Reviews | Written by Christian Jones 08/06/2021

BASIC INSTINCT

He satirised corporate culture in Robocop. Next he lost Schwarzenegger’s mind in Total Recall. To follow director Paul Verhoven got sexy with erotic thriller Basic Instinct. With a screenplay by Joe Eszterhas, Basic Instinct tells the torrid tale of San Francisco homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas). Curran, whose former vices include smoking, drinking, coke sniffing, and accidentally shooting tourists, becomes obsessed with Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone). To complicate matters, she's the prime suspect in the brutal murder of a former rock star.

Trammell, when she isn’t in the throes of carnal pleasure, writes crime fiction seemingly just to pass the time. And being a top-of-her-class psychology graduate she’s an expert at manipulation and playing mind games. When Curran is drawn into Trammell’s sphere of influence his vices return, except for accidentally shooting tourists.

When Basic Instinct was revealed to cinematic audiences in 1992, it was equally infamous for the LGBQT+ community protests, who were angry at how a gay character was portrayed as being a psychotic killer, and the Sharon Stone sans underwear interrogation scene. Much has been discussed about these two points. One thing is certain, Trammell is a forthright woman of strength and charisma. A woman who is without doubt in complete control of any situation she’s in. She doesn’t pretend to be anything else and openly states that she enjoys sex and playing mind games. She warns Curran that he’s out of his depth and shouldn’t play what he can’t win. If anything, the truly reprehensible characters are the men, particularly Curran. He tries to salve his wounded ego, and bury his conflicted feelings for Trammell by raping his former lover.

Basic Instinct is a hugely preposterous homage to Hitchcock. Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent score deliberately invokes regular Hitchcock collaborator Bernhard Herrmann.  Sharon Stone looks near identical to Kim Novak’s Vertigo character during the interrogation scene. But then Verhoven does state that Vertigo is one of his all-time favourite  films. Despite the preposterousness, it’s hard not to get swept along by the convoluted shenanigans. Douglas and Stone are such engaging leads that their chemistry and sexual tension seem to flood from the screen like a palpable wave of pheromones. Verhoven’s direction is confident and assured, one might even say European. He manages to make the explicit sex scenes oddly tasteful. And Jan de Bont’s cinematography is a thing of beauty. Thanks to the 4K transfer, each frame is to an exquisite work of art. Colour is vibrant, the night is a velvet black, the sex scenes are bathed in a soft gold.

There are a slew of extras as you’d expect with a Studiocanal release.

New documentary Basic Instinct: Sex, Death and Stone reunites the cast and crew twenty-nine years after the release. There are revealing anecdotes aplenty and the only ones who don’t seem the have succumbed to the effects of entropy are Verhoven and Sharon Stone. An Unending Story – Scoring Basic Instinct is an excellent little documentary highlighting Jerry Goldsmith’s stunning soundtrack. In archival footage, Goldsmith himself states that it was the hardest score he produced in his long career.

Blonde Poison is a made for TV ‘Making of…’ featurette from 1992 and is typical of the period. The cast and crew interviews featurette is also a throwback to 1992 and is more an edited highlights of Blonde Poison.

There’s also storyboard comparisons and screen tests, and two audio commentaries by Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont, with the other by Camille Paglia. It’s impossible not to be carried away by Verhoven’s exuberance and excitement, which makes it all the more enjoyable giving in to our basic instincts.

Release Date: June 14th