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  • In 1501, in the Western Europe, in a period when the black plague is jeopardizing the populations, an army of mercenary peasants leaded by Martin (Rutger Hauer) fights side-by-side with the noble Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) to retrieve his castle, with the promise of a huge reward. However, the band is betrayed by Arnolfini, and decides to pay him back, assaulting and stealing a caravan under the command of Arnolfini and his son and student, Steven (Tom Burlinson). In one of the wagon is traveling the fiancée of Steven, Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is accidentally kidnapped and later raped by the group. Agnes becomes Martin's mate, and the mercenaries decide to invade a castle, without knowing that the army of Arnolfini is chasing them.

    "Flesh & Blood" is one of the best movies in the Middle Ages I have ever seen: it is a Machiavellian, violent, amoral and hypnotic adventure, indeed very brutal, with the peasants being poor and ignorant people, with dirty clothes, spoiled teeth, living in dirty and muddy villages. Therefore, a vision totally different from Hollywood movies, with fancy castles and villages with beautiful people. The direction of Paul Verhoven is efficient and perfect as usual, and the entire cast has magnificent and very natural performances, highlighting the amazing Rutger Hauer in the role of Martin, and Jennifer Jason Leigh who has one of her best performances, in the stunning role of a young woman that uses her body to fight for survival in a hostile environment. I have this movie on VHS, but I bought the DVD recently released in Brazil by the distributor Continental, and it was a worthwhile investment, since the widescreen image and the sound are excellent. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "Conquista Sangrenta" ("Bloody Conquest")
  • This is one of the most raw, refreshing and UN-Hollywood movies you will ever see. It's truly a classic, and it stands alone, because nothing like it has been done before. The movie is invariably entertaining throughout, and it contains so many fresh ideas from Verhoeven that it really has you saying 'wow' an awful lot. The rape scenes that everybody freaks out about in their reviews aren't so horrible....they get they're point across but aren't TOO sexually explicit. Whats nice to see if you can call it that, is that the rape is real, and horrible, its not meant to be provocative like it would be in a Hollywood movie, not that i'm a fan of any rape scene, not at all...but at least this is genuine. The performances aren't spectacular or anything, but they are far far from weak. After one viewing this is one of my favorite films, and I recommend it very highly to you.

    This film should also be of interest to the highly religious because of all the imagery in it. Verhoeven is known for religious imagery and this film is full of it. It's very Christian in its themes, not that the characters are big in practice, but the movie has a lot of religious points to make.
  • iaido10 January 2000
    After the success of Conan the Barbarian, the 80's saw a glut of Midevil adventure movies, but none of them stand on the same ground as Flesh and Blood. No movie, at the time, was more unabashedly filled with gore and nakedness. It doesnt try to be glossy or romantic in any way but isnt heavyhanded or serious either.

    As he was so often in nearly every role he played, Rutger Hauer is perfect and at ease, alive, and eating up every frame of film he is in. A sad reminder of the days when he had so much promise, before he went downhill into Direct-To-Video Land.

    Jennifer Jason Leigh is caught in one of her rare stilted preformances. Instead of going above the b-movie tone, she sort of wallows in it, but everyone else in the movie is also over the top and caricatured, so the film does not suffer and is invigorated instead of being obtuse.

    The perfect blend of violence and sex, good and bad acting, b-movie tone with a studio budget. One enjoyable movie.
  • Ok, we're talking about a movie that's basically titled Sex & Violence by none other than Paul Verhoeven?! Those of us who know better should know what to expect here. For those of you who don't, know this: the same man responsible for the ultra sexy "Basic Instinct" and the ultra violent "RoboCop" made his debut (in American cinema, at least) with this masterwork concoction of ultra sex AND ultra violence.

    Set in medieval Europe, the utter savagery of the sex and violence in this film is perhaps more at home than it could have been in any other setting. Depredation and debauchery: to the victor go the spoils, be they women, wealth, or what have you. And just a brief word about the plague: there's been a lot of criticism about the accuracy of its use in this movie. How 'bout the sheer ingenuity of it: the use of plague ridden slabs of dog as biological weaponry. Repugnant. Vile. Ingenious. Priceless, I loved it.

    Rutger Hauer is excellent, this is probably my favorite performance of his. He's a power inflated pillager who is a bit of a tyrant to his followers. He's the devil we expect him to be. Jennifer Jason Leigh is surprisingly good in her youth as a sexually curious, devious little wench whose loyalties sway with the wind. She's a survivor.

    Who this movie is NOT for: Those who have to think too hard about every movie they see, who demand a certain level of intellectuality (which is commendable). Plot holes? Are you kidding me, what plot? This isn't English Patient, its Sex and Violence. And for those with inhibitions about film content, who demand a certain level of decency (which is understandable), again, Sex and Violence, this movie is certainly not for you.

    One of the few films I would call a masterpiece. But that's coming from someone who thinks Apocalypse Now is the finest cinematic experience ever realized, so take that for what its worth. RoboCop, I would call a masterpiece. U Turn, I would call a masterpiece. Big Lebowski, I would call a masterpiece. Flesh & Blood I would call a masterpiece.

    10/10 easy
  • Gloriously over the top middle ages saga from Verhoeven,who certainly makes sure the film lives up to its title!This is an exraordinarily bloody film,and apart from the gore we get dead babies,brain damaged nuns,plague infected flesh,raping,pillaging,and some terrible table manners.This is hugely enjoyable stuff,with some terrific black humour.Verhoeven also stages some excellent action sequences.The opening battle to take back the city is good,as is the amazing contraption to scale the castle that gets destroyed,and the final battle inside the castle is gripping.Rutger Hauer is reliably excellent in this,not so much a loveable rogue as a steely eyed psycho.Even better is Jennifer Jason Leigh as the kidnapped princess,who turns out to be a cunning,scheming,bitch.Witness the scene where she turns the tables on Hauer,who is attempting to rape her.There's good support also from Susan Tyrrell as a revolting whore,and Ronald Lacey as a demented priest who seems to have stepped straight out of the film 'The Devils'.This is miles better than all the other sword and sorcery films that were around at the time,because Verhoeven pulls no punches,and instills the film with a savage wit.Great music as well from 'Conan' composer,Bazil Poleduris.This film deserves a sequel!
  • Almost everyone who knows who Paul Verhoeven is, takes his knowledge from his Hollywood pictures, starting from "Flesh & Blood". But the man was famous director in Holland in 70's with some really great movies, from which I especially recommend "Spetters", one time masterpiece with very disturbing scenes and amazing story.

    "Flesh & Blood" was his first Hollywood project and I was glad to discover that Verhoeven keeps sharping his talent. The movie offers to viewers highly intense experience, I remember watching it on one breath, and occupies the mind with very powerful images and philosophical meanings.

    There is nothing average, simple or normal in this film. Everithing is complex, deep and extreme. There is no action, no move, no look, no word, that exists here without reason and meaning. If there is such thing as mathematic movie, this is it.

    But don't be confused by this word. It's not some dry and intellectual movie like Bergman's stuff. The story is very humane and it's easy to sympathize and understand everyone. There are tears, struggles, disappointments, happiness, dreams, violence, death and a lot of sex. (Young and nude Jennifer Jason Leigh - a must see)

    Dramatic value of the film, with symbolic conflicts and incredible behavior of all characters, exists on very high level from the beginning till the end. There are many surprising moments, everything bound together by twisted but consistent internal logic.

    The combination of interesting story, great acting, smart directing and high quality production, makes a brilliant and truly hypnotizing movie.

    There is no single and simple way to describe this cinematic experience or to criticize it. The film has very rich meanings, questions and conclusions. It presents many problematic and sensitive situations, and does this in very direct and very exaggerated way, which makes the whole thing very symbolic and formalistic. Something that fits with Paul Verhoeven's other great works, and makes him such a special artist.

    And if you managed to read and fully understand my review, no matter if you liked it or not, this movie is for you.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this film about twelve years ago, and I thought it was very good then. I recently got the DVD from Netflix, and was amazed to find that not only is it as good as I remember, it was better.

    The first thing that struck me is how very correct to the medieval point of view the movie is. All of the characters act as they should for the times they live in. The Lord Arnofini is a scheming jerk with a will of steel, which you had to be back then to be a Lord. After all, things could change so quickly, such as when the mercenaries raid and take the castle later in the movie. You could lose your standing and/or your life, if you weren't ruthless. Martin and his band of mercenaries are crude, sly, jolly, practical, greedy, and hardened by life-as mercenaries would have been, trading their lives for a bit of cash all over Europe. Some might have been disturbed by the cheerful lasciviousness shown by the women, but back then women knew that they had only a few things to trade for safety and security, namely their bodies or their standing. If they had no standing, their bodies were the only coin they had. They had to find a strong man to protect them, or they were vulnerable to any man that came along with bad intentions. Jennifer Jason Leigh's young noblewoman knows that lesson as well, and schemes ruthlessly to stay alive and escape once she's taken by the mercenaries. The casual nudity and dirtiness are also characteristic of the middle ages, when practically no one bathed and clothes were seldom washed. In fact, the lower orders thought that washing invited devils into your body and made you sick, so it isn't surprising that Martin's mercenaries never bathed.

    The plague scenes towards the end of the movie were ingenious and showed how terrified people were of the disease-and rightly. it killed off a third of Europe's population, and spread like wildfire. The scholarly Steven's telling the monk to lance Hawkwood's plague boils is correct, because Nostradamus himself studied among the Arabs for a time, then came back and tried to convince people to lance the boils. A movie is in the details, and Verhoeven gets almost all of them right. He captured the mad religious practices of the time, as terrified people grasped onto any sign that might have been from God. They were starving from a little ice age, dying from a dreadful disease, and plagued by wars. Its no wonder that people fell into such a religious fervor.

    The interaction between the characters is wonderful. The rivalry of Martin and Steven over Agfnes is very interesting to watch. The two men, like young and older alpha wolves, circle and attack, watching for every opening. And Agnes, an alpha female, watches and makes her choice of mate in the end.

    I'll definitely be buying a copy of this movie on DVD, because it is one of my favorites. For once, Hollywood actually got it almost right. That is astounding, especially since it was made in the mid-80's, not a time known for depth or realism in movies.
  • I decided to watch this film after a very heavy three day drinking session and to be honest was not expecting a great deal. However, at the end I deemed it to be the best two hours of my life. What a film!

    The Cardinal (Ronald Lacey) was by far the most outrageous and stand out performance. I may be a bit biased from England but over the top acting from Lacey seems to be his forte and he certainly does not disappoint. Rutger puts in a typically strong performance as does Jason-Leigh and the supporting cast.

    My favourite scene had to be Soldier Martin standing in front of the upturned carriage with the wheel representing the halo from the statue of Saint Martin. For me this was the icing on the cake.

    The only question mark about this film is the contraption that Steven constructs to storm the castle. It definitely is a work of art and for those times would be considered quite an Engineering achievement. Not to mention the time in which it is built in such an effortless manner. However, PV seems to make this fit with the spirit of the film and after a few chuckles it is all forgiven.

    Its certainly a film that will not stand up today with modern attitudes and morals but I fully recommend this film. Add it to your collection NOW!
  • This movie was definitely not for the kids. Let me get that out of the way. Very violent, very dark, very adult. I expected as much, but rarely do movies go so uninhibited when attempting subject matter such as this one.

    The movie itself is deep on a couple levels, shallow on others. This movie concentrates almost entirely on personal interplay between the 3 main characters, Martin, Agnes, and Steven. The interaction is quite good and one can almost visualize the plots within plots stirring in their brains.

    However, the plot suffers for it. It's really a basic movie, more of a period piece than a complete story. There are large gaps and leaps in logic, as well as believability. But this movie was never about plot. The plot was a backdrop for the interactions of the characters.

    As a backdrop, it does very well indeed. Costumes are all pretty close to the mark for period landsknechts (German mercenaries), though not as gaudy as one sees in the history books. Probably because they were hardly ever clean or whole in real life (mercenaries would replace torn or worn out clothing with pieces taken from fallen opponents). The score is well done and unobtrusive, and the locations suitably bleak. Overall, the feel of the movie is authentic, plague-ridden medieval complete with life-is-cheap attitudes. I would caution, however, that this movie is not a whole picture of medieval times, but rather a look into the lives of a violent subculture (though some general attitudes are pointed out, as one reviewer posted, a conversation takes place near a hanged man with barely a thought).

    Overall, how you rate this movie depends on what you get out of it. Is it a good "ride"? I'd say yes. The plot was thin, but hey, it was in the Mummy as well... and we don't go see those kind of movies for plot. The movie is immersive and very different than typical Hollywood faire. One of the better medieval movies I've seen.

    But if rape, brutality, superstition and disease are not your cup of tea, there may be too much here for you to glimpse the interactions underneath, and you'll probably dislike it.
  • This film is definitely off the beaten track. I enjoyed it a lot, and thought that there were some truly stand-out performances here, notably Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Some other actors and actresses that I didn't recognize were excellent. The tone is relentlessly bleak as befits the times. A couple of scenes put the times in perspective. One is where Agnes and Stephen talk and flirt beneath the hanging corpses without giving much thought to what we would consider today the horrid nature of such a sight. Another is towards the end, when one of the women has been captured (Polly, I think) and is being raped, and the lord (Stephen's father) simply walks past, barely noticing. I don't know if they are simply there for shock value, or if Verhoeven is making the point that one cannot judge mores, morals, and customs of past ages by the standards of today. (Something done quite a bit these days, most notably about slavery.)

    Some of the criticisms in other comments are valid. True, none of the characters are very likeable. I was sort of hoping that they would all be dead by the end of the movie. But, again, I'm judging them by 21st century standards. Also, about the plague. I'm sure Verhoeven knows that plague is spread by rat fleas, so all of the machinations about the plague has to be from people's points of view in 1501-2.

    This film is worth viewing, but don't expect gallantry, chivalry, or even decency. And no, it's really not a "date movie" Grade: A
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Flesh & Blood is the most accurate depiction of medieval reality ever seen on screen. It's easy to see why other filmmakers have lacked the courage to be so honest: see the reviews here. Many reviewers have recoiled from the scene of such savagery and suffering. (In reality, Italy in 1501 was much worse than what Verhoeven shows us - maybe some day the human race will be ready to face our past without flinching, but not yet.) The film tells the story of a young and beautiful virgin (Agnes, played by Jason-Leigh) who has been raised in a convent by nuns. She is assigned to marry a young nobleman (Steven Arnolfini, played by Tom Burlinson) but on her way to the wedding has been stolen by a ragged, angry band of mercenaries led by a penniless landsknecht. Rutger Hauer delivers an excellent portrayal of the soldier Martin, who is ignorant but cunning, intelligent and resourceful, but a typical specimen of a brutal time. Young Arnolfini, on the other hand, is a Renaissance man, university educated, enthused by the new science and looking forward to a new world of reason. He admires da Vinci the scientist, but both men fall in love with the delectable Agnes. The traditional dictum "all's fair in love and war" is shown here with terrible power, as both men grab for love, money, and victory by whatever means they can.

    Agnes is torn between these two men, both emotionally and physically. Martin appropriates her as war booty, but Steven wants to win her back. Martin and his merry band of soldiers and whores capture a rich and well-fortified château (with the help of young Agnes, who easily transforms from doe-eyed innocent into feral survivor in her new surroundings - quite a wonderful evolution!) Steven and his evil father coerce John Hawkwood (an important figure in history, as one of the most important leaders of the brutal and destructive mercenary bands that ravaged Italy at the time) to help them besiege the château, but in the end it was the Plague (and young Steven's fervent love) that destroys the our little band of outlaws and returns Agnes to the world of privilege she previously knew.

    As an action story the the film works marvelously, but to fully appreciate Flesh + Blood it must also be viewed as an allegory (of the kind our medieval forebears loved so well). The 1500's were a time when science and superstition fought for the minds and souls of men, when the medieval world of ignorance was replaced by the dawn of reason. Agnes represents the innocent soul of man, malleable for good or evil. Steven is the future, Martin the past, but both wear the sh*t of violence and treachery on their heels. In the end, the future replaces the past; Steven walks off with the girl. But Martin survives. He loots some gold and jewels from the château. He;ll probably lose it all very soon, but you can be damn sure he'll have a lot of fun in the process.

    10/10, with an arbusque shot
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's like David Lynch took a bunch of speed and made SPARTACUS on a spaghetti Western budget. Not many movies serve up plague dog steaks, or tie nude nuns to bedposts, or dangle Bruno Kirby's penis overhead; but that's Verhoeven, always ready to take the normal out of your day.

    Right down to Rutger Hauer's white linen Sonny Crockett suit, this movie is a product of its outrageous, conspicuously consumptive time. As such, it's pretty good pulp. Crude, shocking, not terribly intelligent, but willing to go from zero to lurid every fifteen minutes. And if everybody involved has done better work, from director and photographer to writer and composer, at least Jennifer Jason Leigh is naked all the time. B pictures have succeeded on less.

    The second unit stuff, and basics like set dressing, costumes, and weapons, all look kind of second-rate; there are several not very good performances, and much of the dialogue has the simplistic feel of having been translated.

    So what. It ain't Austen. The violence is exciting and the sex is sexy. FLESH + BLOOD deserves a place somewhere below the first CONAN and high over the neutered HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS or LORD OF THE RINGS; not as slick as CROUCHING TIGER or as pedantic as some Mifune sword movies, better than Richard Fleischer's VIKINGS or CONAN II, and miles above the awful Marcus Nispel's unwatchable PATHFINDER.

    FLESH + BLOOD is about equal to the more mundane 13TH WARRIOR or APOCALYPTO in thrill quotient and overall quality, as far as medieval action movies go - both of those have superior production values, but lack this movie's bleak comic philosophy. McTiernan is a stout journeyman, and Gibson is good at the Old Hollywood rah-rah stuff, but it's not a fair comparison. For all Verhoeven's absurd metaphors and silly imagery, he almost always manages not to be pretentious. The 1985-model Verhoeven was a master filmmaker who already had done better work than those fellows ever are likely to do, and he was only gearing up to make ROBOCOP, BASIC INSTINCT and STARSHIP TROOPERS within the next ten years. Let's watch those in a couple decades, against two DIEHARDS and a BRAVEHEART, and see who still looks visionary, or relevant, or interesting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I found this film while channel surfing tonight...I didn't see anything else worth watching, & I like medieval films, so I thought I'd give it shot. Man, oh man! After the first two minutes, I was hooked like a big mouth bass! This movie has it all in abundance, & actually got most of the period correct...the costumes, armor, saddles, weapons, even the attitudes & customs of the time. That impressed me! Then, to make it even better, there was LOTS of nudity, blood & guts, simulated sex(?), and terrific acting even from the bit actors & walk-ons. Rutger Hauer did his best job since Ladyhawke, & while I had never heard of Jennifer Leigh before, she was not only physically stunning to see, she portrayed her role with a complete professionalism not usually displayed by modern actresses (who seem to get by just flashing their tits & screaming a lot instead of having talent). While I would certainly not suggest this film to anyone who objects to strong language, total nudity, sex, violence, bloody gore, & other disturbing images, this is a movie that everyone else will be unable to turn off until the end credits roll. I know that I couldn't!
  • Paul Verhoeven is the genius behind "De Vierde Man"(1983)and "Basic Instinct"(1992).His "Flesh&Blood" belongs also to my all-time favourite movies.This film is definitely not for the squeamish:there's plenty of violence,brutality and nudity.Especially the scene when a young Jennifer Jason Leigh is raped is quite nasty and disturbing.The acting is really good and the medieval times are realistically shown.9 out of 10-check it out,just be prepared for some disturbing stuff contained in this 80's classic!
  • Not for everyone. gore and nudity. despicable actions. but also black humors. worth 7+ , much better then many 80s movie. see after the 1st conan movie as the music from same composer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just stumbled upon this and was sure glad I did. The female lead is remarkable, loose, sexy, up for anything, willing to love two rival guys in a time of bloodshed. Completely unique, I can't think of any other movie where the young woman is so up for nastiness.

    Also I have to say the acting is way above par, all the bandits are nicely fleshed out. Great stuff.

    My criticisms:

    The lightning scene feels like an act of god, but nobody seems to remark on it. Lighting would most likely hit the highest point of the castle - if it somehow hit the tree inside surely it wouldn't cause the chain to break like that, wouldn't it earth directly? This scene didn't work well, it would have made more sense for the hero to escape through some McGyver-type ingenuity.

    More obviously - the bubonic plague never killed anyone within hours as it does here. The plague took days to kill people. The plague was however transmitted through blood, eating meat etc (they got that correct)(bacterial disease). The lumps that appeared should have been on the lymph nodes (ie the groin).

    Why did the disease take a long time with the Jack Thompson character? How come Rutger Hauer never contracted the plague despite swimming in the contaminated water?

    Wouldn't have taken much to fix up those problems in the script.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Wow. Maybe Verhoeven was warming up for "Robocop".

    This movie makes me think of "Requiem for A Dream" and "Crash". Even forewarned, you find it difficult to to handle ALL the characters being not-very-nice people. At least in "Requiem" and "Crash" we got some idea of character development, even if some of the characters were totally reprehensible. Most viewers could at least root for the "least awful" character.

    I'm not sure that there IS a "least-awful" character in "Flesh + Blood". Everybody is pretty awful, so you're reduced to making decisions like, "Do I prefer serial rapists to military commanders who betray their own troops for money? Is it worse to deliberately blow up your friend to test a gunpowder bomb, or to deliberately poison small children?"


    At the end, I was vaguely hoping that a thermonuclear device would be transported back in time, like in "Sliders", so we could just off everyone and have a clean slate. No such luck. The 4th worst person rides away with the the 7th worst person, while the 3rd worst person trails behind. Meantime, in the background, the 2nd worst person escapes what appeared to be certain death...and gets rich in the bargain. The 5th worst person rides off back home to take up farming.

    There ARE some things that make the movie interesting, though not necessarily good:

    1. You learn that lightning can melt an iron chain without hurting the person imprisoned by it.

    2. You see how two dozen ragtag mercenaries, both male and female, can attack and take a walled city with a collection of silly swords, knives, and wooden shafts. (I'm not really sure about the need for these mercenaries, since they are immediately chased out of the city by their employer using a significant number of armed and mounted troops wearing decent armor. Perhaps he was keeping these troops in reserve exactly so they WOULD be able to chase out the mercenaries.)

    3. You get to see how the hook and ladder truck, complete with telescoping ladder, was invented in 1501, though it was made of wood and so it was not the best choice for fighting fires.

    4. I was not aware that you could cure bubonic plague by lancing the buboes and draining them, but I didn't attend medical school, so I am not sure about this.

    5. Jennifer Jason Leigh obviously showed up late for filming and the wardrobe department was closed. She only manages enough clothes for about 2/3 of the scenes. It seems to me that most stars in this sort of movie are reluctant to frolic in the buff too much, leaving that to the secondary players and erotic dancers. Not Ms. Leigh. She takes the burden on her shoulder's and makes sure everybody gets a really, really good look...coming, going, fighting, bathing, sleeping, and so forth.

    Anyway, there's no question in my mind that a high-schooler writing this script would be expelled in about 30 seconds and not let back into school until he/she had some super-strength counseling. Now that I think about it, the mercenaries WERE pretty much just high-school boys who had been drinking a bit much.

    If it sound like I didn't like this movie, it is not true. I found it very interesting and entertaining. I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to think at the end.

    *** out of *****
  • When l saw this picture for first time in 1988, it's overwhelm myself on so realist movie where the director Verhoeven describes fully lecherous behavior of people from the medieval era, actually was hard times to everyone to survive in a lawless land, the powers come from state cities and ruled by the Catholic church mainly, so this piece of art made by Verhoeven careless more adjectives to explain so magnificent movie, of course there are some minor faults like the unbelievable war machine build in the whole night and ready to use in next day and the scene where the boy use a lightning bolt to break the chains, therefore the movie reach on the high standard to me!!!


    First watch: 1988 / How many: 4 / Source: TV-DVD / Rating: 8.5
  • BA_Harrison22 June 2014
    I find it amusing to think that I owe my discovery of director Paul Verhoeven to British chat-show host Michael Parkinson (famous for being attacked by hand puppet Emu): when Parky briefly took over from Barry Norman as presenter of BBC1's weekly film review show, he lambasted Flesh + Blood, saying that he was so appalled by what he had seen that he had to walk out of the cinema mid-film. That was all the recommendation I needed. I grabbed a seat at the first available showing and a new Verhoeven fan was born.

    What made the film such a fun experience in my opinion was in seeing just how far Verhoeven was willing to go to upset sensitive individuals like Parkinson. Like much of the Dutch director's output, Flesh + Blood is a glorious exercise in excess-a riotous medieval romp that misses no opportunity to rub the viewer's nose in its filth and debauchery. Verhoeven's carefree approach is reflected in the film's outrageous plot, a general disregard for historical accuracy, the wanton sex and violence, and the many absurdly grotesque characters.

    Set in Western Europe in 1501, the film opens with Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) attempting to forcefully win back his town, the siege led by Captain Hawkwood (Jack Thompson), who has employed an army of mercenaries to help with the campaign. Once successfully inside the town, Arnolfini reneges on his deal with the hired soldiers, kicking them out minus their spoils and weapons. As payback for their betrayal, the band of mercenaries attack Arnolfini and steal his wagons, accidentally kidnapping Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), intended wife of Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson), in the process. At the mercy of these moral-free reprobates, Agnes uses her womanly wiles and sexy young body to stay alive, seducing Martin (Rutger Hauer), the strongest of the mercenaries, keeping him happy until Steven can organise a rescue mission.

    Verhoeven has a blast, filling his film with numerous scenes designed to push the boundaries: a seduction that takes place beneath a pair of rotting, hanged corpses; a stillborn baby being buried in a barrel; Agnes learning about the birds and the bees from her maid (played by Nancy 'Bart Simpson' Cartwright, who goes topless!); a semi-naked nun suffering seizures, having had her head hacked open by Hawkwood; the gang rape of Agnes by Martin and his men; a steamy jacuzzi sex scene in which Jennifer Jason Leigh leaves little to the imagination. The director also has fun with a few moments designed to seriously test the viewer's ability to suspend disbelief, most notably the introduction of a medieval tank that turns into an extendable ladder, and Steven's escape from shackles that involves electrocuting himself with a convenient lightning bolt.

    An excellent cast of supporting players gamely tackle the demented lunacy, with cult favourite Brion James as mercenary Karsthans, Ronald Lacey (of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame) as a deviant cardinal, and Susan Tyrell as brash, foul-mouthed whore Celine. The film also benefits from excellent cinematography from Jan De Bont, director of Speed and Twister, and a rousing score from Basil Poledouris, who would go on to work with Verhoeven on Robocop and Starship Troopers.
  • It's 1501 Western Europe. Martin (Rutger Hauer) leads a group of veteran mercenaries. Arnolfini promises them 24 hours of looting but he recants on his promise. Arnolfini's son Steven (Tom Burlinson) is engaged to Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Their caravan is attacked by Martin and Agnes is taken. Steven struggles to rescue her.

    Paul Verhoeven gives us lots of sex and violence in this medieval drama. It has since become his signature move. It's over the top nature was only restrained by his budget. Of course, Verhoeven gets people to walk around naked especially Jennifer. This could be categorized as cheese. Mind you, it's extremely high class expensive cheese. The humor can be very broad. Some of the acting is very big. All of it very memorable. The best part may be the sexual relationships that goes on in this movie. Who seduces who is maybe the most compelling question. The love triangle looks different depending on which side you're coming from. It's both compelling and a fun guilty pleasure.
  • lchris911 December 2001
    I happened to catch this 1985 film on cable. I'd never heard of it before, and found only a few reviews for it on the movie review query engine. That's a shame, because this is one of the most original of the swords/knights/princesses genre movies I've seen. Technically, it's not a medieval tale, as it's set in the 16th Century, but with the exception of some innovative period weapons, including an exploding barrel with a long fuse that sometimes goes off at the wrong time, the atmosphere is very much out of the dark ages. While the costumes, scenery and plot (a gang of betrayed soldiers seek revenge and kidnap a princess) are fairly typical, the subtlety of the characters and the moral ambiguity of the story are very atypical of Hollywood films. For one thing, it's very difficult to say who the bad guys are. The gang of kidnappers, led by Rutger Hauer, is churlish and brutal. Yet, they were badly mistreated at the beginning of the movie, so it's hard not to retain some sympathy for them. The princess, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is a similarly ambiguous character. She's loved by both Hauer and his enemy (played by Tom Burlinson) and she may or may not love one or both of them in return. Overall, what makes Flesh and Blood original is the fact that it doesn't romanticize the past. Life is portrayed as extremely harsh; people rape, kill and torture with impunity, and the threat of the plague lurks everywhere. It's a good antidote for anyone who, after watching one of the King Arthur movies, wishes they were a sword-wielding knight.
  • Director Paul Verhoeven has always enjoyed shocking his audience with violence, sex, gore and filth. This love of all things sordid can be traced right back to his European films of the '70s. In Flesh + Blood, his English-language debut, Verhoeven delights in pushing back a few Hollywood boundaries and serving up a medieval romp that alternately intrigues and disgusts. While it is most definitely not everyone's cup of tea, Flesh + Blood is never boring.... and certainly shows the plague-ridden period in a more authentic light than most films that have gone before.

    In Western Europe during the early 16th Century, a gang of mercenaries led by the charismatic Martin (Rutger Hauer) help a nobleman to win back control of his city. The nobleman (Fernando Hillbeck) promises that they may take loot from his city if they help him. but once the battle reaches a favourable conclusion he goes back on his word and banishes the mercenaries to the wild. Martin's gang return for revenge and discover that the nobleman's son, Steven (Tom Burlinson), is to be married to a virginal princess named Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The mercenaries kidnap Agnes and head off with her, leaving young Steven to lament his loss. Agnes is abused and tormented by her captors, and ultimately raped by Martin himself, but she gives the impression that she is actually enjoying her ordeal. Martin falls in love with her and takes her as his "official" lover, making a home for her and the band in a nearby castle. Meanwhile, Steven enlists an old soldier, Hawkwood (Jack Thompson) - once a colleague of Martin's - and together they plan a way of rescuing the princess from the clutches of the mercenaries.

    Flesh + Blood is full of deliberate unpleasantness. Rotting corpses hang from trees; a stillborn baby is crudely stuffed into a barrel and buried in a puddle; gang rape reigns supreme; heads and torsos are impaled on lances; nuns are disfigured and murdered; a plague-ridden dog is dismembered and its body parts used for a primitive form of germ warfare. Verhoeven is clearly having a ball rubbing our noses in all this dirt, and he somehow encourages his well-known cast to enter into the vile proceedings with full-blooded gusto. The problem is that the story is not all that compelling and takes a long time to play out to its obvious conclusion. There are occasional foolish moments that mar credibility too, such as the scene where Steven's soldiers build an unbelievably complex assault contraption overnight (a scene which hilariously reminds one of The A-Team!), and the bit where Martin spends several hours in a poisoned well but climbs out uninfected, while other members of his band drop down stricken merely by drinking a sip of the same water. Flesh + Blood is ultra-violent, ultra-brutal and ultra-sordid, so you'll need to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy it. In other words, it's admirable but not enjoyable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ...they always sound so amusing when they berate films, just give em one little shocking scene and they start climbing the walls. I think Paul Verhoeven also loves this, as his films certainly have some decent "shock" value, and are for the most part hopelessly misunderstood, just look at Starship Troopers. I think maybe 10% of people actually "got" what PV was trying to say with that one.

    I won't go into plot, because I've read the other reviews and those other ones cover it better than I could. What I will say is this film has some of the more original and memorable moments I've seen, like the hanging corpses/mandrake bit...if you've seen the movie you know exactly what I'm talking about...this could hardly be called "erotic" but it's a great little snapshot of a romantic notion during such brutal times. The feast scene is great, where the mercenaries suddenly decide that because they are now "nobles" (they've captured a castle) they must use knives and forks to eat. Great scene, as some of them begin wielding their knives and forks like they are going into battle against their dinner, and have to be shown the correct way to hold them.

    This film is anything but "anti-women" in fact, I'd say it's more "anti-PEOPLE" than anything else, as the men in this story endure just as much suffering, as the women. JJL's character is actually a very smart, switched on young lady who realises her only chance of survival is to USE her sex BY degrading it, to STAY ALIVE. And who could blame her? Life was incredibly cheap.

    I think the sex scene in the tub with Rutger and JJL is awesome...totally original and very erotic. And the rape scene is bad but serves the plot as i mentioned above. The fight scenes are awfully choreographed but i can't help thinking this was a slightly misguided effort to appear more realistic. I mean, the warfare back then often consisted of running headlong into your enemy and beating/stabbing him to death with a stick or blade...not very gentlemanly or dignified, and probably looked just as horrible as it would have felt.

    Before you label me arrogant, there are a lot of movies I don't "get" at all. For whatever reason Paul Verhoeven's GOOD movies (he has made some crap) seem to come across clear as a bell to me, and I'm always impressed. For his introduction to Hollywood, and thus IT'S introduction to him, Verhoeven certainly had some guts to present them with this film. I'm actually a little surprised it got made, especially in the US, with it's seemingly random assortment of rape, murder, foul-ness and debauchery.

    The romantic notions of the dark/middle ages etc are great, and I'm a fan of "high fantasy" as well, but I've also read much of the reality of the times, and it was not pretty. Nonexistent medicine, certified lunatics living among the general population, rats, dirt, disease, more dirt, blood, gangs of thug mercenaries wandering the countryside, chased and hounded by equally vicious soldiers. Not to mention the plague. A time to visit in history books and in the imagination, but if ever finally complete my time machine, I'm NOT going to Western Europe circa way!
  • I think this is Paul Verhoeven's best work. The story is set in Medieval Europe. The first time I saw this was on Netflix. It was the Not Rated Version. I've never seen this movie cut.I am going to get this movie on video and hopefully it will be the cut version. Flesh + Blood was cut to avoid an X rating It was cut. My book The Cutting Room Floor says Paul Verhoeven had to go back to the MPAA about three or four times. This is a explicit movie but no where near Basic Instinct. I think Rutger Hauer did an excellent performance as Martin. The cinematography is great, the sets are great, and the acting is great. Jennifer Jason Leigh does a good job as Agnes.
  • hall89518 February 2012
    It's 1501 and somewhere in Europe a city has been taken in a coup. Its rightful ruler Arnolfini hires some mercenaries to lead a siege to take it back. They do just that. Their commander Hawkwood unfortunately almost hacked some nun's head off during the siege and is now overcome with guilt. Watch where you swing that sword buddy. Anyhow the devious Arnolfini promises to provide medical care for the nun with the hole in her head if Hawkwood will turn on his men and assist in expelling them from the city, denying them the looting opportunities they had been promised. Cue sad faces from the mercenaries as they wander the countryside.

    The mercenaries now follow their new leader, Martin. He's the leader because he found a statue of Saint Martin while he was digging a grave for his stillborn son. Seriously. Meanwhile back in the city Arnolfini has arranged a marriage for his son Steven and his well-styled 1980s hair to some young heiress. Steven is not interested, perhaps because he worries the girl will have nicer hair than him. But the two would-be lovers meet and after eating a magic root they find under a hanging, rotting corpse they fall in love. Seriously. Oh by the way, this young girl, Agnes, is clueless in the ways of love so she has just had her maid and some random dude physically demonstrate for her how to have sex. The maid is played by the voice of Bart Simpson. Seriously. Guided by the all-powerful statue of Saint Martin the mercenaries show up and sack the traveling party, making off with all the wedding loot and taking Agnes too. Cue sad face from 1980s hair boy.

    Sweet, virginal Agnes is brutally gang-raped by Martin and his men but doesn't seem to mind very much. She forgets Steven and falls for Martin. So innocent she didn't even know what sex was a day ago she's soon playing footsie under the table and, while having sex in a bathtub, thrashing about like some kind of medieval porn star. Fast learner this girl. Steven sets out to rescue her. Hilarity ensues. Oh wait, not hilarity. Plague. Plague ensues. Did you know you can instantly get the plague and drop dead if you take a sip of contaminated water but if you are submerged in a well full of that same water for hours you'll be just fine? Also, Steven constructs a massive, complicated war machine, the medieval equivalent of a Sherman tank, in approximately five minutes. Amidst all the nonsense is a constant stream of the worst, most laughable dialogue heard in any movie ever. Every once in a while Jennifer Jason Leigh takes her clothes off again. More nonsense happens. Then more nonsense. And more nonsense. And then the movie ends.
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