total of 227 promotional stills, behind-the-scenes photos, props and other ephemera, posters, promotional materials, newspaper clippings, and home video release covers. Last is a TV spot (also in HD from a 4K source, but with an SD insert) and 2 radio spots.

With this amount of bonus material, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything leftover, but there is. Missing from the aforementioned Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment DVD and Blu-ray releases is an introduction by Frank Henenlotter; two radio interviews with actress Terri Susan Smith; and clips from Beverly Bonner’s comedy cable TV show Beverly Bonner’s Laugh Track. Also missing from the CMV Laservision German Blu-ray release is the A Look Behind the SFX Scenes featurette and the film’s Spanish theatrical trailer. There’s also a pair of alternate radio spots out there in the wild, which haven’t been included on any release. Space constraints likely kept some of this material from being included (a bonus features Blu-ray would probably have been beneficial), but if you own any of these releases and want absolutely everything, you may want to hold onto them a bit longer.

Arrow Video’s and MoMA’s outstanding presentation of Basket Case goes to show that, in the right hands, even a 16mm source can benefit greatly from a 4K UHD container. It looks fantastic, and with the bounty of extras in tow, it’s a standout genre home video release. Therefore, it comes highly recommended to anyone who’s STILL curious about what’s in the basket.

- Tim Salmons

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