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Basic Instinct

I was curious as to why Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992) did not make the list of 10 great sex movies I cited recently and watched it again in case I missed something.

The scene where Sharon Stone as writer Katherine Tremell, whilst interrogated at the San Francisco Police Dept, crosses and uncrosses her legs to reveal no knickers is often mentioned in erotic dispatches.

It’s a murder film about a manipulative pyschotic woman who controls through her sexuality.

The sex scenes – particularly that between cop Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) and his psychiatrist/counsellor are brutal and borderline rape.

Dutch director Paiul Verhoeven is usually high in the pube count.

His earlier Dutch war films like Soldier of Orange deservedly won him a reputation for fast-moving movies with plenty of action, steamy sex and plot twist. He had 3 major successes in Hollywood with Basic Instinct, which grossed $100m, Total Recall and Robocop.

As with many a Hollywood sex symbol, Sharon Stone off screen had considerable intelligence, an IQ of 154 and an early admission to state college in her past. You feel she was sufficiently intelligent to play the system but after this was inevitably type-cast. However most people, including actors, are – if they are honest – in it for the money. Jane Russell, Hedly Lamarr, Jacqueline Bisset and Claudette Colbert are other examples of actresses of considerable intelligence -and in the last two cases – financial acumen.

I often speculate in a sex scene how much the director influences, or is being voyeuristic, how the actors perform so close to camera and where acting ends and porn begins.

The answer to the last of these is, as with horror films, that the impact is made greater by concealment than revelation. In that famous sequence of Sharon Stone crossing and uncrossing her shapely tanned legs in a white dress you don’t actually see it.

Films are derivative, which is another way of saying cribbed. I can think of three better films made in San Francisco on a similar theme.

The first Bullitt had a better car chase and a more convincing detective in Steve McQueen.

The second Play Misty for Me had a finer portrayal of a psychotic and an almost identical slaying of a cop.

The third – the all time classic Vertigo – had the mysterious blonde perplexing James Stewart.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts