Director Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 film, Basic Instinct is a seminal erotic thriller. The neo-noir effectively kick-started the thriller sub-genre in the 1990s and made a star out of Sharon Stone in the process. The middle instalment in what Michael Douglas calls his ‘pants down trilogy’ (alongside Fatal Attraction and Disclosure), Basic Instinct caused controversy and made headlines crossed the globe. It was all good press for the film which was a huge hit at the box office, grossing $117.7 million in the US and $352.9 million worldwide.
Douglas is Detective Nick Curran, a cop trying to solve a murder case. The victim was Johnny Boz, an ageing rockstar who suffered from a deadly case of coitus interruptus when he was killed with an icepick in bed (as seen in the film’s opening). The number one suspect is Stone’s bestselling crime novelist, Catherine Tramell. Curran is attracted to the Tramell’s dangerous side and before too long Douglas is romancing the Stone – but is Tramell guilty or is she innocent. One thing’s for certain – she’s not getting charged for smoking.
Verhoeven’s film and Joe Eszterhas‘ script took the Hitchcockian thriller, removed a lot of the Hitch and added more cock. The shadow of Hitchcock’s Vertigo looms large over Basic Instinct – from Jerry Goldsmith‘s Bernard Herrmann style score to the film’s San Francisco setting. Even cinematographer Jan de Bont‘s camera traverses the windy coastal roads of California in a similar fashion.
Basic Instinct shows that Michael Douglas used his A-list status make bold choices and movies which would have been turned down by most stars. His Curran is an antihero, a man who does drugs, drinks heavily and sleeps around – he’d be the villain of the piece in most other movies. Sharon Stone was a relative unknown before the film was released in 1992 and it shot her into the stratosphere. Many of Hollywood’s leading actress rejected the explicit role, but Stone excels as the femme fatale. They say that casting is key – they’re right.
Bold, brassy and very ballsy, Basic Instinct is is a provocative film from one cinema’s great provocateurs. It might be a 1990s timepiece, but that doesn’t stop it from being a riveting thriller which is far better than the multitude of copycat films which came in its wake.
This blu-ray release of Basic Instinct comes with a new transfer of the film which was restored from the original 35MM negative – supervised by Verhoeven himself (it looks great). The standout feature is new 52 minute documentary, Basic Instinct: Death, Sex & Stone which includes new interviews with Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, Paul Verhoeven and Joe Eszterhas. It’s a brilliant piece and everyone interviewed is frank and honest in their discussions. The disc comes with Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont commentary, a Camille Paglia commentary, storyboards, screen-tests trailers and a new piece on the film’s music.
This is the final word on Basic Instinct.