"Sword 'N' Sleazery"
Paul Verhoeven's first English language film gets an uncut dual format release courtesy of Eureka. So here's a chance for you to see the film Michael Parkinson hated almost as much as Dario Argento's PHENOMENA when he reviewed it on BBC1's Film 85 programme (praise indeed) in all its unedited Blu-ray glory.
|No-one expects the...oh hang on.|
A medieval epic made with the kind of laissez-faire approach beloved of Italian horror cinema of the period, the opening caption of FLESH & BLOOD tells us we're in 'Western Europe' in 1501. Rich Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) employs a band of mercenaries to get his captured castle back for him, then refuses to pay up when they do, throwing them out.
|NOT the current meaning of 'Swingers'|
A bit miffed by this, their leader Martin (Rutger Hauer) swears revenge and, by sheer coincidence, they end up kidnapping Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the fiancee of Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson). Agnes is raped by Martin and forms a bond with him (it's that kind of film). But she's actually in love with Steven and his blow-dried hair. We know this because of their previous scene of romantic banter beneath two hanging rotting corpses (because it's that kind of film).
|Monty Python in pursuit|
In a bit worthy of Ken Russell, the team end up being 'led' by a statue of St Martin they've found buried in the ground at the instigation of their priest (the very Ken Russell-esque Ronald Lacey). They capture a castle and set up within, but Steven with his improvised Leonardo Da Vinci-style devices has other ideas.
|'They dressed me up like this"|
A rather odd film, FLESH & BLOOD boasts some gorgeous visuals (Jan De Bont was director of photography) and rousing music from Basil Poledouris. Desperate to present its period setting as vicious and amoral, it suffers from not having a point of view character whose eyes we can witness this through. Rutger Hauer's Martin never comes across as anything other than a bit of an arse. Leigh's character may well be doing what she has to in order to survive, but a lack of depth of characterisation means her reaction to abuse becomes open to interpretation. Perhaps most damaging of all, quite a few scenes are reminiscent of MONTY PYTHON & THE HOLY GRAIL (1975), a film that managed to evoke the filth and desperation of the period better than FLESH & BLOOD does.
|"We shall take the castle armed only with this drum. And a flag."|
Eureka's disc comes with a ported over Basil Poledouris interview, a commentary by Paul Verhoeven, a documentary on the director, an interview with screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, a somewhat rambling audio interview with Rutger Hauer and a trailer. The first pressing comes with a booklet and a limited edition slipcase.
Paul Verhoeven's FLESH & BLOOD is out on dual format from Eureka on Monday 6th August 2018