Basic Instinct

Basic Instinct (1992)
Studio Canal
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dorothy Malone
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

Director Paul Verhoeven successfully weaves perverse sexuality and erotic bloodshed in the shockingly daring and original "Basic Instinct". Stirring up quite the amount of controversy within the gay community of San Francisco during it's 1992 release, "Basic Instinct" centers itself around a string of brutal murders that may or may not have been committed by beautiful and successful bisexual mystery writer, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone).

When retired rock and roll star and nightclub owner Johnny Boz (Bill Cable)winds up on the receiving end of an ice pick attack during an intimate encounter, Investigating detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) finds himself intrigued and seduced by possible suspect Catherine Tramell. Balancing a complicated relationship between his police psychiatrist Beth Gardner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) while transfixed by Catherine's veiled world of sexual exploration, Nick learns that he too has become a subject for one of Catherine's upcoming novels. With sex and intrigue clouding is judgment, Nick must navigate the murders that continue to mount as he too may fall victim to the mayhem.

Director Paul Verhoeven delivers a slight European feel to "Basic Instinct" that appears somewhat reminiscent to his other bedroom thriller, "De Vierde Man" (or "The 4th Man"). Featuring good supporting performances from George Dzundza, Denis Arndt and Dorothy Malone and featuring the original Academy Award nominated music from composer Jerry Goldsmith, this Joe Eszterhas penned thriller is a must see!

Now we all know that "Basic Instinct" easily falls into the "guilty pleasure" realm of films that, for whatever reason, we take pleasure in watching over and over again without ever growing tired of the material. From discerning film buffs to the casual movie fan, we all have at least one of these films that come to mind whenever the discussion presents itself. Sure people mock the infamous interrogation scene and dialogue and situations that could only be dreamed up by one of Hollywood's notoriously shunned writers, Joe Eszterhas (who is also responsible for such creations as "Jade", "Showgirls", "Sliver" and more notably, "Jagged Edge"). So I hereby confess, "Basic Instinct" is my all-time favorite guilty pleasure!

Stepping into HD DVD allows film fans to collect movies from other countries without the worry of strict region coding, something that we are all too familiar with on Standard-Definition DVD. Unlike DVD, there is no need to purchase a separate "region free" player to enjoy HD DVDs from around the globe as the players and software accommodate each other without region code restrictions. Since "Basic Instinct" was only available in France and released by Studio Canal, I decided to import this title to add to my growing High-Definition collection.

Studio Canal presents "Basic Instinct" in it's Worldwide HD DVD debut in a masterful 1080p High-Definition wide screen presentation. This HD DVD also offers the extended unrated cut that highlights a little more blood and gore during the opening ice pick scene as well as a few more "skin shots" to heighten the films naughty attraction. A rich black level provides a good balance between sharp contrast and defined shadow delineation. The gorgeous color saturation provides for some fantastic visuals, while offering naturally appearing flesh tones that remain accurate in reproduction throughout the film. One beautiful example of increased depth of field in this High-Definition presentation is during the first scene at Catherine Tramell's beach house. From the fine detailing of single strands of hair and skin pores to the mist created from the crashing waves on the rocky beach below, I was in complete awe. This presentation includes a wealth of illustrations where you begin to realize that "Basic Instinct" has never looked so good on any other home video format, period. The transfer also arrives on HD DVD free and clear of excessive dust and/or dirt elements that plagued the unfortunately muddy appearance of the previous Standard-Definition DVD release(s). Overall this is a fantastic premiere for "Basic Instinct" on HD DVD.

Before I move into the sound portion of my review, there is something that has surfaced and needs to be fairly addressed. There have been reports that this HD DVD of "Basic Instinct" (as well as a few other select titles from Studio Canal) are affected by a 4% PAL speedup problem. This is something that can occur during the transferring of a film to a video format. When this happens, the title in question tends to playback with a very slight pitch problem. The symptom appears as a slight "boost" in the "highs" during the exhibition of the sound track. Technically speaking, this equals a rise in pitch of 2/3 of one semitone. To be perfectly clear here, this affects the audio portion only, the video presentation is completely unaffected. While I admit to noticing the pitch problem, I don't believe that the fan forum uproar that has sprouted on the Internet is truly necessary.

Some may go on to suggest that I am not hearing the audible difference because I don't know the sound of the film, especially where the music is concerned. I might add that "Basic Instinct" has been a favorite of mine for a long, long time. From theatrical exhibitions, VHS, Laser disc and an assortment of DVD editions, to this recent HD DVD, I have seen and heard it all. I also own and completely adore the entire "Basic Instinct" musical score on CD, and yes I do know a thing or two about the dynamics of sound reproduction.

All in all, it will solely rest upon you, the viewer, who will best decide for yourself whether the sound is partially flawed or not. I for one think that this issue has been blown way out of proportion and may unfortunately keep some fans from experiencing a truly great High-Definition presentation of "Basic Instinct" on HD DVD.

"Basic Instinct" comes to HD DVD with the original English sound track, this time presented in a full blown DTS-HD Master Audio mix! Unfortunately at the time of writing this review, I was unable to tap into the full bit-for-bit lossless audio portion of the sound track. If you can access it through your current home theater set-up, you will be treated to a full 18 Mbps audio data transfer rate (DTS-HD Master Audio is capable of providing up to 24.5 Mbps, but the HD DVD spec allows for a more than commendable 18 Mbps) I will tell you that the increased data rates of the High-Resolution portion of the sound track (similar in comparison to Dolby Digital Plus) provided a clean and crisp audio presentation. Utilizing your Optical or Coaxial audio connection in your home theater receiver still provides you with a DTS-HD High-Resolution experience that falls somewhere in-between traditional DTS and the full lossless DTS-HD Master Audio.

Showcasing naturally reproduced vocals and a brilliant rendering of the masterful Jerry Goldsmith original score, I was rather impressed to hear some of the best that High-Definition audio has to offer. All available channels are utilized appropriately and the vocals remain accurately localized within the center channel. As with any successful sound mix, the LFE or Low Frequency Effects is allocated respectfully to compliment heightened action and suspense sequences.

If you enjoyed the added value materials of the previous DVD Special Editions of "Basic Instinct", you will still need to hang onto those previous copies of the film as there are no added special features on this HD DVD. The only bonus materials included are; the original theatrical trailer and an audio / video calibration feature.

With the somewhat minor audio issue aside and lack of any substantial special features, I still find it easy to recommend this HD DVD of "Basic Instinct" to hard core fans, myself included, for the fantastic High-Definition visual content.