Basic Instinct

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Amber Wilkinson's film review of Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct

Momentum Pictures has gone to town on the production of this disc and its efforts have paid off. The print is crisp and clear with no scratches or graining and the soundtrack brings out the best of Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful, haunting score. The packaging is good too, with excellent animated menus. The scene selection lets the side down, however, as it doesn't feature a picture still from each scene, making the film hard to navigate unless you can guess what part of the movie phrases like 'Love Hurts' and 'Deadly Jealousy' refer to.

The audio commentaries are a great addition, with the feminist critique by Camille Paglia being particularly innovative. Verhoeven and De Bont, who was responsible for the cinematography, are a joy to listen to. Seamlessly, they discuss the film, the characters and how they constructed many of the shots, particularly with reference to their use of lighting and Verhoeven's homage to Hitchcock without getting too technical, or too boring. They are evidently pleased with their work, but keen to convey the complexity of it to a wider audience without recourse to technobabble. Verhoeven is unintentionally amusing from time to time, especially when he describes the Tripplehorn/Douglas violent sex scene as "erotic". Er, yes, Paul, maybe in the Netherlands...

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Camille Paglia's contribution is both informative and something of a hoot. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, since she was obviously paid for her opinions, this is one of her "favourite" movies. She draws parallels with a raft of Hitchcock films and takes us through what she views as a dichotomy between male-dominated and female-dominated scenes in the movie. If you can manage to take her occasional references to houses looking like "wombs nestling in the woods", this is genuinely engaging.

The only downside to both of the commentaries is that the original track of the film is incredibly muted under them. This is fine when the commentators are making their observations, but in the lulls it makes it difficult to follow, unless you have a volume control handy - quite a basic mistake.

Disc 2 doesn't disappoint either. Blonde Poison, in particular, is an interesting extra and was made specifically for this anniversary edition. It features Verhoeven and De Bont, along with sundry other crew members and Jerry Goldsmith, discussing the difficulties of shooting the film in the face of such animosity from the San Francisco gay community. Interestingly, people from the gay groups get their say, too, making for a fully-rounded picture of the time of the film's conception. The only downside of Blonde Poison is that it contains little from the actors - there is only one small snippet of Douglas taken from a 1991 interview - and is perhaps a little short at 30 minutes. It would have been interesting to know what Douglas and Stone made of the furore but, perhaps, they just don't want to discuss it.

The Featurette, however, does give you a chance to see what the main protagonists thought, albeit dating from the time of the movie. It is interesting, but brief.

Cleaning Up Basic Instinct gets my vote for an amusing extra, as it is a montage comparing the original film with the sanitised alternative used for TV. So, we get Gus describing Curran as an SOB on film, which becomes curiously translated to "son of a buck" in the televised version. If the choice of replacement words is not humourous enough then the dodgy voice doubles are certain to raise a smile. I've never come across this type of extra before, but, on the strength of this, they should make it a regular feature.

Many of the remaining extras on the disc are more standard fare. There are the inevitable trailers and teasers - interesting to see that we didn't give away huge chunks of our thriller plots back then - and photo gallery. The latter is just a straightforward collection of onset snaps, without the benefit of background music. The storyboards are interesting enough, if you like that kind of thing, but the film comparison is confined to a small corner of the storyboard making it difficult to make out unless your television is huge.

My favourite extra has to be the original screen tests with Stone and Tripplehorn. Not only is it interesting to see them both without the benefit of four hours in make-up - sadly, ladies, Stone still looks gorgeous - it is also fascinating to see them acting "in the raw". The snippets here serve to reinforce the fact that Stone is a blindingly good actress. Shame she hasn't done a lot more. Tripplehorn comes across as being not so good initially, but perhaps that gives hope to all would-be starlets out there.

All in all, this is a thoughtfully constructed disc, which genuinely offers the viewer something in addition to the original film. Recommended.

Reviewed on: 12 May 2002
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Basic Instinct packshot
A cop has a dangerous liaison with a suspected murderess.
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Region: 2

Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen

Sound: 5.1 Dolby Digital

Extras: Scene Selection; Commentary by Paul Verhoeven and Jan De Bont; Commentary by Camille Paglia; Blonde Poison - the Making of Basic Instinct; Cleaning up Basic Instinct featurette; Photo Gallery; Storyboard comparisons; Original screen tests; Trailer.

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