Basic Instinct: Unrated Director's Cut [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (2nd July 2007).
The Film

"Basic Instinct", what can one say about this now infamous film? A film that caused many videotapes to be worn down for brief seconds during that famous interrogation scene as adolescent boys paused to get a better look...a film that stirred up a decent amount of controversy for it's themes and tone as well as it's sexual content and portrayal of homosexuals, a film that virtually launched Sharon Stone's career and revived Michael Douglas' after a string of flops. "Basic Instinct" is still as shocking and erotic as ever, 15-years after its original release. That's a rare thing.
Once upon a time screenwriter Joe Eszterhas sold his erotic thriller script for a then astonishing $3 million (this was back in 1989, to put into context most screenwriters get paid around $1 million for their efforts and that's the top crop of writers). The film was developed for the better part of the 80's but finally saw production under Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven had made a splash with his ultra violent sci-fi films such as "Rococop" (1987) and "Total Recall" (1990), he's also a filmmaker that's used to controversy and "Basic Instinct" would be his Hitchcockian masterpiece. In fact there are many references to "Vertigo" (1958) especially in regards to the costumes Stone wears and also in Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar nominated score.
The plot is decisively simple: "Basic Instinct" tells the story of novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) who is suspected of murder and is under investigation by Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas). Tramell, a manipulative and seductive woman seduces Curran and an affair ensues amid a backdrop of deception and murder. Despite this simple premise it's the film's style and execution that pays off in the end. Verhoeven is not afraid of taking the film's themes of seduction and manipulation to the extreme, Stone's performance is pitch-perfect as the vixen Tramell. She's a powerful screen presence and simply radiates off the screen. Matched by Douglas' understated turn as Curran these two actors play off each other in a cat-and-mouse fashion that is simply exciting to watch as director Verhoeven has crafted an impressive piece of thriller cinema. The impact of which, has spawned many copy-cats over the years and has been vastly parodied in almost every medium. The great thing about a movie like this is that it inspires conversation among its viewers, whether in relations to the overt and explicit sexual nature of the film or it's ending which leaves viewers guessing as to who the killer is (although in press interviews during the film's release the cast and crew did in fact explain the ending in a clear cut fashion erasing almost any doubt as to who the killer could be).
In many ways this film was probably a jumping off point in terms of how far Verhoeven and Eszterhas could take things, culminating in 1995's embarrassing-for-all-involved "Showgirls". The film's infamous "beaver" shot stirred up even more controversy when Stone herself admitted that she had no knowledge that the director was doing until she saw the dailies...this of course has been in debate for years now only adding to the film's overall hype and legend.
"Basic Instinct" is a solid erotic-crime-thriller, Verhoeven has integrated a stylish flare to the film that helps create the desired atmosphere, combined with Goldsmith's seductive score and Jan de Bont's photography and matched with the electric performances from the film's two leads delivers a memorable film experience, even though some elements may appear cheesy by today's standards.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this high-definition transfer is presented in full 1080p at 24/fps and has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The previous DVD releases for this film haven't been all that impressive and I wasn't expecting much from this Blu-ray release, and as far as high-definition titles go this one won't be winning any awards but it's a step up from previous releases. The overall image isn't as sharp as I'd like them to be, I also found the overall image a bit flat which is a shame considering this film is visually impressive from production design to the lighting and photography and should be displayed to its full potential. Colors don't appear as vivid as they could be, although blues do pop and blacks are moderately deep but could be truer. Overall I'm not impressed with this transfer but unfortunately it's the best one we've had to date.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 encoded at 1.5 Mbps, as well as a standard English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD track. My current home theater set up can decode DTS-ES tracks but not HD tracks however the HD tracks are backwards compatible and although I cannot listen to them to full capacity the DTS track still holds up. This track is a noticeable improvement over the standard Dolby Digital track, mainly with improved ambient noise and the score's impact is felt with much more presence. The result is a more robust audio experience, with other areas such as dialogue and direction surrounds remain solid. It's not the most aggressive or dynamic track I've heard but it's a damn good one.
Optional subtitles are also included in English and Spanish.

Extras

Lionsgate has included virtually all the extras from previous DVD releases of this film, which includes two audio commentaries, two featurettes, a storyboard comparison, screen tests and the film's original theatrical trailer. Below is closer look at these supplements.

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Paul Verhoeven and director of photography Jan de Bont. Most who are familiar with Verhoeven will know that he is has a rather larger-than-life personality and that certainly comes out in this track. The director tackles all manner or subject relating to the film, its reception and also gives up a few titbits here and there. Primarily he's quite vocal about how much he loves sex and the sexual nature of the film, he comments on his Hitchcock influence primarily with "Vertigo" as well as commenting on shooting the famous scene, shooting sex scenes and dealing with these two actors among other things. De Bont occasionally chimes in about the photography and lighting, creating mood and atmosphere but this is really Verhoeven's track as he commands from start to finish with his over-the-top attitude, it's a fun track that fans of the film should check out, that is if you already haven't from the DVD release...

The second audio commentary also makes it's appearance ported over from the previous DVD release and is by feministic critic Camille Paglia who deconstructs the film and its main character, mainly commenting on the strengths of the character and the portrayal from Stone as the 90's femme fatale. Paglia comes across just as crazy as Verhoeven in their devotion and excitement for the film, the premise, the tone and characters especially that of Catherine Tramell. It's an equally good track to listen to and probably one of the best ideas for an extra feature.

The major video extra is "Blond Poison: The Making of Basic Instinct", this featurette runs for 24 minutes 18 seconds, and takes a look at the making of the film but mainly probes the controversy surround it and the problems the filmmakers faced while filming. This clip has been recycled through the various different releases that this film has had over the years and unfortunately feels rather vintage, it would have been great if Lionsgate took the effort in producing some new extras but alas we are stuck with the same old stuff we've seen before.

A series of three storyboard comparisons are included for:

- "Love Scene" which runs for 3 minutes 28 seconds.
- "Car Chase" which runs for 1 minute 14 seconds.
- "Elevator Murder" which runs for 2 minutes 46 seconds.

These comparisons include the original storyboards along with the scenes form the film and is cut to music from the film. This feature allows the view to see what was planned and how it eventually came out, as there some minor difference between the boards and the final footage although for the most these scenes turned out close to what was planned. It's a shame that these clips don't include an optional commentary as further insight from the director would have been valuable.

Next is "Cleaning Up Basic Instinct" a featurette which runs for 4 minutes 45 seconds and is a brief look at how the film was cleaned-up for network television. It shows comparisons between what was seen (or mainly heard) in the theatrical version versus the television version to often humorous effect.

Also included on the disc are the original screen tests for both Jeanne Tripplehorn which runs for 3 minutes 1 second as well as for Sharon Stone which runs for 5 minutes 51 seconds. Both clips are pretty rough since they were shot on a VHS tape format back in 1991.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes and is in fairly terrible condition.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: B-

 


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