Episode 6: Basic Instinks

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In this episode Chris and Allen uncross their legs and ogle a sexy pair of Basic Instincts.

The controversial 1992 original overcame negative reviews and public protest upon its release to become the forth highest grossing film of that year, taking a whopping $352.9 million against a $49 million budget. The sequel came more than a decade later, having been stuck in development hell and mired in a $100 million lawsuit- filed then dropped by Stone. After a run of flops, beginning with Gloria (1999) Stone kept pushing for the sequel in hopes that it would reverse her box office decline. Like its predecessor Basic Instinct 2 was met by negative critical reviews upon release but the zeitgeist the original was part of had gone the way of the VCR by 2006, and the film grossed just $38.6 million against a $70 million budget. Rotten Tomatoes ranks Basic Instinct 2 at number 89 on the 100 Worst Reviewed Movies of the 2000’s. It won four Razzies at the 27th Golden Raspberry Awards including worst on-screen couple for “Stone’s lopsided breasts!”.

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The Movies:

Both films star Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell a brilliant, bi-sexual, crime novelist who seems to thrill in manipulating the people around her. In the first film she is investigated by the San Fransisco Police in connection with the death of aging rock star Johnny Boz, due to similarities between his murder, by ice pick, and the plot of one of her novels. Tramell takes an unusual interest in damaged Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) as she lures him back to old bad habits and deeper and deeper into a deadly cat and mouse game. (This movie is so clever, because she is literally the cat. Cat/ Catherine! geddit? Yeah that clever!)

When she returns for the sequel Tramell is now the black widow who devours her mates, as everyone she has a tryst with seems to die. Because the film backers were European we now find Stone in London being fingered for the death of her footballer boyfriend (actual ex-player Stan Collymore). This time, however, the police seem to have a vendetta against her and bring in a psychologist to help get the conviction they want. Enter Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey, and Glass because it’s transparent and fragile FFS!) a control freak who is immediately drawn into her web of seduction. Losing himself and his mind as he mentally jousts with the brazenly sexy and manipulative femme fatal.

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Did She or Didn’t She?

Sharon Stone became a bone fide superstar after her performance in Basic Instinct. Hosting Saturday Night Live, listed as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World by People Magazine,  a cameo as Tramell in Last Action Hero (1993) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 were just a few of her highlights. Not bad for an actress who a decade before was slogging it through Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessings, both of Cannon’s Allan Quatermain films and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.

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Last Action Hero, 1993

The infamous scene which defined the movie, and to a degree Stone’s post Basic Instinct career, is reputedly the most paused scene in home video history. It’s now so iconic that it has been parodied everywhere The Simpsons (naturally), SNL, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 and most recently  by James Cordon, ably assisted by a game Michael Douglas.

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Regarding the filming of the scene itself Stone claims that although she had been involved in discussion with the director she was unaware that the shot would be so explicit, leading to her slapping director Paul Verhoeven in the face after a test screening. For his part Verhoeven says Stone was fully complicit and denies all claims of trickery in achieving the shot. This version is also backed up by Basic Instinct screenwriter, and personal friend of the actress, Joe Eszterhas who, in his memoir, states Stone was fully aware of the level of nudity involved for the scene.

The image is used and alluded to in posters and artwork for both films, there is also a more restrained call back in a scene in the sequel. Or is director Michael Caton-Jones riffing on his own movies with a lift from Scandal?

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Kiss My Ice Pick:

Of course any film that presents sex and violence so graphically would generate moral outrage of some sort. Basic Instinct managed to go further with its depiction of homosexual and bisexual characters as psychotic villains causing outrage in the gay community, particularly in San Fransisco  where the film was set. Gay rights activists protested the film during it principle photography and held further demonstrations outside cinemas with signs reading “Hollywood Promotes Anti-Gay Violence” and (spoilers!) “Save Your Money The Bi-Sexual Did It!”.

Screen writer Eszterhas would also later apologize for Basic Instinct’s role in glamorizing smoking.

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The sequel added “neck belts” to the acrobatic sex play.

Michael Douglas for his part was in the midst of a successful run of movies that can be seen as anti-female. Most male stars of the period were in movies where getting the girl solved their problems, Douglas seemed to flip this in roles where women equal problems. Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Disclosure.

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Equal opportunities nudity in Basic Instinct 1992.

The home video market and chains of video rental stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video played their role in the golden age of erotic cinema of the 1990’s. These larger chain retailers would not stock pornographic films, however the need for adult entertainment naturally led to the rise in direct to video features, most starring future Mrs Gene “Kiss” Simmons Shannon Tweed. Once film producers took note that cheaply made features like Night Eyes (1990) could be made for less than a million dollars and bring in almost $30 million in video sales larger studios began to produce “upscale” erotic thrillers and mainstream audiences couldn’t get enough of them. Of course by 2006 and a world of dating apps and instant porn have forever changed how people get their kicks.

All In The Mind:

British film critic Mark Kermode was one of few reviewers to give Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction a positive review. Saying, as high praise, “it is top quality trash of the highest order”. His opinion is that it was intentionally poking fun at itself and the audience. Clearly, not liking this film comes down to not being au fait with the trappings of the erotic thriller genre. However it seems that few other were in on the joke like he was. Leonard Maltin is less favorable conceding at least that “it isn’t the embarrassment you might have expected- or hoped for”.  Most critics opined that Verhoeven’s stylish and sexually bombastic original had been replaced with stupefyingly ludicrous psychobabble! In broad terms the sequel is simply a dull, long delayed, retread of the original. Less high camp and more plodding psycho-sexual thriller. In the age of internet porn and (s)exposition event television like Game of Thrones this overdue, and over ripe, Basic Instinct follow up packs none of the punch of it’s blockbusting noir inspired predecessor. At the climax the plot strays into unreliable narrator territory in the framing of Morrissey’s character. Which is so bonkers it makes the finale of St Elsewhere seem realistic by comparison. Even taken as a stand alone film Basic Instinct 2 fails to make any sense.

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Coming Soon:

Next up we put a banana in the tailpipe of Eddie Murphy’s last outing as Axel Foley as we discuss why the heat went off!

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All clips in the episode are used under Fair Use for the purposes of criticism and are not intended to diminish the original works or limit the ability of the copyright owners to market or sell their product.

How did we do? Did we miss something, get something wrong or is there a franchise you’d like us to cover? Let us know. Comment below or email diminishingpod@gmail.com

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