Basic Instinct (Director's Cut) (1992) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) 

If you are a baby boomer, you'll notice ... very familiar ... about this movie. Michael Douglas plays a handsome plainclothes homicide detective in San Francisco, and his partner is a more sensible rumpled unglamorous galoot with a big nose.

Hey - it's just an episode of "Streets of San Francisco", except they show the crimes and sex on camera instead of off.

One other thing you may notice. This movie gets my Oscar in the following category: "Most smoking in a movie not involving Eastern Europe, Bogart, or Cheech and Chong" 

The plot is the film's big weakness. The dramatic tension hinges around whether a murder was committed by a cold-blooded author (Sharon Stone) who described the exact scene in her book, or by a psychologist (Jeanne Tripplehorn) trying to frame the author. As it turns out, one of the detectives assigned to the case (Michael Douglas) already has a relationship with one of the women, and soon initiates one with the other. The script tries to be ambiguous, but fails in the details.


Sharon Stone is naked from every angle during the course of the movie, including a shot of her labia.

Jeanne Tripplehorn didn't do a frontal scene, but Michael Douglas ripped off her panties while she was bent over a chair. 

Michael Douglas shows his butt several times, and his penis in the unrated version.

The male victim in the first scene does full-frontal nudity.

  1. Stone's new novel, the one Douglas reads by accident, describes the exact circumstances of Gus's murder BEFORE it happens. The description includes the exact details - the legs sticking out of the elevator, for example. How could that be the case if Tripplehorn was the murderer? Are we to believe that Stone has the gift of prophecy? Of course not, she must be the murderer. Douglas is a detective, and he knows everything we know. The unpublished novel is the "smoking gun" that Stone did it. Douglas knows that Stone is the murderer FOR SURE the minute he sees Gus's legs hanging out of the elevator. Yet a minute later he guns down Tripplehorn.
  2. Speaking of which, Stone had no way to know Douglas would shoot Tripplehorn. How did she know Tripplehorn would hesitate to raise her hands, or reach in her pocket to give Douglas those keys. Most important, she saw Douglas read the unpublished novel, so why would she think that Douglas would shoot Tripplehorn after seeing Gus dead in the elevator? Makes no sense.
  3. And why did Tripplehorn need to reach in her pocket for the keys at that very moment, while he was pointing a loaded gun at her? The woman was a psychologist, facing a man with crazy eyes and an itchy trigger finger. Certainly she knew better.
  4. Is it plausible to find so many clues pointing back and forth, first to one woman, then the other. Don't all these tennis-match neck turners stretch our credulity too far, and tend to contradict each other eventually? For example, Stone's lesbian girlfriend tries to kill Michael Douglas. We viewers know this for a fact. Douglas knows this for a fact. Yet Douglas never asks himself, "OK, if Tripplehorn committed the murders, why did Stone's girlfriend try to kill me?" Stone already said that this woman had seen her fuck a zillion other guys without getting jealous. Why would she have anything special against Douglas if you assume Tripplehorn is the murderer? The only possible explanation resides in Stone being the murderer and somehow manipulating the emotions of the lesbian girlfriend. All of these neck-turners are just little devices, with no thought given to whether they hold up in light of the other plot elements.
  5. Speaking of contradictory elements, there is actually one good argument to support Tripplehorn as the killer. In fact, it's almost an argument stopper. What the hell was she doing in the vicinity of suite 405 in the scene where she and Gus were killed? She claimed that Gus called her, but the script explicitly reveals that the phone records did not support that. If Gus did not call her, there are only two remaining possibilities: (1) Catherine called her, or (2) she is the murderer. If Catherine had called her, she would have told Shooter that. That seems to leave her with only one way to know where Gus would be. She had to have set it up.
  6. But why would she set it up? Neither woman could have known that Shooter would be there at the Gus rendezvous. Gus swung by unannounced to pick him up. In fact, it was unlikely that Shooter would be there since (1) Shooter was on suspension; and (2) Gus did not call in advance to see if Shooter would be available. He just showed up. Since Shooter wasn't really in the mix, the entire purpose of the rendezvous had to be to kill Gus. Stone had planned just that in her novel, right down to the feet sticking from the elevator. On the other hand, Tripplehorn had no reason to kill Gus. She couldn't have done it to frame Stone, because she had no way to know about the scene in Catherine's unpublished novel.
  7. The final scene, the one after the blackout, is dumb. Stone must be the murderer, but she wouldn't kill Douglas with the ice pick again. That would screw up her alibi for all the other murders, which by then were believed to have been committed by the late Tripplehorn. She might kill Big Mike, but she'd have to find a new and more brilliant way to do it.
  8. Equally important, we actually see the murder in the first scene and there is no similarity between the body of Jeanne Tripplehorn and the murderer, so we already know it couldn't have been Tripplehorn in that scene. We are left with an impression that it might not have been Stone, because they obscured her face, but it surely wasn't Tripplehorn.

By the way, in the new DVD commentary, director Paul Verhoeven showed that he was no fool. He completely understood the logical flaws in the script, and even mentioned how hard it was for him and the actors to work around them. On the other hand, he was the man in charge. He could have made a few key changes. If I were re-cutting this, I would do the following:

1) eliminate the brief shot of Shooter reading the unpublished novel, which makes it clear that Catherine was the killer.

2) eliminate the single statement (in the epilogue) that Beth wasn't called by Gus, which implied that Beth was the killer.

3) eliminate the last-second shot of the ice pick. I would have stopped the camera's downward pan before revealing what was beneath. It's obvious that Catherine could not kill Shooter on that occasion, especially with her ice pick. How the hell could she explain that away? Beth is dead, so there would be nobody left to pin it on.

Just by cutting out those ten seconds or so, one might make the ending much more ambiguous and far less cheesy. Also, if one could re-shoot a few seconds, it would also be a good idea if Beth did not reach into her pocket. She's a trained psychologist facing someone with the crazy eyes, and since there is no gun there, she has no reason to reach down there other than because the plot requires it. Somebody should have found a more logical way for Shooter to off Beth.

Director Paul Verhoeven  is someone I always forget about I talk about the guys with the biggest gap between their best and worst movies.  (Did you know the guy who directed Patton also directed Yes, Georgio?) At his peak, Verhoeven directed respected films like "Soldaat van Oranje" and "De Vierde Man". In the middle he directed some of my favorite fun junk movies like "Starship Troopers", "Robocop" and "Total Recall". On the lower end, he directed "Showgirls". His range at IMDb is from 7.5 to 3.5. In all fairness, though, the direction of "Showgirls" is good. The visuals are often dazzling. The real culprit in "Showgirls" was the screenwriter. Can you guess who it was? None other than omnipresent Joe Eszterhas, who also wrote Basic Instinct. He also wrote the scripts for "Jade," "Sliver," and "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn." Not that a bad script really matters to "Basic Instinct." You don't watch this film to see the plot, let's face it. The plot is only the container for the worthwhile elements.. It's one of the five sexiest mainstream movies ever made. Sharon Stone is naked throughout. It has sex scenes that border on porn. It has the famous beaver scene. Who the hell cares about the silly plot, anyway?

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • unrated, uncut European version (aka "director's cut")

  • Full-length director/cinematographer commentary

  • full-length comment by post-feminist Camille Paglia

  • Making-of featurette

  • comparison of the theatrical dialogue to the TV version

Blu-Ray info from Amazon.

Same features.

In fact, it is a pretty good movie, although the plot isn't tight. It's a lot of fun to watch. The musical score works beautifully to enhance the tension. The performing is good. The sex scenes are hot. The photography is involving. The direction works very well to support the narrative. The characterizations are memorable. It had great mainstream appeal for such an explicit movie, and was a major hit as well as a much-discussed cultural phenomenon. It made Sharon Stone a star. Between the sex scenes and her leg-crossing scene, the film offers one of the most explicit exposures of a mainstream actress in the history of film.

Some years ago, we ran a poll to determine "the best movie with substantial nudity". My members voted for Basic Instinct. I cast my vote for A Clockwork Orange, but I was badly outvoted. I guess the wording of the poll was unclear. To determine my vote, I made a mental list of all the movies with substantial nudity, then picked the one I thought to be the best movie. I think most of the other guys thought, "Of all the movies that I like, which one has the best sex scenes?" Basic Instinct is certainly a good answer from that perspective.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Apollo 65, Maltin 3/4

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Forty five articles on file. 75% positive

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.8.
  • With their dollars ... it was a smash across the world. It took in $117 million in the USA, and $235 million overseas. It has generated another $50 million in rental income since going to video tape. The budget was $49 million.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. Despite the plot holes, it is probably the most popular erotic thriller of all time, and was a much-discussed cultural touchstone.

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