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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

Basket Case 3 at 30!: Director Frank Henenlotter

Frank Henenlotter needs no introduction here at ICFH. In a ten-year span from 1982 to 1992 he delivered some of the finest exploitation movies being made at the time, including the Basket Case trilogy, Brain Damage and Frankenhooker. He was integral to rescuing hundreds upon hundreds of abandoned films and getting them released through Something Weird Video and returned to filmmaking with the excellent Bad Biology in 2008. His output in the last ten years has concentrated on documentaries that include Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore, That's Sexploitation! and Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana.

I had the immense pleasure of talking to Frank Henenlotter on an epic phone conversation that I transformed into an epic 2-part interview that appeared in Videoscope. When we talked about Basket Case 3, I learned it was not the film he intended on making. I told him he was being too hard on it, but the filmmaker is always going to see his films with different eyes than the audience.

I have stayed in contact with Frank over the years. The final comment in this interview excerpt is from an email exchange we had after he caught up with the Basket Case 3 retrospective I did in Videoscope.

(And while there was a time that there was an idea for a Basket Case 4, I would say the time for that film has passed. But, I think Frank would be up for a hundred million dollar remake of the original if any of the studios are reading.)

Did you have an idea for Basket Case 3 in mind while filming Part 2?

While we were shooting Basket Case 2, SGE said they wanted a third because they liked how it was coming out. I was like, “A third one? Oh my God.” I thought the third one was a disaster, okay. I would have like to have had a little time to come up with a totally different plot. I don’t know if I got this wrong in my head or there really was some mixed communications but, because SGE had done so well with Frankenhooker going out unrated, I remember bringing up the idea of doing Basket Case 3 unrated. I had planned on making it more like the first one, filling it with gore and doing a gore comedy with it again. Somehow something changed and nothing worked in it. I couldn’t do the gore and I didn’t like the plot. I ended up making it up on the spot and there was no money. Oh, God, it was just a disaster. That’s the only film I think I really ad-libbed. I used to call Bob Martin and apologize. I’d go, “Bob, you’re gonna hate me now for what I did in this scene.” It was just a disaster. I had days cut. I had to finish the film, but it certainly wasn’t the movie I set out to make. I feel bad about it because the people I worked with were great and I had so much fun with them. I just feel like I let everybody down because I really didn’t have the time to do it correctly. I can’t bear to watch it.

Was it the change of scenery? It’s the only one of your films not to take place in New York.

It could have been a lot of things. It could be because of the unions here. The unions don’t care if you’re a big-budget film or low-budget film, they’ll just kill you. They just want their share and that’s that. Jim [Glickenhaus] basically said we needed to start shooting outside of New York and save some money. That’s why we decided to go down to Atlanta. Again, we were going to do it back-to-back with another film, a script I wrote called Voodoo Doll. That’s kind of why I agreed to do Basket Case 3. I agreed to do Part 3 if I could do another film. Then things started changing in the early ‘90s with theaters dying and the business started changing. Suddenly, SGE had trouble with cash flow at this time and they had to drop one of the films. It made sense to drop Voodoo Doll because all the makeups and masks were already made for Basket Case 3, even though we added a couple of new guys. It’s not why you want to make movies. You’re not in the business of making sausages: you shouldn’t crank them out. That was something I just cranked out.

My favorite character of Beverly Bonner’s is the fast-food cashier in Basket Case 3.

When she heard we were doing it, she called me up and said, “I want to be in it. What have you got?” I told her I didn’t have anything but told her to come down and we’d figure it out and we did.

I’m sure people still ask when you’re going to make Basket Case 4.

Yeah, that was the thing that was killing me. I wanted to change direction after Basket Case 3. Everything I wanted to do, no one would touch. Anybody who was interested in making it, all I kept hearing was, “Well, this script is either too far out or too weird or we don’t get it, or we don’t understand it…but what about Basket Case 4?” That was safe because it was already established as a franchise by then. So, they almost didn’t care what I delivered as long as I could call it Basket Case 4. I just wasn’t going to do that. I was trapped.

Have your feelings on Basket Case 3 change any over the years?

I was at some event in Chicago, and, after an interview, I went into the auditorium to gather a friend. I didn't realize it until I was in there, but Basket Case 3 was on the screen. Believe or not, I didn't even recognize it at first. But then as I watched a few minutes -- the scene with the deputies kidnapping the baby Belials and the jail scene that follows -- I found myself laughing. I mean, it actually cracked me up. I'd probably love the film if I hadn't made it.

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