Plot: What’s it about?
A rich former rock star has been murdered in blood soaked fashion, as he was engaged in one final sexual encounter. On the case is Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), who has a prime suspect in author Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), who was the man’s girlfriend at the time of his death. By a strange turn of events, her newest book details the same kind of murder, but she insists it makes no sense, as she’d never be stupid enough to write about a crime she’s involved with. Curran figures she might be right, but also keeps a close watch on her and as time passes, ends up much closer than expected. Curran’s partner Gus (George Dzunda) warns him to keep his distance, but he won’t listen, even with a plethora of problems in his own life. As Curran seeks out the truth about Trammell, he also battles alcohol addiction and problems with his own girlfriend, the beautiful Elisabeth (Jeanne Tripplehorn). As he delves deeper into the case and all the elements involved, will Curran ever discover the truth? And if by some chance he does, will the truth hold the answers he wants to hear, or some new twists on the events?
As this is one of my favorite films by one of my favorite directors, I was thrilled to see Artisan revisit Basic Instinct with a new special edition. The original release left a lot to be desired and while this new one isn’t flawless, it is an improvement in all respects. Artisan has released both R rated & Unrated versions and of course, this review covers the Unrated edition. This film was a breakthrough for modern exploitation, even though it was wrapped in a slick, mainstream kind of package. But with ample violence and unheard of (in mainstream cinema) graphic nudity, Basic Instinct shook the foundations and raked in a ton of cash. Of course, most people will remember the infamous Sharon Stone beaver shot, but I find that to be just one of the scenes that make this flick memorable. I know I will draw a lot of fire with this, but I think Basic Instinct is the finest thriller of its era, even while pushing the limits to new levels. The nature of the film might scare some viewers off, but I think Basic Instinct is a film that needs to be seen, especially by fans of exploitation, thrillers, and of course, those who just want to see one of cinema’s most famous sequences.
Without a doubt, this is the movie that made Sharon Stone a star and while she never moved to that next level, her work here is excellent. I know, some people complain about the material and Stone’s performance, but I think she nails it and in a role like this, that makes her performance even more impressive. As this was quite a risky role to take on, Stone has to do some wild stuff and she never stumbles, always right on the mark. Perhaps a little too natural at times, as Stone does seem very cold and brutal here, but also red hot at other times. With a beautiful face, gorgeous body, and a take no prisoners performance, Stone deserves her fame, if just for her work in Basic Instinct. Other films with Stone include Diabolique, Total Recall, Intersection, Sliver, The Quick and The Dead, and Casino. The cast also includes Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys, Falling Down), Jeanne Tripplehorn (The Firm, Sliding Doors), Leilani Sarelle (Days of Thunder, Shag: The Movie), and George Dzunda (Dangerous Minds, The Deer Hunter).
Video: How does it look?
Basic Instinct is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a large improvement over the previous disc, as the film is framed as intended and looks more than a few shades better. I found grain to be less evident, while the overall print looks much cleaner, though still worn at times. I do this this one seems older than it is, but even so, the image here is the finest home video edition to date, so no hard feelings. The colors are also boosted to the proper levels here, although contrast remains a hair or two off the mark. This is a very good visual effort and while some flaws exist, this is the best Basic Instinct has ever looked on the small screen, so fans should be more than pleased here.
Audio: How does it sound?
As the soundtrack for a film made in 1992, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 option is good, even if doesn’t stack up against more modern audio treatments. The surrounds are used a lot in this mix, from the expected power scenes to the more reserved ones, with more sound effects presence than you might think. The score is well presented, but lacks the immersive texture I would liked to have heard, all things considered. The speakers are well used here however, as even the low end kicks in when it needs to. The vocals are clean and always distinct, no volume errors in the least to discuss. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, should you have need of those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In addition to the Unrated cut of the feature film, this disc also houses a wealth of bonus materials. You’ll find two audio commentary tracks here, one with director Paul Verhoeven & cinematographer Jan De Bont and the other with feminist critic & author Camille Paglia, both worthwhile tracks, I think. I’d already heard the first track from the laserdisc release, but it was nice to revisit it and both men offer quite a bit of information here. But the real cake on this disc is Paglia’s session, which is insightful and hilarious, sometimes both at the same time. You can tell she loves the film, as she seems quite nervous, but it all works out well in the end. I next went to two included featurettes, the first was which was Blonde Poison, a brief, but welcome behind the scenes piece. At about twenty-five minutes, Blonde Poison has to move fast and it does, with a wealth of interviews with the filmmakers, fans, and even those who criticize it. The second featurette is based on the television version, as in what kind of cuts had to be made, in order to make Basic Instinct safe for the airwaves. This disc also includes production notes, talent files, storyboard to film comparisons, montage of still photos, and two theatrical trailers.