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Soundtrack review: Basic instinct (Jerry Goldsmith – 1990)

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Soundtrack review: Basic instinct (Jerry Goldsmith – 1990)


“Basic instinct”… do I even need to write an intro for this one? This controversial movie divided and excited audiences and Paul Verhoeven delivered something that’s enjoyable even 25 years later. The film follows a police detective, Nick Curran (Douglas), who is investigating the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star. During the investigation Curran becomes involved in a torrid and intense relationship with the prime suspect, Catherine Tramell (Stone), an enigmatic writer. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the score and it’s been one of his most acclaimed and talked about. In 2015 we get an expanded release and it’s time for me to explore the musical story. Usually for me Jerry Goldsmith’s action 90s sound is not something I like to hear very often but the extra spice of the story might bring something to the music as well.

Erotic thrillers are tough to get right from the musical point of view. But this is no normal erotic thriller and no normal composer and even if I have trouble connecting with Jerry’s 90s sound, it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes for me to realize how much I am going to love this score. “Main titles / first victim” has a special kind of flow and melodicism that spells shrewd and untrustworthy. With just a few twists of notes Jerry Goldsmith sets the tone for the score and throws a web of deception around us. It also brings back vividly to mind the wild opening scene of the movie.

The music is dripping with mystery and sensuality. “Basic instinct” is a continuous tango between these two and sometimes the way the music I written bake the mysterious moments sensual and the erotic ones mysterious. Somehow the score reminds me in a lot of moments of John Barry’s work rather than Jerry’s. A cue like “Night life” for example should be on any film music anthology.

I get lost in the velvety plies of this score but I don’t want to find my way back. I listen to this masterpiece and then I think of the many generic thriller scores we get these days and it shows me the true genius of Jerry Goldsmith. Everything works in “Basic instinct”: from the sultry and addictive main theme to the way motifs from it slither throughout the score…from the dark piano musings to the questions the music asks. I could listen to this score for hours. The movie was all about eroticism and violence and the score manages to find the perfect mix of the two. What’s even more brilliant is that the music is beautiful from start to finish; it’s never disturbing or cold. Passion flows through the veins of “Basic Instinct” and I am very glad that we got this extended release.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 72 / 72

Album excellence: 100%


Main Title/The First Victim

Catherine And Roxy


I Don’t Smoke

Crossed Legs

Beth And Nick

Night Life

Home Visit

Your Wife Knew

What’s Between You?

One Shot

Kitchen Help

Pillow Talk

Morning After

Roxy Loses

Catherine’s Sorrow

Wrong Name

She’s Really Sick

It Won’t Sell

The Games Are Over


An Unending Story/End Titles

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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