1985 / Director. Paul Verhoeven.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
FLESH + BLOOD was director Paul Verhoeven's first proper American production following a dozen or so Dutch films. Audiences have since come to expect extreme violence and highly sexualised content from him (as demonstrated in ROBOCOP, BASIC INSTINCT, SHOWGIRLS, STARSHIP TROOPERS amongst others) but as a newcomer on the Hollywood scene in 1985 he confronted and shocked most movie-goers with this medieval tale of rape and murder packaged as an exciting adventure. In fairness to him, the film's title IS FLESH + BLOOD, which foreshadows both the violence and the sexual nature of the story. However, what is so confronting about the film is the excessiveness. Even in today's standards the imagery is difficult to watch. Women are raped in the most abhorrently explicit and graphic ways and without apology. The story is set in the 1500s and depicts the revolt of a small group of mercenaries who rebel against their lord and captain. A wealthy maiden is accidentally kidnapped by them after she hides inside a commandeered wagon. She becomes the sexual prize of the group and the object of their leader's sexual urges. With the ruler and his army in pursuit, as well as the threat of the plague upon them, the rebellious group find themselves cornered in a castle with no option but to fight. If you've got the tolerance to persevere with the content you will find FLESH + BLOOD to be a wonderful and sincere medieval caper. Its barbaric and misogynistic themes may have been exploited for entertainment value but there's no question that it represents a way of life during such times that few other films of the era would have dared touch upon. The oddness of the international cast (Aussies, Americans, Dutch) with their conflicting accents lends the film a surreal and fantastical quality and the whole production design is deliciously decadent. FLESH + BLOOD was poorly received at the time of its release but it has since gained a cult following. I love it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre. With GAME OF THRONES now the most popular television show of the moment, I think that audiences are well and truly prepared for the type of extremities that this film has to offer.