Basket Case 3 at 30!
In 2012 I revisited Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case 3 (1992). From the first time I saw it, I thought there was a lot to like about this wacky flick. Also, living down south, I thought it was charming that Frank traded his regular environs of New York for Georgia. (And I know IMDb lists the film as a 1991 production. It screened in October of ‘91 at the MIFED Film Festival in Italy, but I had to wait until it’s 1992 release on VHS to catch up with it, so I’m going by when the film was available for me to see.)
An earlier interview with Frank revealed that, at the time, he was not as fond of the film as I and many fans were. I thought it was time to shine a light on Basket Case 3 and contacted a number of people associated with the film to find out their thoughts. These short interviews appeared in Videoscope. I conducted them during a very cold December, where my heat was out, and the repair tech actually showed up the night I was talking with Beverly Bonner!
For me, Basket Case 3 is a wacky, twisted comedy with a couple of really great set-pieces, particularly the birthing scene, many scenes in the jail and the Aliens-esque Robo-Belial climax. Kevin Van Hentenryck gives a great comedic performance, saying more with an expression than most actors ever achieve. It was not the same old thing, and it went for something different.
My favorite of the Basket Case films is definitely the original, and Parts 2 and 3 play together nicely, building off the original. If you haven’t seen it in a while, it might be time to revisit the trilogy and enjoy the exploits of the Bradley Brothers.
This first interview I conducted via email with Basket Case 3 screenwriter Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin. Robert Martin needs no introduction to anyone hanging around ICFH, but if you were unaware, before he collaborated on the scripts for Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker (1990) and Basket Case 3, he was lovingly known to a legion of young splatter-movie enthusiasts as “Uncle Bob” Martin, the editor of Fangoira magazine from 1979 to 1986. His long out of print novelization to Henenlotter’s Brain Damage, which delve further into the history of the titular beastie Aylmer continues to be available as a downloadable e-book. He passed away in 2020.
How did you come to co-write Basket Case 3?
Frank prefers to work from his own script when it’s possible, but on Frankenhooker he had a “two-fer” deal where he would shoot Frankenhooker and Basket Case 2 back-to-back, and he had to produce two scripts in short order, so he called me to assist. The Basket Case 3 script was also needed quickly, and I think Frank actually enjoyed the way we meshed on Frankenhooker, so he recruited me again.
Was the original concept for Basket Case 3 darker or was it conceived as a horror comedy at its inception?
It was going to be horror-comedy from the first: if anything, the comedy suffered somewhat from the changes as Frank was rewriting while on location. Frank called me in New York a couple of times to apologize for what was going on, even thought it really had no effect on me- he wanted me to be prepared for the loss of some good ideas. When I saw the end product I was shaken at first and kinda hated it, but I love the whole film now. I’m perfectly happy with it. The parody of RoboCop and the Aliens finale would have been sharper, but I still think Frank did a fine bargain-basement version.
How close did you work with Frank on the script?
We’d already developed a method of collaboration on Frankenhooker. Frank knew quite well what scenes he needed, even before the story was completely jelled. He’d have a solid idea of where he wanted to go, and he often had a lot of the dialogue running in his head before we even talked about it. We’d meet, I’d give him my latest pages, and he would narrate the next scene to me. Now and then we’d encounter an undermined plot point, and we’d navigate the story together, but most times he carried us forward. I’d go home and put the scene into screenplay format, then we’d repeat the process every couple of days. Frank did the final polish on the pages I turned in, and there really weren’t any radical changes from the first draft, or from Frank’s initial narration, which my draft followed exactly. My primary contribution was inserting gags wherever I could. Basket Case 3 is full of gag dialogue that I love:
Bailey: “You book the Bradley boy. Baxter, take the bassinet of baby Belial’s in back and get Brody to come by! Where’s Brannon and Banner?”
Bailey: “It’s Thursday, Sheriff.”
That was mine, and it gives me chills to see that performed so well. Another favorite is when the sheriff’s daughter tells Duane how she could only truly love a man who was truly honest with her, and Kevin Van Hentenryck puts sooo much sarcastic subtext into it when he responds, “Really?”
Any final thoughts on Basket Case 3?
I guess you can tell that I absolutely love Basket Case 3. When I was editing Fangoria, of course, I fantasized about working with some of the terrific filmmakers I was dealing with, and there were only two that I felt I really would be delighted to work with; they were Frank Henenlotter and David Cronenberg. Working with Frank was as great as I thought it would be, and better. But I don’t think Cronenberg is gonna be calling.
Next Week: Beverly Bonner