Flesh & Blood (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's comments in white:

Paul Verhoeven's career can be neatly divided into two parts, except for this movie.

Before Flesh & Blood, he made some brilliant films in Dutch, both serious dramas and genre films, in which he established himself as one of the world's foremost directing talents, and made international stars out of many in his Dutch repertory cast, especially Rutger Hauer.

After Flesh & Blood, he made big budget, commercial Hollywood films. Good entertainment pictures. Robocop. Total Recall. Basic Instinct.


  • Jennifer Jason Leigh - all body parts, repeatedly
  • Blanca Marsillach - full frontal nudity, with legs open
  • Marina Saura - breasts
  • Nancy Cartwright - breasts
  • Susan Tyrrell - one breast
  • unknown woman - breasts
  • Rutger Hauer - buns (thong)
  • Bruno Kirby - full frontal nudity

I like the films in both periods, although for a variety of different reasons. Verhoeven is a talented guy, accomplishing different things with different films, and he was easily able to make the transition from low-budget artistic films to glitzy Hollywood blockbusters.

Here's the complete picture:



In between




Except for Showgirls, that is a solid list. In a way, I even like his complete flop, Showgirls. While that movie would be a complete waste of time without the naked chicks, like an alternate version of Coyote Ugly, it does have that flesh, and the nudity is among the best in screen history in quantity, quality and presentation. In fact, many of Verhoeven's films in both periods feature substantial amounts of erotica. In addition to the campy Showgirls, the audience can expect a parade of flesh in Turks Fruit, Basic Instinct, and Flesh & Blood, as well as lesser quantities of skin in several of his other films.

Flesh & Blood was Verhoeven's "tweener", fitting into neither period, but possessing characteristics of each. Like the early films, Flesh & Blood featured Rutger Hauer as the star, employed Verhoeven's usual Dutch co-writer (Gerard Soeteman), and was filmed entirely in Europe. Unlike the Dutch classics, it was performed entirely in English, featured an epic look derived from a moderately high budget ($11 million), and sprinkled in some Hollywood faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh, then best known for Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

It is a medieval anti-romance. Although it takes place in no particular country, and features no identifiable historical facts except a date and continent (1501, Europe), it is anything but a romanticized "once upon a time" tale of knightly valor. Verhoeven pictures the middle ages as having consisted entirely of rain, poverty, filth, poor sanitation, suffering, festering wounds, festering plague boils, contaminated food, war, and rape.

It was a lot like living in Miami.

I suppose that is probably a reasonable pictorialization of how the poor actually lived in 1501, true at least to the spirit of the times, if not faithful to the letter of history.

The plot:

A nobleman leads a mercenary army against a city that expelled him. When he refuses to make good on his promises to the mercenaries, they plot to get revenge. They start by raiding  some of his wagons, in the process kidnapping his future daughter-in-law, which establishes a battle for possession of the damsel in distress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), between the nobleman's university-educated son and the leader of the brigands (Rutger Hauer). To complicate matters, said damsel has strong feelings for both of them, and keeps switching her allegiance, or at least pretending to.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • full length director's commentary by the redoubtable Paul Verhoeven

It's a crazy over-the-top, no holds barred film, available uncut for the first time in America on the DVD. The title, "Flesh and Blood", is not about the English phrase which means "relatives". It was just a different way of saying "sex and violence". That combination perfectly describes the raison d'etre of the film. The film can be cheesy at times, but the characters are remarkably complex. Neither Hauer nor the young prince was all good or all bad, and the princess actually had to think things through to make a decision, finally going with one of the men, but demonstrating plenty of love for the other as well. Similar ambiguity and dimension was seen in the captain of the prince's army, and several of Hauer's cohorts.

Flesh & Blood is not for a family audience, and it requires a strong stomach, but it's a good film, and Verhoeven is a major talent. I never lost interest, and I was never able to predict the plot developments in advance.


Flesh and Blood (1985) is a transition film for Paul Verhoeven, in that the lions share of the funding was from a US studio, but with European co-operation, and a mixed cast of US and European performers. He found that the studios interfered more in the plot, but deferred to them, and is not sure he should have. This film became a story about Jennifer Jason Leigh, torn between the macho brigand and the scholarly prince, but it was originally supposed to be more about men wielding power in Medieval times.

Verhoeven also found that American actors were used to being pampered. They constantly complained about things like unheated castles (those medieval rulers must have been really stupid not to install forced air heating and air conditioning) and lack of privacy. The biggest challenge was that the Americans didn't understand his directing style. Verhoeven was used to walking through a characters part himself to explain what he was looking for, and where. The American performers wanted to know the characters motivation in each scene and their complete psychology. Verhoeven thought those things were obvious from the script.

Verhoeven went on to make high-budget Hollywood films, with some spectacular successes and failures, but he confided in the commentary that he will be returning to Holland and making a few films more true to his artistic muse. Verhoeven has only worked with two DPs in his career. de Bont is too busy directing his own films now, and Jost Vacano has now retired, so Paul will have to find a new DP for his next Dutch effort. He will be teaming again with writer Gerard Soeteman, who wrote all of his Dutch films, but stayed in Holland when Verhoeven went to America.

I kind of liked the ambiguities in the film, something more like Verhoeven's roots than the Hollywood formula. We never know, for certain, which guy the princess really wants, for instance. In this film, there are no clear good or bad people, and no heroes or villains. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the princess, plays one of the most conniving and self-serving characters, in that she plays both sides. There are also plenty of digs at the violence committed in the name of religion, and other strong political themes.

Verhoeven believes he did not have enough budget to make this film perfectly, and was very candid in the commentary about showing where things were not right, but I enjoyed the film, even though "knights hack and slash and rape and pillage" is not my favorite fare.

Whatever else you think of Verhoeven's body of work, he has certainly given us ample nudity, and this film is no exception. With a resume that includes this, Showgirls, and Basic Instinct, you could defend him as being the single best mainstream director for female nudity.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+ (both reviewers). Over-the-top sex and violence in a mythical medieval world, performed and directed well. What more do you need? Requires a strong stomach and a strong tolerance for gore and gross-outs, so not a mainstream film, but very entertaining if the sensationalism doesn't bother you.

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