Sliver (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Tuna's notes

Sliver (1993) is a Sharon Stone thriller which also stars Tom Berenger, William Baldwin and Polly Walker. All four were nominated for Razzies. The unrated version supposedly has four additional minutes of sex, but the running times are the same for both versions. This time, I did find dark Sharon Stone nudity (breasts and buns) and a couple of fairly hot sex scenes. The film also played better than I remember it, and the identity of the killer was in doubt until the ending.

Stone is a book editor, and moves into the swanky Sliver building, a very up-scale apartment building. Two tenants, Baldwin and Berenger, start hitting on her immediately. She ends up with Baldwin, who turns out to own the building, and to have every room in the building bugged with sound and video. His first gift to her is a telescope, which she immediately uses to spy on other buildings, assuring him that he has found his soul mate. Stone learns that the girl in the apartment before her looked like her, and fell to her death from the window. When other tenants are murdered, she is unsure if it is Berenger or Baldwin.

Razzie nominations for all of the acting positions, screenplay and director are not indicative of a great film. The nudity helped maintain interest, but it was back-lit and not easy to see.

  • There is a good widescreen anamorphic transfer.
  • And absolutely nothing else, not even a trailer.


Sharon Stone shows her breasts and bum in dark sex and apres-sex scenes

William Baldwin shows his butt in two sex scenes.

There is nudity from various men and women on the TV screens which Baldwin watches in his secret lair. This includes full frontal male and female nudity. Most are anonymous. The most identifiable are frontal nudity in a sex scene from Allison Mackie, and a rear end from 70 year old Keene Curtis.

Polly Walker shows only the side of her hips in her sex scene.

DVD Book Book

Scoop's notes


Although the original source material is a novel by Ira Levin (Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Boys From Brazil), Sliver is a Joe Eszterhas script and it adheres to his most successful formula, in which the protagonist wonders whether he/she is being paranoid in thinking his/her lover may be a killer. In the process of creating a film from Levin's book, several things went wrong, and the final script ended up as a jumbled mess. First of all, Levin's book is really about the relationship of the book editor and the evil mastermind who owns and runs the building (the Stone and Baldwin characters, respectively). The owner not only runs the building, but uses a high-tech system to watch and manipulate the lives of his tenants. The Tom Berenger character, an impotent author who lives in the building, was not even in the book and existed in the film script merely to add a red herring, somebody else who might have committed the murders, thus adding some suspense and a bit of tenuous logic to explain why Stone did not leave Baldwin as soon as she found out that he was watching and taping every apartment. ("Oh, sure, he's a pervert with a God complex, but the other guy is the murderer, right?") The fact that the script uses the author character (Berenger) for that purpose is not so bad, ipso facto. It's just one of those devices normally used by screenwriters when adapting and simplifying a convoluted print source. The film's real problem was created when test audiences didn't like the movie's original ending, in which the mastermind was finally revealed to be an evil mastermind. The studio suits overreacted, Mr. Eszterhas was told to write some alternative endings, and the legend is that he completed five fully scripted endings in one long weekend of work. Irrespective of the truth of that legend, the final theatrical version promoted the impotent writer from insignificant red herring to killer, but by doing so it introduced several contradictions in the film's internal logic:

1. The film's first victim and Sharon Stone were both chosen as tenants by the building's owner because they looked like his mother, a semi-famous actress. It would make sense for him to be obsessed with the women, but does not make sense for the author, who had no particular connection with either of them.

2. Stone finds some hidden tapes in which the building's owner is having sex with two of the prior victims, despite his vigorous protestations to the contrary. This was obviously the logical prelude to his revelation as the killer. Except that he wasn't the killer after re-writes. He was just sexually exploiting the women who were killed, and lying to Stone about it. It's just a coincidence that they were killed!

3. In the final cut of the film, we find out that Berenger is the killer because Baldwin has the first murder on one of the hidden tapes, including a conveniently clear view of Berenger's face! But if Baldwin is not the killer, why did he hide a tape proving that someone else committed the murder? Obviously, all of that set-up was written with the assumption that Stone would find the hidden tape, and it would prove that Baldwin was the murderer. In that scenario, the denouement would include her effort to inform the outside world before he could kill her. When the ending was changed to make Berenger the killer, Baldwin's prior actions made no sense.

4. The murderer wore a hood to commit the first murder - indoors; in a locked apartment; with no witnesses. Since there was no reason to hide his identity from the victim, the only possible reason for the hood would be to hide his face from the surveillance cameras. That made perfect sense in the original script when Baldwin (who knew of the cameras) was the murderer, but Berenger didn't know about the cameras, so why would he be wearing the hood?

5. Polly Walker (playing another victim who lived in the building) was killed by someone who knew she was in the stairwell at a time which could not have been predicted because it was prompted by a temporary short in the building's power supply. The building owner (Baldwin) could have known she was there because of his video hook-ups. He could have been there, waiting for her, ready to kill her. On the other hand, the author (Berenger) could not have been there waiting for her, because he had no way to know she was there or would soon be there. Only the guy with the magical omniscient video connection could know that, and therefore had to be the murderer.

I have written some unkind words about some of Eszterhas's other scripts, but he's off the hook on this one. One cannot fault Eszterhas for the problems caused by the re-write. He had written all the clues correctly in the first place, and every one of them pointed to Baldwin. Before the marketing guys got involved, director Philip Noyce had shot the original Eszterhas script shot-for-shot, word-for-word. Unfortunately, Noyce and Eszterhas were told at the eleventh hour to change the ending. Given that mandate, it would not have been possible to alter every previous event which proved that the other guy did it unless the entire film had been re-written from scratch, but that possibility was considered to be off the table because an entire film was already in the can!  Eszterhas did some re-writes, and there were some re-shoots to make some previous events match the revised ending, but Eszterhas was not given the latitude to re-write the entire film from scratch, so he had to cobble the details together as best he could. The result was a mess, but not one of his making. A complex murder mystery is created by an author who creates every scene knowing the solution and the details which are hidden from the reader. The solution hinges on all of the details, and all of the details hinge in turn on the fact that "x" is the correct solution. One cannot simply change the answer without changing the question.


1. The book has a very strong Oedipal theme, which was glossed over in the final version of the film. Not only is the evil mastermind obsessed with women who resemble his mother, but he ends up with his eyes gouged out, just like Oedipus! This is particularly appropriate since he spent all of his life staring at his surveillance monitors.

2. The movie has one of the worst endings ever. The book, on the other hand, has a very cool ending. After the killer is hauled off, still alive but sightless, the video room is sealed off by police tape, but the Sharon Stone character still has her key to the room, and she can't resist watching the hidden camera dramas! I tried to find a copy of Eszterhaz's original script to see whether he had incorporated this ending into his screenplay, but I wasn't able to find it.


The film had some potential to be both a thriller and a reflection on the loss of privacy in the modern high-tech world. Indeed, in its obsession with watching other people's lives, it foreshadowed the era of reality TV, especially Big Brother. Unfortunately, the final cut failed on both counts. The thriller part was spoiled by the re-writes, and the reflections on society resulted in some boring sequences in which Stone and/or Baldwin eavesdropped on the soap opera lives of random people for what seemed like interminable periods, thus making the plot not only illogical, but often unfocused and boring as well. I was watching with others, and the words, "Jeez this is boring" were heard frequently - the kiss of death for a "thriller."

"But it is not just a thriller, but an erotic thriller," you are thinking, "perhaps the erotic elements picked up the ball when the thriller elements fumbled it?" Unfortunately not. Given the re-teaming of Eszterhas and Stone from the highly successful Basic Instinct, it was not unexpected that critics compared the eroticism in the two films, and Sliver tended to suffer in that comparison for a few reasons:

1. Sharon Stone is much more effective as the cold, calculating, sexually omnivorous killer in Basic Instinct than she is as the vulnerable, sexually repressed housewife in Sliver.

2. Basic Instinct came first, and in many ways Sliver tends to seem like a "me, too" effort.

3. Basic Instinct is filled with really hot sex scenes and plenty of clear nudity. The sex in Sliver is not as hot, not as prolific, and is either very dark or seen on a black and white TV screen within the film. The oblique, dark approach was taken out of necessity because Sharon Stone had gotten out of shape. Producer Robert Evans noted, after viewing the dailies, "You can't even shoot her ass anymore. It's too spongy. She's over already. Who'd want to fuck her anymore? Who's gonna buy their popcorn and come watching her?" He wasn't the only one aware of Sharon's flabby bum. Stone herself told Joe Eszterhas, "My ass hangs halfway to my knees. I'm pushing forty. Why didn't you write this script twenty years ago?" These two collages from Silver (1, 2) illustrate the problems Sharon was then having with her behind. (The quotes come from Eszterhaz's tell-all, Hollywood Animal, pages 338-341 in the hardcover edition, which is linked above.)

By the way, there is a good reason why the R-rated and unrated versions of this film have the same running length. They both include the exact same footage! The difference between them is that four minutes of the R-rated version have been pan-'n-scanned to obscure particularly graphic nudity and/or sexual activity. For example, the scene where Stone sits on Baldwin's lap is seen in its entirety in the unrated version, but is cropped to "head & shoulder" action in the R version. (In this particular example, neither version has any nudity.)

Bottom line: Sliver does not cut the mustard as a thriller, as a comment on the decline of privacy, or as erotica. It deserved those Razzie nominations.

The Critics Vote ...

  • It was nominated for seven Razzies, but won none.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. Despite a harsh reception from the critics, Sliver did moderately well at the domestic box office ($36m) and quite well overseas ($80m).
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, or a C- from our system. 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 a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our 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. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. 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-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • 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 C- (Tuna) or D (Scoop). Tuna feels that it is a barely watchable thriller. Scoop feels that appraisal is too generous, and that Sliver is basically illogical, sometimes boring, and not very sexy.

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