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The Film...


Paul Verhoeven’s foray into the serial killing-murder thriller genre had an auspicious debut with Basic Instinct, a film that in its unrated form is as much soft porno (Paul’s fixation with sex -kinky and otherwise- is clearly obvious in all his movies, only more so with this one -just check the extended Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone’s initial sexual encounter scene: is as graphically descriptive as they come!) as it is a rather interesting, engrossing, brainy crime yarn.


As with all of Verhoeven’s films, Basic Instinct also share the looks of a costly, glossy photographed production, only this time around seen in a more panoramic fashion as Paul chose to shoot it in the Panavision anomorphic scope format. Examining his work, it is obvious the man can frame for the medium as handily as he does for the more conventional spherical lensing format; all shots are framed in a range that encompasses from richly lush interiors to the truly majestic (check the scenes of the coastal highway and the ones overlooking the ocean from a wooden deck and see what I mean). But on with the review already!


The DVD Video Transfer...


Artisan claims to have struck a new print (IP, I wager) whence a HD master was derived from for the newly transferred, anomorphically enhanced DVD. Those claims seem to be correct as the scope image indeed offers much visual improvements over the earlier non-enhanced DVD release. Although not being quite of absolute reference quality, the image we get from this newly mastered version is nonetheless highly detailed and free from some of the problems that somewhat affected the earlier effort.


Overall resolution is as high as we are going to encounter with video material that perhaps was not super-bitted and for the sort of aspect ratio we are dealing with here, namely: anomorphic scope (2:35:1). How much better would the image be had it been super-bitted? I must surmise to a greater degree than what we see here, but I guess we will never know.

In any event, the image exhibits excellent focus, is crystal clear, and very sharp but without the hard edge usually associated with video reproduction.

Yet the degree of resolution is not as high as to match that of film. Allow me illustrate: by way of comparison, some years ago a group of video enthusiasts and I conducted a direct video vs. film comparison by choosing a particular piece from the movie...the now famous (infamous?) interrogation scene where Sharon Stone cross and uncross her legs while showing the cops present in the interrogation room all her female treasures as she wore no underwear.

On the laserdisc, flesh was merely an implied promise; on film one is even allowed to see pubic hair stubble...more so the flesh itself!

Mind you, the scene occurs so fast on film that we had to pay close attention when viewing the 35mm reel containing that scene because unlike the laserdisc, film cannot be put on pause.

The first DVD issue did not do much better than its LD counterpart in this regard, and the new DVD pressing, although having more vertical resolution because of the enhancing process, doesn't neither; it still is a NTSC low resolution video signal.

I am still attempting to locate the reel containing that scene (the print I privately viewed back then is no longer available and has not been for sometime) for the sake of fair comparisons with the new DVD. So far no good, but will keep trying, yet I think know what the results will be...



As with all wide aspect ratio materials (the wider the aspect ratio, the worse the problems become), close up and midrange shots will always look better than those having a longer focus and depth of field, and here there is no exception; close up and midrange shots are exquisitely stunning, while the latter shots tend to lose some of their more film-like attributes. It is not too consequential as most of this movie was photographed either up close or at mid ranges, but had to make the distinction between the three photographic parameters.


Colimetry is right on the money (it seems to have been timed correctly) as it precisely depicts what I saw from the theatrical 35mm prints I’ve viewed in the past.

Colors run the gamut, and the color palette varies from the brilliantly lush to the more subdued and delicate of pastels.

Gray scale seems accurately rendered, something that immensely help in producing accurate colors, as well as reproducing a wide variety of hues. Colimetry appears richly dense too.

This transfer cannot be criticized on this account!


One aspect that has dire deleterious effects upon playback if not correctly implemented is the contrast dynamics issue, for

shadow detailing will suffer the most if the range that spans between brightness and contrast isn't wide enough, yet here seems more than aptly adept to the task; there is a high degree of even minute detail that can be easily observed throughout the movie, but more importantly even during the darkest scenes.

An excellent effort!

Of course, what we individually wind up seeing is highly dependent on our display devices and the variances that by necessity exists. Even so, I am highly confident that what I am describing here will be likewise closely perceived by all movie fans who have taken the time and exerted the effort to calibrate their sets as accurately as possible.


The fact that the new DVD was given the anomorphic enhancement treatment goes a long way in eliminating all digitally-originated artifacts. Thus I failed to see much in the way of interline twittering, jagged edges, flicker, mosquito noise, and other such pesky visual problems. In this regard the new transfer greatly improves upon the old one, which is a good thing or else why bother getting it at all if it doesn’t look any better?


I wish I could say this transfer is of absolute reference quality...but can’t. Why? Well, because of our old nemesis: EE. Yes, is visibly present and does somewhat detract from an otherwise impressive transfer effort.

Perceived EE isn't of the sort found in transfers like SW:TPM to name but one instance, but the fact that is there bothers me to no end as it robs the transfer from looking more film-like.

What a shame and lost of opportunity for Artisan to really go all out for broke. Oh, well.


The DVD Soundtrack...


There isn't much I can say about the soundtrack other than being a very clean and extended mix.

The music score is proper for the subject matter as it does provide the right counterpoint when is needed.

Surround sound is merely there to provide an atmospheric enveloping soundfield, and this it does with convincing believability. I can’t find much to really complain about!


Summing It All Up...


Basic Instinct might not be for everyone, but fans of the genre will enjoy it spite of its at times somewhat truncated story line.

Barring the existence of EE, this is still one hell of a good transfer, just falling short of being of reference quality.

And please don’t let the looks of the rather cheesy case alone put you off and add it to your movie collection if the subject matter interests you. Look at it this way: I would rather have a case like this one than the idiotic package in which the new Total Recall DVD was enclosed in. That really took the cake as an award for the worst DVD packaging design ever! ...


-THTS
 

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Thank you Frank for your thoroughly review (as usual, should I say:))

I must admit I have not bought any artisan dvd since I had seen the very good T2 transfer ruined by all this terrible EE (Please, don't yell at me, this is just my personal opinion)

What a shame there is some EE too in basic instinct.

At least, they seemed to get it right with total recall from what I had read in your review (reminds me I have to order that one).

Thanks again, Frank.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Stef,


Okay...I won't yell at you no more (did I do that, though? :p ).


The amount of EE present on BI isn't as bad as I might had make it sound like. That certainly wouldn't have stoped me from buying it. If the movie's theme interests you enough to warrant the spenditure than I would say...go ahead...make Paramount's day!... :D


-THTS
 

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Hi Frank!


Great review. I loved basic Instinct. In fact, I have to say it is my favorite Verhoeven film. The writing from Joe Eszterhaas (sp?) is top notch as well. Some complained that the script was too mysogynistic. I think after viewing the film, it makes men look even worse than the women. ;) But that's the fun of the movie.


As you said, you definitely catch a glimpse of Stone's er.... precious goods. At least on film, you do. I haven't seen the DVD yet. It's a shame that even an anamorphic DVD can only show 360 vertical lines of detail with scope films. Basic Instinct is a dark film and I remember it having a "brownish" look in many scenes. Maybe one day we'll get a superduper, top notch, hi def version. For now, I guess this will have to do. I wouldn't mind Hollywood producing a few more hard edged films like this, with a noirish aspect. Maybe that's a fat chance with PG-13's current reign of mediocrity.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Hi, Larry!


I think you'd be pleased with the DVD's overall image once you see it, particularly if you have the first DVD pressing (man, I can't seem to shake off the old vynil LP days mentality! :eek: ).

It is pretty close of being reference caliber.


You're right about the current reign of film making mediocrity...yet a few movies manage to capture that old magic in their own special way...vide the likes of Dancer In The Dark, Malena, Cinema Paradiso, and Chocolat to name a few that definitely have defied conventional wisdom...


Cheers! :)


-THTS
 
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