Basket Case (1982)

This movie is a classic. That’s all there is to it. You need to watch it. You need to go watch it now. If you don’t know what it’s about, protect your innocence, get a bunch of friends and a bottle of the poison of your choice, and gather round the old boob tube. You won’t be sorry.

SPOILERS… Okay, if you’ve already seen the movie, or already know what it’s about, we can talk about it. If you don’t know what it’s about, I warned you, and you’re only hurting yourself. But you’ll live.

The movie concerns the case of Duane and Belial, Siamese twins who were separated at what looks like the age of 14 or something. Belial looks like a head with a small monstrous hand, and a larger arm. They put the picture of him on the DVD box, which annoyed me, because if you’re seeing this for the first time it’s great not to know what he looks like. When they were separating them, one of the doctors said of Belial that “I’m not sure it’s even human,” and you can tell from his reaction that he is just so, so hurt. You know, people shouldn’t say hurtful things. As the doctors find out, when the infuriated head/hand thing hunts them down and brutally murders them one by one.

One of the best things of the movie is the Hotel Broslin and its residents. This is the cheap Times Square hotel that Duane takes up in while he tries to locate the doctors who operated on him (in his own home, don’t you know). The hotel features a number of wild characters who don’t seem that far off from who you’d find living in a seedy Times Square hotel circa 1982. First there’s Josephine, who meets Duane in the hallway and starts yakking his ear off with this bizarre story, then SUDDENLY turns and walks away. Then this Patti LaBelle-looking clone invites herself into his room to look around and make passes. She later has a notable quote with “I’ve got some heavy boozing to do.” There’s also the owner of the hotel and some of its other residents, and let’s not forget the drug dealer who lists off every possible drug known to man as Duane walks along ignoring him, until he finally gives up and says “what is wrong with you, man?” What I love about the first third of this movie is that nearly every character introduces themselves with an extended soliloquy. These folks had to learn some lines for this!

And then there’s Duane! This movie is CLEARLY on the cusp of the 80s, as Duane’s hair is this sort of Rick Springfield thing, just really huge and lumpy. He has a long scene where he is required to whip out the acting chops (whether he does or not, I won’t reveal) in supposedly having a psychic conversation with his head/arm former twin. I also love the scene where Duane has bought a TV for Belial to watch while Duane goes out on his date. In his haste to get rid of his brother and leave, Duane turns it on to a channel showing nothing but static and just takes off.

Oh, did I mention the head thing is psychic?

And let us not forget the splendorof Sharon the receptionist. Sharon is a desperate New York woman in the Miss Piggy mold, with this obvious wig and slightly clunky body, and she is a HOOT and 9/10s of another hoot throughout! The way she just throws herself at Duane is amazing, as is the sudden affection she develops for him, talking about how she feels so much for him after they met once in passing in a doctor’s office! And then there’s the scene in which he tosses a blanket over her head and THROWS her out of his hotel room, and she’s pounding on the door, wanting to talk it all out and work on their relationship, as she’s hearing insane animalistic shrieks emanating from the room where she thought her boyfriend was alone! You know, you just shouldn’t give up on love. Some things take time to work out. How do you keep the music playing? She also has a notable delivery of “Take me, Duane” as he’s about to make love to her. And let me tell you, one look at Duane, ain’t nobody asking him to take them, unless it’s to take them a six pack back from the corner bodega.

There is SOME kind of sexual subtext going on here, but I’m not sure it holds together well enough to really examine. If I had to guess, I would say that Belial represents Duane’s penis(isn’t it always the penis?), and the whole thing is about masturbation. I guess this because he shares a bond with it, but others are telling him it’s disgusting and eventually separate him from it. Then he starts to develop a relationship with a woman, wherein he might have actual sex, and Belial freaks out. This would also make a funny pun out of the title. There is a shot at the end that is unmistakably Belial-as-penis, but overall the story just doesn’t hold together well enough to come out with a consistent argument. Ah well.

Regardless, this movie is in the top ten total hoots of all time.