Blu-ray: ‘Basket Case,’ ‘Ichi the Killer,’ ‘Macon County’ justice, and ‘The Hidden’ with Kyle Maclachlan

Basket Case (Arrow, Blu-ray)
Ichi the Killer (Well Go, Blu-ray)
Macon County Line (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
The Hidden (Warner Archive, Blu-ray)

Arrow Films

Basket Case (1982), the debut feature of filmmaker Frank Henenlotter, is a gruesome little cult indie-horror drama of brotherly love and righteous vengeance shot on location in the seedier sections of New York City.

Henenlotter was reared on the cheap horror films of Herschell Gordon Lewis and other independent exploitation directors of the 1960s and 1970s and this is in many ways his tribute to the grindhouse horror films he loves, a low-budget monster movie with a creative twists and an embrace of the grotesque. The monster effects, a mix of puppets, models, and stop-motion animation, may look amateur today but there’s a loving B-movie attitude and a genuine sense of character and tragedy to the misshapen, fleshy, snaggle-toothed Belial, who sees Duane’s growing guilt and desire to connect to other people (notably a girl he’s fallen for) as a betrayal of their bond. A cult classic with an inspired twist on Cain and Abel.Kevin VanHentenryck shuffles through the low budget exercise in grotesquery and gore as Duane, the “normal” brother sent by his deformed, formerly-conjoined twin Belial to take revenge on the doctors who separated the two and left the blobby, grotesquely misshapen brother to die. Most of the effects are shrewdly just off screen, with spurts of blood and gnarly hand dragging the character out of view to feed our imaginations, and a few bloody corpses left in the aftermath (an exception is a pre-Freddy multiple impalement with scalpels).

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Space Movie Madness: Roger Corman’s Shameless “Alien” Knock-Offs

Galaxy of Terror / Forbidden World (Shout! Factory)

I love to see classic movies debut on DVD and Blu-ray simultaneously. Even when they are low-budget exploitation drive-in movies? Hell, especially when they are low-budget exploitation drive-in movies.

Okay, that’s a little oversold, but yeah, I like seeing Blu-ray editions of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000. The point of Blu-ray is not to see flawless images. It’s about getting the most accurate representation of the original film experience that you can get at home. These editions deliver just that, complete with all the flaws that opening night audiences saw intact. What we see is likely a better presentation than those theatrical runs, thanks to home theater sound and perfect projection (no slopping reel changes or out of focus images for us), but they preserve the texture of those prints and remind us that imperfect production quality often has its own charms. They look handmade by real people, not manufactured digitally and scrubbed clear of individuality.

The all-star crew: Robert Englund, Zalman King, Edward Albert, Ray Waltson and Erin Moran

Thus I celebrate the minor cinematic glories and the major exploitation movie pleasures Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World, a double feature of Alien knock-offs produced by Roger Corman and his New World Studios in the early eighties, as they make their respective DVD and Blu-ray debuts from Shout! Factory, a label whose dedication to the strange and wonderful (and sometimes simply kitschy) cultural artifacts of the recent past is something else. Not because they are great films (they aren’t, even by the most generous stretch of the imagination) but because they are entertaining pieces from a distinctive period of B-movie filmmaking, as weirdly fun and perversely creative in their own exploitative way as kindred films from the forties and fifties and sixties.

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