Some people just have a knack for certain things. Michael Jordan could play basketball like there was no tomorrow, Sam Kinison was a master of comedy, Bobby Fischer could hold his own in chess and Stu Ungar knew his way around a card table. In that vein Frank Henenlotter had his niche as well…making outrageously over-the-top and wildly entertaining films.
Anthology Film Archives is celebrating the career of Henenlotter on November 4-6 in New York City with a retrospective presentation of some of the writer/director’s most memorable works. The films to be screened are certainly standouts of ‘80s horror: Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, Basket Case and Basket Case 2. Quite the Murderers’ Row of celluloid!
And to add to the excitement of the three-day event, Frank Henenlotter himself will be in attendance for the screenings. You can get a chance to meet the man and ask him, “What exactly was Alymer supposed to be shaped like?” I think we all have our theories on that one! The films are all shown uncut, in their entirety. Check out the Anthology Film Archives website for more info.
From the Press Release
Anthology is thrilled to unleash a wild and bloody batch of Frank Henenlotter’s classic films, all uncut, uncensored, and completely unhinged. Henenlotter is one of those mythic directors that people immersed in exploitation and horror culture absolutely worship. His knowledge of genre and classic films is scholarly, he’s been one of the primary behind-the-scenes brains at Something Weird Video since their breakout, and his films are both celebrations of American exploitation cinema and legitimate extensions of it. It’s a tough line to toe indeed, but being an obsessive 42nd St. moviegoer from the time he was a teen was the perfect classroom for Henenlotter – he endlessly soaked up celluloid scum until he had no choice but to make his own vile offering to the cruel gods of ‘the Deuce’ in the form of his first feature film, Basket Case.
“I always felt that I made exploitation films,” Henenlotter said. “Exploitation films have an attitude more than anything – an attitude that you don’t find with mainstream Hollywood productions. They’re a little ruder, a little raunchier, they deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll. They’re what I grew up on.”
To Be Screened
1988, 84 minutes, 35mm-to-video
Considered by many hardcore Henenlotter fans to be his finest, Brain Damage is a wild, yet cohesive patchwork of addiction-fueled mania, set in the disgusting glory of late-80s NYC. Brian meets Aylmer, a mysterious, ancient, snake-like (ok, phallic) parasitic creature that lives off of brain juice, which it consumes by poking a fang into the host’s spine. The reward (or bait) that Aylmer offers for his meals is an overpowering color-soaked mind-trip that proves to be quite addictive. Gory, goopy, and hilarious, Brain Damage is also somehow personal and touching. It’s perhaps the best example of Henenlotter’s extraordinary ability to make us sympathize with characters who are insurmountably separated from society by deformity and dementia. Featuring spectacularly funny (and uncredited) voice work from none other than John Zacharley! Drastically cut in its original theatrical release, Brain Damage will be theatrically screened here totally uncut for the first time.
Friday, November 4 at 7:00 and Sunday, November 6 at 4:30
1990, 85 minutes, 35mm
Easily Henenlotter’s most comedic film, Frankenhooker still packs a wallop of 42nd St. sleaze, coated in bright purple slime. It’s the weird tale of Jeffery Franken (played by the hilarious James Lorinz of Street Trash and Punch The Clock), a med school drop out who tragically loses his bride-to-be in a remote-control lawnmower accident. His love for her runs so deep, however, that he devises a way to get her back – and with a better body this time. Traveling from suburban New Jersey into Manhattan to find specimens for his fiancée’s reanimation, he crosses paths with tough guy pimp Zorro, and the downward spiral of fun and freakiness goes full speed from there on out. It’s Henenlotter’s twist on Bride of Frankenstein, and his version has a lot more prostitutes than James Whale’s. Not to mention “Supercrack”…
Friday, November 4 at 9:30 and Saturday, November 5 at 9:30
1982, 91 minutes, 35mm-to-video
The cult classic that started it all, painstakingly restored this year to its intended specifications and now completely remastered. Duane Bradley has a relationship with his twin brother that most people would consider odd – after all, Duane was born with his brother Belial growing out of his right ribcage. Yes, it’s disgusting – that’s what their father thought too, so he hired some unscrupulous doctors to sever the boys’ ties. Henenlotter’s debut is the most bizarre tale of brotherly love ever committed to film, and a brilliant, low-budget time capsule of Times Square and NYC in all its early-80s scum and glory – seeing the streets as they were then is worth the price of admission alone. Due to painfully scarce prints, Basket Case hasn’t been screened theatrically (possibly at all) since its 80s stint as a real-deal NYC Midnight Movie. We won’t tell you what’s in the basket though…you’ll have to see for yourself.
Saturday, November 5 at 4:45 and Sunday, November 6 at 6:30
BASKET CASE 2
1990, 90 minutes, 35mm-to-video
Sequels can be tricky business. Duplicating the original film’s storyline almost never works, but departing from its style isn’t a solution either. Henenlotter pulls off the impossible here with a wildly original follow up that maintains the first film’s strong characters. Kevin Van Hentenryck returns as Duane Bradley, still toting around his big ol’ basket. This time he escapes the confines of the concrete jungle for a nice relaxing stay with Granny Ruth, perfectly played by legendary jazz vocalist Annie Ross, of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Granny Ruth has a soft spot for nature’s special ones, and she knows that other folks don’t share her point of view. So she’s worked hard to secretly operate a safe haven for freaks – lots of freaks – and lovingly takes Duane and Belial under her wing. But, as outsiders get wind of who might be hiding out at Granny Ruth’s, the boys’ sibling rivalry kicks into high gear again and the real freakshow begins.
Saturday, November 5 at 7:00 and Sunday, November 6 at 8:30
Directions: Anthology is at 32 Second Ave. at 2nd St. Subway: F to 2nd Ave; 6 to Bleecker. Tickets: $9 general; $8 Essential Cinema (free for members), $7 for students, seniors, & children (12 & under); $6 AFA members.
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