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Friday, August 08, 2008

Catherine Tramell

Catherine Tramell is a fictional character in the film Basic Instinct (1992) and its sequel, Basic Instinct 2 (2006). She is played by Sharon Stone in both films. In the original Basic Instinct, Tramell is the antagonist, and love interest of washed up detective Nick Curran. She is the protagonist of the sequel. An important European critic defined Catherine Tramell as "a mix between the classic femme fatale and the new psycho killers, one of the most evil characters ever created, on Hannibal Lecter's level". She was nominated to be a member of AFI's Best villains list. Then, she was included as one of the best 250 fiction villains ever created.

Character history

The first film establishes that her parents were killed in a boating accident in 1979, leaving her with $110 million. It is implied that she killed them, because it happened exactly like one of her novels (My first time) (and this is really her habitual modus operandi to kill people), though she states that the book was written several years after the event.

She double-majored in psychology and literature at UC, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude in 1983, and quickly made millions by writing best-selling crime novels.

Tramell, an open bisexual, has many short-lived, empty affairs with people of both sexes, ending when she discards them. She was engaged however to a middleweight boxer named Manuel 'Manny' Vásquez, who was killed in 1984 during a prizefight in Atlantic City. A brilliant, charismatic sociopath, she manipulates everyone around her, largely for her own amusement. It also seems that she enjoys killing people. She was born in 1961, although her age appears to be retconned in Basic Instinct 2, as the official movie website stated she was 38 in 2006.


An asterisk indicates that the crime was not for certain committed by Tramell. This table contains the list of the characters that she killed before, during or immediately after Basic Instinct I.

Name Relationship to Tramell Reason Method
  • Mr. & Mrs. Tramell (Parents) - Inheritance, to see if she could get away with it (Boat explosion)
  • Guidance Counselor at Berkeley* (Counselor) - Unknown/future framing (Ice pick during sexual intercourse)
  • Beth Garner's Husband* (None) - Unknown/future framing (Gunshot wound)
  • Johnny Boz (Boyfriend) - She was tired of him. (Ice pick during sexual intercourse)
  • Nick Curran's superior (None) - Unknown (Gunshot wound)
  • Nick Curran's partner (None) - Framing, accusing Beth Garner (Ice pick)
  • Nick Curran? (Boyfriend) - She was tired of him? (Ice pick?)

It has never been directly said that Catherine killed Nick, but it's an easy deduction if the character of Catherine isn't redeemed at the last of the first movie. There were two ways to understand that ending: she retires and stops her criminal career, or she only waits for a good moment to kill Nick. Incidentally, Nick Curran has disappeared by the second movie and like Dr. Chilton of The Silence of the Lambs, we never see his murder, but his death is more than probable. Even Sharon Stone, during an interview at Spain said that "poor Nick is dead," implying with a swift stabbing motion that an ice pick was indeed used.

However, it is also possible that it was Elizabeth Gardner who killed Gus and Curran's superior, since she was in love with Nick and possibly with Catherine and she wanted revenge, and that Catherine just killed Nick. During the film, she also intimates that she killed her parents and her college counselor.

In the films

In the first film, Tramell was the suspect in the murder of her sometime boyfriend, Johnny Boz, which bore an almost identical resemblance to events in her latest book, Love Hurts, written under the pen name of Catherine Woolf. She charmed — and ultimately bedded — Detective Nick Curran, who was investigating the case, and "proved" her innocence, as the apparent murderer was revealed to be Curran's psychologist and lover Doctor Elisabeth 'Beth' Garner, who was revealed to be Tramell's lesbian lover in college, when Garner's name was Lisa Hoberman.

The ending is ultimately ambiguous, leading to many interpretations over who was truly the murderer. Nonetheless, an ice pick is seen under Tramell's bed at the end of the movie, implying she was the true murderer. This is the most (and once) accepted version of the ending. Director Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, and even Sharon Stone have said that Catherine was the killer.

In the sequel, Basic Instinct 2, Tramell ultimately escaped justice when her psychiatrist gave insufficient evidence at court. The police then proceeded to investigate her following several more murders. In the end, she escaped justice once again when the "real murderer" Dr. Glass, was apprehended for having shot the lead detective, Roy Washburn, in the line of duty. An alternative "interpretation" of the ending is that Catherine is not really the killer after all, but that she simply compelled Dr. Glass to follow his own 'basic instincts', for which a motive is provided for all of the murders, via flashback. However, Catherine invites the viewer to realize that her version of events may indeed be a work of fiction, leading us to believe that perhaps she really is the killer.

Psychological diagnosis

In Basic Instinct 2, Tramell is diagnosed by Dr. Michael Glass as possessing a "risk addiction." He explains, "Inside I believe she vacillates between a feeling of god-like omnipotence and a sense that she simply doesn't exist, which of course is intolerable. I believe Ms. Tramell's behavior is driven by what we might call a risk addiction. A compulsive need to prove to herself that she can take risks and survive dangers that other people can't. Especially the subsequent encounters with the police, the powers that be. The greater the risk, the greater the proof of her omnipotence. Her existence really. All addiction is progressive, the addict will always need to take greater and greater risks. I suspect the only limit for her would be her own death

External links

Categories: Fictional bisexuals Fictional mass murderers Fictional serial killers Fictional characters from California Fictional writers Film characters Fictional LGBT characters Fictional psychologists


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