Fatal Instinct (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Genre spoofs were quite popular in the 80s. In the period from 1980-1991, the Zucker-Zucker-Abrahams group turned on parodies of police dramas (Naked Gun), spy stories (Top Secret), disaster movies (Airplane), and war films (Hot Shots).

Carl Reiner felt he could make a solid entry into the lucrative genre. After all, didn't his best friend Mel Brooks virtually invent genre spoofs with Blazing Saddles? The question was - what genre was left to to satirize? One of the most popular and lucrative cinema trends in the 80s and early 90s involved the rebirth of the "erotic thriller." The basic idea had been popular back in the 1940s, when several films featured a wily dame who would use her sexual appeal to manipulate some poor sap into a criminal action which would benefit her, inevitably followed by the femme fatale disappearing to let the patsy take the rap. The genre's renaissance in the 1980s featured the same old conniving schemes and sassy dialogue from the 40s, but in the permissive 1980s filmmakers could couple the sexual tease with sexual delivery as well, and the combination proved to be box office dynamite for the earliest and best entries into the marketplace: Body Heat, Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction, for example. Reiner's Fatal Instinct is a parody of those three films, as well as Cape Fear, Chinatown, Sleeping with the Enemy, and the mother of them all, Double Indemnity.

The critics really didn't care for Fatal Instinct. I think it is an OK movie, but it could have been much better. The actors all perform in an old-fashioned, overwrought "can't you see I'm kidding" style, replete with funny faces and slapstick, and that stepped on some of the best material. I think it would have worked better if they had kept the lines and situations just as silly, but had acted in a completely believable way, as if the film were a legitimate drama. The star, Armand Assante, is not Leslie Nielsen in the comedy department, but is quite a good serious actor and might have delivered a hilarious performance if Reiner had said to him "Armand, don't try to be funny. Don't Mug. Don't act so big. Just act the scene for real and let the lines do their job."

The deleted scenes reveal some interesting trivia:
  • Dudley Moore was originally in the film as the mother of the bad guy who was based on the Cape Fear character.
  • The film was originally called "Triple Indemnity".
  • There was originally a scene making fun of Silence of the Lambs.
  • There was a silly scene in which Assante, who was both the arresting officer and the defense attorney of the accused murderess, was questioning her in one voice, then advising her not to answer in another. Cutting this was definitely the correct move.

The DVD is a mixed bag. It is great to see an older small-release film with ten sections of deleted footage, including one scene which is four minutes long, and it's always fun to hear commentary by Carl Reiner, who directed. Those are some good plusses. On the other hand, there's no theatrical widesceen version of the film itself. The only place where you can see the theatrical aspect ratio is in some of the deleted scenes!


DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director and writer

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • Deleted scenes and outtakes

  • Full-screen format



None, but Sean Young is seen in see-through panties, and various sexy cheesecake shots.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 1.5/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • Box office $8 million


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even 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. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). 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. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Kind of a minimally acceptable genre spoof. Not bad, some good moments, but not consistently funny, and some of the humor is at the level of a grade school playground.

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