Basic Instinct

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Basic Instinct
Basic instinct.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Produced by Mario Kassar
Alan Marshall
Written by Joe Eszterhas
Starring Michael Douglas
Sharon Stone
George Dzundza
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Jan de Bont
Editing by Frank J. Urioste
Studio Carolco Pictures
StudioCanal
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • March 20, 1992 (1992-03-20) (US)
  • May 8, 1992 (1992-05-08) (UK)
Running time 128 minutes[1]
Country United States
France
Language English
Budget $49 million
Box office $352,927,224[2]

Basic Instinct is a 1992 American neo-noir[3] and erotic thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. The film is about a police detective, Nick Curran (Douglas), who is investigating the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star. During the investigation Curran becomes involved in a torrid and intense relationship with the prime suspect, Catherine Tramell (Stone), an enigmatic writer and psychologist.

Even before its release, Basic Instinct generated heated controversy due to its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. It was strongly opposed by gay rights activists, who criticized the film's depiction of homosexual relationships and the portrayal of a bisexual woman as a murderous psychopath[4] or sociopath.[5]

Despite initial critical negativity and public protest, Basic Instinct became one of the most financially successful films of the 1990s, grossing $352 million worldwide.[6] Multiple versions of the film have been released on videocassette, DVD, and Blu-ray including a director's cut with extended footage previously unseen in North American cinemas. The film has also contemporarily been recognized for its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema, and has been referred to by scholars as "a neo-noir masterpiece that plays with, and transgresses, the narrative rules of film noir."[7] A 2006 sequel starring Stone but without Verhoeven's involvement, Basic Instinct 2, was critically panned and became a commercial flop.

Plot[edit]

When retired rock star Johnny Boz has his hands tied to the bedpost with a white silk scarf and is viciously stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex in a bed by a mysterious blonde woman at his apartment, homicide detective Nick Curran is sent to investigate. The only suspect is Catherine Tramell, a crime novelist who was the last person to be seen with Boz on the night he died. Nick and his partner, Gus Moran, visit her Pacific Heights mansion, but they find only Catherine's lesbian lover, Roxy, who sends them to Catherine's beach house at Stinson Beach. When they ask Catherine about her relationship with Boz, she states that she came to her beach house instead of Boz's apartment and shows little emotion at hearing he is dead. Nick and Gus, along with their superiors, discover that Catherine has written a novel about a former rock star who was killed in the same manner as Boz (stabbed in bed with an ice pick, hands tied together with a silk scarf). During questioning by detectives, including Nick, at police headquarters, Catherine engages in provocative behavior, refuses to extinguish her cigarette, and re-crosses her legs — her short skirt revealing that she is not wearing underwear. She then takes a lie detector polygraph which she passes.

Nick, who accidentally shot two tourists while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner, with whom he has had an affair. Nick goes to a bar with co-workers after the interrogation and is taunted by Lieutenant Marty Nilsen, an internal affairs investigator who is jealous of Nick's past case and constantly calls him "shooter". Beth arrives and Nick leaves with her. They go to her apartment, where aggressive foreplay escalates nearly into rape. Nick learns that Catherine has a troubled history: Her parents were killed in a boating accident when she was an adolescent, leaving her a fortune; one of her college counselors, Noah Goldstein, was stabbed in his sleep with an ice pick when Catherine was attending UC Berkeley, and her former fiancé, boxer Manny Vasquez, was killed in the ring during a prize fight in Atlantic City. Nick also discovers that Catherine makes a habit of befriending murderers, including Hazel Dobkins, a woman who stabbed her husband and children for no apparent reason.

During a visit to her beach house, Catherine taunts Nick, knowing of his past case and calls him "shooter" just as Nilsen did. Knowing Beth is the only person with access to what information Catherine told him, he confronts Beth and she admits that she handed his file to Nilsen and later explains to Nick that Nilsen threatened to discharge Nick if he could not evaluate him directly. An enraged Nick storms into Nilsen's office, assaults him, and accuses him of having sold Nick's file to Catherine. Nilsen suspends Nick and he goes home and spends the evening drinking. Beth visits him but he throws her out after a heated argument. Nilsen is found dead in his car later that night, shot once in the head with a .38 caliber revolver. Nick is the prime suspect because of their recent altercation.

A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. Catherine explains that she will base her next novel's character — a cop falling for the wrong woman only to be killed by her — on Nick, while at the same time he declares his love for her and his unchanged intention to nail her for Boz's murder. Catherine and Nick have a drink in his house. The pair later dance provocatively at Boz's dance club and have sex in bed. Although Catherine ties Nick to the bedpost with a white silk scarf, she does not pull an ice pick out of the bed like Boz's killer did.

Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell, during the interrogation scene.

A jealous Roxy, who Catherine let her watch her scene with Nick, tries to run Nick over with Catherine's Lotus Esprit but is killed in a crash during a car chase with Nick. Her death reveals that she too has a murderous past — she killed her two brothers with a razor when she was a teenager. Because juvenile arrests are sealed until the individual's death, this record did not turn up earlier. Catherine seems genuinely saddened by Roxy's death and Nick begins to doubt her guilt. Catherine later reveals that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl, Lisa Hoberman, became obsessed with her. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter but claims it was Catherine who became obsessed. It is also discovered that Beth's husband was killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting, shot with a .38 caliber revolver.

Nick visits Catherine's house. Before Catherine comes into the room he sees on a printer the final pages of Catherine's new detective book. He quickly reads a few lines, in which the fictional detective finds his partner lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of an elevator. Catherine comes in and explains that she has finished her book, and coldly ends the affair. Upset, Nick meets Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherine's college roommate at a hotel to find out what really went on between Catherine and Beth. As Nick waits in the car, Gus enters the hotel elevator. As he exits the elevator a hooded figure jumps out and stabs him multiple times in the neck with an ice pick. Nick figures out there is trouble brewing and runs into the building, but he arrives too late to save Gus and finds him lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of the elevator just as Catherine's book had described. Hearing the floor creak, Nick grabs Gus' gun and turns to find Beth standing in the hallway, explaining she received a message to meet Gus there. Nick suspects that she murdered Gus and, as Beth moves her hand in her pocket, he shoots her believing she is reaching for a gun. Beth tells Nick with her final breath that she loved him. A dejected Nick checks her pocket, to find only her keys. The police arrive, and discover a blond wig, an SFPD raincoat, and an ice pick, the weapon used to murder Gus, in a staircase. The police officers conclude that Beth ditched the items when she heard Nick coming up. A search of Beth's apartment turns up the evidence needed to brand her as the killer of Boz, Gus, Nilsen, and presumably her own husband—the matching revolver, Catherine's novels, and photos chronicling the writer's life. At police headquarters, all the other detectives quickly piece together the story and conclude that Beth was the killer. Nick sits on his desk, confused and dejected, knowing based on Catherine's foreknowledge of the manner of Gus' death that she must actually have been the killer and that she must have set Beth up.

Nick returns to his apartment where he is met by Catherine, knowing she's the killer. She explains her reluctance to commit to him, but then the two make love. Afterward, the conversation turns toward their possible future as a couple. Nick looks wary of her. While talking Nick turns his back on Catherine as she slowly reaches for something underneath the bed. He suggests their future will comprise sex and children. Catherine says she hates children and Nick then suggests their future will then just involve sex. At this Catherine stops reaching for what was under the bed and she throws her arms around Nick, convincing him, and the two resume making love as the camera slowly pans down to show what she was reaching for under the bed: an ice pick.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The screenplay, written in the 1980s, was popular enough to prompt a bidding war; it was eventually purchased by Carolco Pictures, for a reported US$3 million.[8][9] Eszterhas, who wrote the film in 13 days,[10] and who had been the creative source for several other blockbusters, including Flashdance (1983) and Jagged Edge (1985), was replaced by Gary Goldman as the writer. Adjusted for inflation, the budget of the film was an estimated US$49,000,000.[citation needed]

Chuck Norris, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, Charlie Sheen, Richard Gere, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington and Kevin Costner were considered for the role of Nick Curran. In preparation for the car chase scene, Douglas reportedly drove up the steps on Kearny Street in San Francisco for four nights by himself. Douglas recommended Kim Basinger for the role of Catherine Tramell, but Basinger declined.[11] He had also proposed Julia Roberts.[12] Greta Scacchi[13] and Meg Ryan[14] also turned down the role, as did Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner, Ellen Barkin, and Mariel Hemingway.[8] Verhoeven considered Demi Moore.[15] Stone, who was eventually selected for the role, was a relative unknown until the success of this movie; she was paid a minimal amount of $500,000, considering the film's extensive production budget.

Filming in San Francisco was attended by gay and lesbian rights activists and demonstrators,[16] and San Francisco Police Department riot police were present at every location daily to deal with the crowds.

The scene where Douglas has sex with Tripplehorn was filmed unbeknownst to the actors, who were simply rehearsing the scene. Things heated up quickly, as evidenced by the footage in the final film, and Verhoeven liked the performances so much that he included it in the final film. Verhoeven initially fought during the production for a lesbian love scene to be added to the script over the objection of Eszterhas, who thought such a scene would be gratuitous. Verhoeven eventually agreed with Eszterhas and apologized to him for forcing the issue. Following the success of Basic Instinct, Eszterhas and Verhoeven went on to collaborate on Showgirls.

In a 2006 interview, Sharon Stone alleged that the infamous leg-crossing scene in which her vagina was exposed was filmed without her knowledge; Stone had been wearing thin underwear for the scene which Paul Verhoeven said reflected light on the camera lens; and it was not until Stone saw the film in a screening room with a test audience that she became aware of it, leading her to slap Verhoeven in the face and leave the screening.[17]

Soundtrack[edit]

Basic Instinct (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released March 17, 1992
Genre Soundtrack
Length 57:12
Label Capitol Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Filmtracks 4/5 stars link

The film score to Basic Instinct was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The score to Basic Instinct garnered Goldsmith nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.[18] Goldsmith described it as one of his most challenging efforts, later stating, "Basic Instinct was probably the most difficult I've ever done. It's a very convoluted story with very unorthodox characters. It's a murder mystery, but it isn't really a murder mystery. The director, Paul Verhoeven, had a very clear idea of how the woman should be, and I had a hard time getting it. Because of Paul pushing me, I think it's one of the best scores I've ever written. It was a true collaboration."[19]

Apart from the score, professionally released music did not play a major part in the film. The scene in which source music plays a prominent role occurs during the club scene; Curran, Tramell, and Roxy are seen at in Downtown San Francisco. It features "Blue" by Chicago singer LaTour and "Rave the Rhythm" by the group Channel X. It also features "Movin' on Up" by Jeff Barry and Janet DuBois. The soundtrack also contains excerpts of dialogue, including the interrogation scene.

The soundtrack was released on March 17, 1992. A considerably expanded release of Jerry Goldsmith's score, featuring previously omitted sections and alternative compositions of certain elements, was issued by Prometheus Records in 2004.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  1. "Main Title" – 2:13
  2. "Crossed Legs" – 4:49
  3. "Night Life" – 6:03
  4. "Kitchen Help" – 3:58
  5. "Pillow Talk" – 4:59
  6. "Morning After" – 2:29
  7. "The Games Are Over" – 5:53
  8. "Catherine's Sorrow" – 2:41
  9. "Roxy Loses" – 3:37
  10. "Unending Story / End Credits" – 9:23

The Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  1. "Main Title" – 2:13
  2. "First Victim" – 1:39
  3. "Catherine & Roxy" – 5:14
  4. "Shadows" – 0:41
  5. "Profile" – 0:49
  6. "Don't Smoke" – 2:26
  7. "Crossed Legs" – 4:49
  8. "Beth & Nick" – 2:21
  9. "Night Life" – 6:03
  10. "Home Visit" – 1:13
  11. "Your Wife Knew" – 1:44
  12. "Untitled" – 0:52
  13. "That's Real Music" – 0:27
  14. "One Shot" – 1:27
  15. "Kitchen Help" – 3:58
  16. "Pillow Talk" – 4:59
  17. "Morning After" – 2:29
  18. "Roxy Loses" – 3:37
  19. "Catherine's Sorrow" – 2:41
  20. "Wrong Name" – 2:22
  21. "She's Really Sick" – 1:31
  22. "It Won't Sell" – 1:02
  23. "Games Are Over" – 5:53
  24. "Evidence" – 1:39
  25. "Unending Story / End Credits" – 9:23
  26. "First Victim" (alternate version) – 1:34

Distribution[edit]

The film was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.[20]

MPAA rating[edit]

Basic Instinct is rated R for "strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language". It was initially given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, but under pressure from TriStar, Verhoeven cut 35–40 seconds to gain an R rating.[8] Verhoeven described the changes in a March 1992 article in The New York Times:

Actually, I didn't have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct.[8]

The film was subsequently re-released in its uncut format on video and later on DVD.

Home media[edit]

Following the theatrical version, the film was first released in its uncut format in an unrated version onto video in 1992, running at 129 minutes. This was followed by a DVD release in 1997, in a "barebones" format that contained the R-rated version. A Collector's Edition was released on DVD in 2001, containing the uncut version of the film with a commentary by Camille Paglia and an ice-pick pen (the villain's weapon of choice). This version of the film, running 127 minutes, was re-released twice: in 2003 and 2006.[verification needed]

In March 2006, the unrated version (also known as the Director's Cut) was re-released on DVD and labeled as the Ultimate Edition. In 2007, the film was released on Blu-ray with the Director's Cut label..

The film was cut by 35–40 seconds to avoid an NC-17 rating on its theatrical release in 1992,[8] with some violence and sexuality explicit content removed. The missing or censored material (later released on video and DVD unrated as the director's cut) included:

  • The murder of Johnny Boz in the opening scene. Instead, the killer is seen stabbing him in his neck, in the chest and through his nose. In addition, Sharon Stone's character is still having violent sex with him while stabbing him at the same time.
  • The scene where Nick has sex with Beth is cut in the US theatrical version, as he is seen ripping off her clothes and forcing her over the couch, before a cut to the two of them lying on the floor. In the uncut version they are seen having sex.
  • The scene where Nick and Catherine have sex after going to the club is longer and much more explicit in the uncut version; Sharon Stone is seen fully nude riding Michael Douglas until he reaches orgasm.
  • The death of Nick's partner, Gus, in the elevator is more graphic. The US version omits shots of Gus being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with blood and gore flying at the camera.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Basic Instinct opened in theaters in the United States and was one of the highest grossing films of 1992, after its March 29 release. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $15 million. It was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1992, grossing $352,927,224 worldwide.[21]

Critical response[edit]

The film's critical reaction was mixed. Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film, saying "Basic Instinct transfers Mr. Verhoeven's flair for action-oriented material to the realm of Hitchcockian intrigue, and the results are viscerally effective even when they don't make sense."[22] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film, saying it was a guilty pleasure film; he also expressed admiration for Verhoeven's direction, saying "[his] cinematic wet dream delivers the goods, especially when Sharon Stone struts on with enough come-on carnality to singe the screen," and praised Stone's performance: "Stone, a former model, is a knockout; she even got a rise out of Ah-nold in Verhoeven's Total Recall. But being the bright spot in too many dull movies (He Said, She Said; Irreconcilable Differences) stalled her career. Though Basic Instinct establishes Stone as a bombshell for the Nineties, it also shows she can nail a laugh or shade an emotion with equal aplomb."[23]

The film was not without its detractors.[24] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times dismissed the film, giving it two out of four stars, stating that the film is well crafted, yet dies down in the last half hour: "The film is like a crossword puzzle. It keeps your interest until you solve it, by the ending. Then it's just a worthless scrap with the spaces filled in."[25] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 54% based on 59 reviews with the consensus: "Unevenly echoing the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Basic Instinct contains a star-making performance from Sharon Stone, but is ultimately undone by its problematic, overly lurid plot."

The international critical reception was favorable, with Australian critic Shannon J. Harvey of the Sunday Times calling it one of the "1990s['] finest productions, doing more for female empowerment than any feminist rally. Stone – in her star-making performance – is as hot and sexy as she is ice-pick cold."[26]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Jerry Goldsmith, the composer, was nominated for both awards for his original score. It was also nominated for an Edgar Award.[24] Frank Urioste was nominated for an Academy Award for film editing and Sharon Stone was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress for her performance as Tramell. It was also nominated for three Razzie Awards including Worst Actor (Douglas), Worst Supporting Actress (Tripplehorn) and Worst New Star (Sharon Stone's "Tribute to Theodore Cleaver", AKA her pubic hair).[citation needed]

American Film Institute recognition

Controversy[edit]

The film generated controversy due to its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. During principal photography, the film was protested by gay rights activists who felt that the film followed a pattern of negative depiction of homosexuals in film.[30] Members of the lesbian and bisexual activist group LABIA protested against the film on its opening night. Others also picketed theatres to dissuade people from attending screenings, carrying signs saying "Kiss My Ice Pick", "Hollywood Promotes Anti-Gay Violence" and "Catherine Did It!"/"Save Your Money—The Bisexual Did It".[31] Verhoeven himself defended the groups' right to protest, however criticized the disruptions they caused, saying "Fascism is not in raising your voice; the fascism is in not accepting the no."[32] The group GLAAD released a statement accusing the filmmakers of perpetuating homophobic stereotypes; these criticisms were also echoed by bisexuals.

Film critic Roger Ebert mentioned the controversy in his review, saying "As for the allegedly offensive homosexual characters: The movie's protesters might take note of the fact that this film's heterosexuals, starting with Douglas, are equally offensive. Still, there is a point to be made about Hollywood's unremitting insistence on typecasting homosexuals—particularly lesbians—as twisted and evil."[33] Camille Paglia denounced gay activist and feminist protests against Basic Instinct, and called Sharon Stone's performance "one of the great performances by a woman in screen history".[34]

The film was also widely criticized for glamorizing cigarette smoking. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was later diagnosed with throat cancer and publicly apologized for glamorizing smoking in his films.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BASIC INSTINCT (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1992-03-18. Retrieved 2013-04-19. 
  2. ^ Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  3. ^ Chowdhury, Cassandra (2008-07-21). "A Comparison of Femme Fatales in Post-Modern Cinema and Noir Cinema". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2014-03-28. 
  4. ^ Leistedt, Samuel J.; Linkowski, Paul (January 2014). "Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction?". Journal of Forensic Sciences (American Academy of Forensic Sciences) 59 (1): 167–174. doi:10.1111/1556-4029.12359. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Censored Films and Television II". University of Virginia. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  6. ^ Basic Instinct at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  7. ^ Murray, Terri (2008). Feminist Film Studies: A Teacher's Guide. Auteur. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Weinraub, Bernard (March 15, 1992). "'Basic Instinct': The Suspect Is Attractive, and May Be Fatal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-09. "But the sexual content of the film helped determine the choice of its female star. Ms. Stone, who played Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife in 'Total Recall', was cast in 'Basic Instinct' only after better-known actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Geena Davis, Ellen Barkin and Mariel Hemingway rejected her part, largely because it demanded so much nudity and sexual simulation." 
  9. ^ Basic Instinct at UK Critic. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  10. ^ Joe Eszterhas interview at Moviemaker. Retrieved November 4, 2007.
  11. ^ http://blogs.amctv.com/movie-blog/2007/04/basic-instinct/
  12. ^ Warren, Jane (March 29, 2011). "Michael Douglas's real basic instinct". Daily Express. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ Greta Scacchi, a BBC Drama Faces article
  14. ^ Meg Ryan: In The Cut (Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum), an October 2003 BBC article
  15. ^ Bryce Hallett (10 February 2001). "Her world's a stage". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 3. 
  16. ^ Basic Instinct (Making of, The). 20th Century Fox. 2001. 
  17. ^ "A Conversation with Sharon Stone" from the Basic Instinct: Ultimate Edition DVD (Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2006).
  18. ^ Basic Instinct soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com
  19. ^ Velez, Andy. "Evening the Score" Jerry Goldsmith interview. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  20. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Basic Instinct". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  21. ^ "1992 Worldwide Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 4, 2013. 
  22. ^ Maslin, Janet. Basic Instinct. New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  23. ^ Travers, Peter. Basic Instinct. Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  24. ^ a b Lundin, Leigh (2010-07-25). "Erotic Mystery Thrillers". sex-n-violence. Criminal Brief. 
  25. ^ Reviews :: Basic Instinct from Roger Ebert's website
  26. ^ Basic Instinct at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  27. ^ AFI'S 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  28. ^ AFI'S 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees
  29. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  30. ^ Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1991: Gays Bashing Basic Instinct. See also Phyllis Burke, Family Values: Two Moms and Their Son. New York: Random House (1993), which covers the protests over several chapters.
  31. ^ Couvares, Francis G. (2006). Movie Censorship and American Culture (2nd ed.). ISBN 1-55849-575-4. 
  32. ^ Keesey, Douglas (2005). Paul Verhoeven. p. 130. ISBN 3-8228-3101-8. 
  33. ^ "Basic Instinct". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  34. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps & Tramps: New Essays. London: Penguin Books, 1994. p. 489
  35. ^ Ball, Ian (August 22, 2002). "A smoking star is a loaded gun". The Daily Telegraph (London). 

External links[edit]