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XPCD 154

Artwork copyright (c) 1992 Carolco / Studio Canal+; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Uncross those legs


As a composer, Jerry Goldsmith's gifts were far too numerous to mention; as a film composer, his key gift was his ability to get under the skin of a movie and create a perfect sound representing whatever dramatic situation arose.  Except for his occasional comedies, he always found the right tone for a movie and stuck with it throughout and, while not through composing per se, creating actual music that didn't just hit the right dramatic points at the precise moments in time, but told the viewer something the images alone couldn't do.  If John Barry set the standard for modern steamy thriller scores with Body Heat, then Goldsmith reset it with Basic Instinct and it's no exaggeration to say it became the most imitated score of his later years, alongside the entirely different Rudy, cropping up in barely-altered form several times, and in less obvious ways countless others.

With its blistering main theme, furniture-chewing suspense and truly thrilling action music, it was one of the decade's best pieces of film music, and Goldsmith compiled an excellent 40-minute album which was released by Varese Sarabande at the time of the film in 1992.  To commemorate the composer's 75th birthday, Prometheus released this expanded album featuring the entire score in the early months of 2004, though given the tragic events which unfolded shortly thereafter it can now be seen as a fine tribute to the composer's excellent work even in the latter stages of his career.  That said, there is always a danger in releasing an expanded version of a score whose existing album is pretty near perfect.  It can go one of two ways - I always found the short, "concert" version of the ET album to be vastly superior to the expanded one, which features some pretty redundant music; but The Omen seems to lose nothing by being far longer.  Happily, Basic Instinct falls into the latter camp.  Given how similar much of the "new" music is to what was already there, I'm not entirely sure what is gained through the extra music - it's more of the same, really - but certainly, its quality is such that nothing is lost.

After the famous main theme comes the first, and best, piece of unreleased music, a tantalising bit of action/suspense that ends with a bang (in more ways than one, if you're watching the film), "First Victim".  Other fine tracks include "Crossed Legs", for the infamous sequence in the film which is no longer viewable on most VHS copies you could find in a rental store, which features a lengthy version of the movie's secondary theme and is filled with so much tension you can almost reach out and feel it.  That theme is presented in more of an action setting in the stunning "Night Life".  Perhaps best of all is "Roxy Loses", one of the most impressively-constructed pieces of action music you will ever hear.  It's similar in a way (as is much of the action music in this score) to the action material in Goldsmith's similarly-wonderful Total Recall, for the same director, though clearly without the science fiction elements.  

Goldsmith clearly loved working with Verhoeven, who brought the best out of him.  If Total Recall was the most ambitious score he wrote in the 1990s, Basic Instinct is not far behind.  Goldsmith himself said that it was the most difficult score he ever wrote, that finding the right feel for the score, especially the main theme, meant he had to write so much music before he and Verhoeven were happy that he almost walked off the project.  Happily it didn't come to that and, reportedly out of the middle of one of the suspense cues which Goldsmith was about to throw away, the director found what became the main theme and the whole score grew from there.  It really is an unimpeachable work with not a dull moment, not a single redundant track, and everything adds together to make a terrific album.  Whether it's an essential purchase to those that have Varese's shorter issue is debatable, but there's no debate for anyone else - it's a gem of a Goldsmith score.  Verhoeven himself says in the booklet "Jerry, we had a great time together and you are the best" - sentiments echoed by the composer's fans all over the world.

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  1. Main Title (2:13)
  2. First Victim (1:39)
  3. Catherine and Roxy (5:14)
  4. Shadows (:41)
  5. Profile (:49)
  6. Don't Smoke (2:26)
  7. Crossed Legs (4:49)
  8. Beth and Nick (2:21)
  9. Night Life (6:03)
  10. Home Visit (1:13)
  11. Your Wife Knew (1:44)
  12. Untitled (:52)
  13. That's Real Music (:27)
  14. One Shot (1:27)
  15. Kitchen Help (3:58)
  16. Pillow Talk (4:59)
  17. Morning After (2:29)
  18. Roxy Loses (3:37)
  19. Catherine's Sorrow (2:41)
  20. Wrong Name (2:22)
  21. She's Really Sick (1:31)
  22. It Won't Sell (1:02)
  23. Games are Over (5:53)
  24. Evidence (1:39)
  25. Unending Story / End Credits (9:23)
  26. First Victim (alternate) (1:34)