“The sickest movie I’ve ever seen!”—Rex Reed
Basket Case is an ultra-gory low-budget horror comedy. Written and directed by indie filmmaker Frank Henenlotter, this 1982 motion picture concerns a young man, Duane, who’s seeking revenge for the forced surgery that separated him from his Siamese twin brother, Belial, who’s disfigured—so much so, that Duane carts Belial around in a basket. Effectively mixing humor and over-the-top gore on a minuscule budget, the film earned a cult following and spawned two sequels.
Gus Russo is responsible for the solid Basket Case score. Russo’s spooky (and often altogether hair-raising) synth work alternates with bossa nova tracks, and pieces driven by various instruments—usually sax or vibes. It’s quite an accomplishment, considering how little Russo had to work with AND that it was his first attempt at scoring a film (more on all of that in a moment).
On January 20th, the Terror Vision record and video label will put out the score for Basket Case, and we’ve got an exclusive audio preview. But first up is a Dangerous Minds interview with Gus Russo, who tells us how serendipity played a role in both the score coming together and its eventual, impending release.
Gus Russo (on the left) in a scene cut from ‘Basket Case.’
How did you get the job scoring Basket Case?
Gus Russo: I was gigging in Upstate New York, and some of the regulars who used to come to this one club— they were just the rowdiest bunch of people, in a good way. One night, we—the band—introduced ourselves and said, “Who are you guys anyway?” And they said, “Well, we’re from the Glens Falls Hospital’s psychiatric unit.” So, we thought they were people on some sort of relief program—turns out they were the doctors and the technicians (laughs). They just really knew how to party. One of them was Edgar Ievins. He ended up being the producer of Basket Case.
Edgar and I became friends because he was a violinist, and he would sit in and play violin with us. Then Edgar disappeared from Upstate New York, and about a year or so later I heard from him, and he said, “I’m doing movies now in New York City, wanna write the score for the first one?” That’s how it got going.
But I met him at a gig. After work, he would come and sit-in on violin with my band. Then he moved and got involved somehow with Frank [Frank Henenlotter] in New York City.
What was your process like for scoring Basket Case?
Gus Russo: We had no money, even though Edgar went around and raised some money, it really all went to film stock. I had just a few dollars. Once I got the gig, I went down to New York City, from upstate, and met with Frank and watched some rushes of what he had filmed. He gave me the script, and then we talked about styles he wanted. He wanted a variety of music for different scenes.
I have an acoustic guitar back upstate, an electric Gibson, and a four-track tape deck. So, I go back up there and say to myself, ‘How can I create Bernard Herrmann music’—which is what Frank really likes—‘with no money.’ So, I just did the best I could. He wanted a theme that repeated throughout the movie in different styles, like Bernard Herrmann would do, so I came up with that theme. When he had the doctor’s office scene—we couldn’t even afford to buy generic bossa nova background music—so I had to write elevator music for the doctor scenes.
It was all done in my living room on a four-track tape deck. All live, no digital, no nothing.
Did you play all of the instruments?
Gus Russo: I didn’t play them all, but I had friends come by and play. I played a lot of synthesizer. I used the ARP String Ensemble to play fake violins. I went around to my friends and said, “What can I borrow from everybody, because we’ve got no money?” One guy said, “I have a timpani.” Another guy said, “I’ve got vibes.” I had an Echoplex tape machine, which is basically an analog tape loop that we used to use to make tape echo. That played a big part in it, because that was one of the main tools that we had. So, you had this bizarre menagerie of things in my living room—an upright piano that was out of tune, an Echoplex, a timpani drum, a set of vibes, and friends that would come by and play a part. So, it was really wild.
Keep reading after the jump…