Video Review

Basic Instinct

If you saw Basic Instinct in theaters, you haven't seen anything yet. Here at last is the original, uncut version of the film the way director Paul Verhoeven intended it to be seen.'' That's what the box for the ''director's cut'' of Basic Instinct crows to potential viewers. Then, in a note from Verhoeven himself inside the box's unusual front flap, the director adds, ''This is the sexy, explicit movie that I set out to make.'' Wow! Can there really be more to the ice-pick epic featuring Sharon Stone as the underwearless wonder and Michael Douglas as the cop who becomes enslaved to her homicidal charms?

Yes: all of 42 seconds, which comprise the ''controversial footage cut from the theatrical release'' and make up this deluxe special edition. How did moviegoers ever live without them? And what are they, exactly? The precious seconds come from eight different edits made to get an R rating for theatrical release, and they include a few more stabbings in the opening murder, slightly rougher sex in another sequence, and three obvious moments of oral sex between Douglas and Stone in their big I-feel-the-earth-move sex scene.

How does this change the film that was shown in theaters? Not a bit. The pretentious label ''director's cut'' is little more than an opportunity for the makers and marketers of Basic Instinct to squeeze a little more money from the turnips foolish enough to pay yet another rental fee for — or, God forbid, buy — less than a minute more of the same old trash. Nowhere on the packaging does it say that extra movie footage amounts to just 42 seconds.

There is one more, equally specious, ''bonus'' in this presentation: a ''candid'' conversation with Verhoeven, tacked on after the film, in which he expresses such compelling thoughts as, ''She (Stone) makes him (Douglas) so crazy he loses it, kind of.'' Verhoeven proceeds to explain the movie, kind of, and is helped by real-people-like-you-and-me interviewees who have seen the film and know just how fabulous it is. One woman says she thought it ''tastefully done.'' A tasteful, blood-drenched thriller about an ice-pick-wielding murderess who has the habits of a mink.

Following a brief biography, Dutch-born Verhoeven (who also made Total Recall) talks about how ''inspiring'' it is to be living in America and making films here. Okay: Maybe it is inspiring to make a film, cut out 42 seconds, and then sell it again as a totally new experience. (Stone and Douglas show up very briefly to dispense a few pearls, such as Stone's ''I have to weave this web that he cannot pull himself out of.'')

No one has claimed — or would have the nerve to claim — that Basic Instinct is some big intellectual adventure, of course. But from the packaging and opening hype of this release, accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith's Second Coming score, viewers would think they're about to be in the presence of something new and profound, kind of. No such luck. The director's cut proves to be the unkindest of all — promising filet, delivering rump. Basic Instinct: B- This package: F

Originally posted Apr 09, 1993 Published in issue #165 Apr 09, 1993 Order article reprints
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