San Francisco Examiner, March 17, 1992

[four days before opening of “Basic Instinct”]


Catherine did it,
but you won’t care

By Rob Morse

As far as I can tell, “Basic Instinct” is a movie based on a protest. Why did they film this movie here in San Francisco? If they were after free publicity, they got it. “Basic Instinct” caused protests about its psycho-lesbian-killer plot, disruptions and vandalism on location, a planned action at the Academy Awards, and one of the most ingenious protest movements ever invented. That movement is called “Catherine Did It!”

Catherine is the lesbian in the movie, played by Sharon Stone, who is suspected of killing men with an ice pick while having sex with them. In its very name the “Catherine Did It!” group gives away the ending — not that they have to — to this alleged suspense movie. Catherine did do it, but after 2 1/2 hours of this hateful, stupidly pornographic movie that doesn’t even use its San Francisco backdrops to advantage, you won’t care.

The funny thing is, the “Catherine Did It!” group is controversial. Jay Boyar, a friend of mine at the Orlando Sentinel, wrote a piece about the protest, and by the time it was reprinted in the Marin [County, Calif.] Independent-Journal, “Catherine Did It!” was replaced by blanks, as if they were dirty words, like all the ones in this astoundingly gross movie.

It’s almost as if it’s a crime to give away the ending of a film. What is that? The Siskel-Ebert Convention, or something.

Giving away the ending. What a great strategy that is. Just think if we in the media gave away the ending and said that George Bush will be running against Bill Clinton for president next year. That kind of kills all the political fun, doesn’t it? In fact, that is what we in the media are doing every time we run a know-it-all analysis piece. “Bill did it, but it won’t matter,” say the pundits.

Gay and lesbian activists may be the only activists left who are using their creativity and sense of humor anymore. It’s amazing they have a sense of humor* when it comes to Hollywood, considering the abuse they’ve taken on the screen.

Members of “Catherine Did It!” were in front of the screening room on Market Street handing out press kits Monday. (Six cops were guarding the screening room. Either they were protecting critics from a riot or they wanted to see how San Francisco cops were treated in the movie — not very well either.) The “Catherine Did It!” press kits listed a “necrology” of gay and lesbian characters in films from 1919 to the present and their causes of death. Suicide and murder led the list.

Gays and lesbians can clearly stick up for themselves. As a heterosexual I object to the film because of how it portrays heterosexual sex. (There aren’t any lesbian scenes, just a lesbian grope or two.) The only thing the filmmakers get right is the cigarette afterwards, and that isn’t right in most of San Francisco anymore. For the most part the sex scenes look like they come out of Mike Tyson’s subconscious.

Michael Douglas, the once clean-cut kid of “The Streets of San Francisco,” initiates sex with a girlfriend by ripping her dress seam from seam and throwing her against a wall. That’s just the foreplay. They he up-ends her over a couch and has his way with her for all of 14 seconds. That’s not the Michael Douglas we’ve come to expect.

The highly publicized sex scenes show a lot of upthrust silicone, or nature’s version thereof, but basically I’ve seen more titillating dog fights. Does sex look like that from the outside? I hope not.

There is one sex breakthrough in the film, and that is Sharon Stone spreading her legs to show police investigators and the audience that she is not wearing underwear. So civilization advances.

Another objection I have to “Basic Instinct” is that I had to watch this piece of junk because I’d already written about the protests and the movie is going to be a big deal in San Francisco, if not Topeka or Phoenix, for the next week or so.

Tri-Star Pictures, to its credit, invited everyone in the straight and gay press who had written about the “Basic Instinct” controversy to come see the film. Clearly they wanted to punish us.

So get ready for “Basic Instinct” week in San Francisco. My opinion of the movie hasn’t changed since I saw the script during filming — basically, it stinks.

I don’t know who this movie is for. Michael Douglas fans will hate the film for having him be a date rapist. Pornography buffs can see more buff at the O’Farrell Theater. San Franciscans can go laugh at the arty Tosca Cafe being cast as a cop bar or the gay Rawhide becoming a straight country-western joint. But it’s not much of a laugh.

I fear that the main audience will be gays and lesbians who want to check out the movie themselves to see what Hollywood is doing to them. Don’t anyone bother. If your friends ask you if you saw “Basic Instinct,” say: No, I heard it’s not as good as its protests.

* The Vanity Fair article about “Basic Instinct” and the protests, published in the March 1992 issue, described an incident during one protest during which the protesters sang “Hooray for Hollywood” and the producer remarked, “At least they have a sense of humor.” — Ed.

Copyright 2013-5 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco