I love Paul Verhoeven. It’s not that I think his movies are the greatest things since Danish-Go-Rounds or anything (except maybe Robocop), but I love listening to him talk. When I re-watch his Dutch movies, I just listen to the commentary track. He’s so full of energy. I was introduced to his films through Robocop (like most Americans), but I went and searched out all his films when they finally became available. His Dutch films are very different from his Hollywood fare. That’s because Hollywood only lets him make Sci-Fi. Yes, Basic Instinct isn’t sci-fi, nor is Showgirls (well, maybe Showgirls is, cuz it sure doesn’t take place in reality).
Business is Business – Paul’s 1st official feature and first time working with D.P. Jan de Bont (who should’ve stuck to cinematography, because he’s an awful director. Ok, Speed is fun). Huge hit in Holland.
Turkish Delight – Mega super hit in Holland (is it still the highest grossing Dutch film?). Verhoeven and Rutger Hauer had worked together previously on the Dutch tv show Floris, where Rutger is a medieval knight. It too was a huge success on Dutch Televsion. Turkish Delight has all of Verhoeven’s trademarked sex and adult themes, and would probably get an NC-17 if released in America today (when did we become such prudes? Oh right, the Puritans).
Soldier of Orange – Great film. Turkish Delight got him noticed outside of Holland, but Soldier of Orange blew him up on the international scene. It won the LA Film Critics award for best foreign film, and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Rutger Hauer is back again as a famous Dutch resistance fighter in WWII. Verhoeven’s first teaming with D.P. Jost Vacano (Oscar nominee for Das Boot), who shot all of Verhoeven’s American films except Basic Instinct, when Paul reteamed with Jan de Bont. This was also Verhoeven’s first teaming with actor Jeroen Krabbe, who Yankees will most likely remember from The Fugitive.
Spetters – Ok, this one is kind of a misfire, but still interesting. He got in some hot water with censors over the gratuitious nature of some of the nudity. But come on. Paul Verhoeven without nudity is like Scorsese without Catholocism. It’s in their DNA. This was hot stuff Renee Soutendijk’s first outing with Paul (she tried to break into the American market years later with the dreadful Eve of Destruction, co-starring Gregory Hines. Suffice it to say she high tailed it back to Holland). There are some brief cameos from Rutger and Jeroen in this one.
The 4th Man – Critics loved this one. They really latched on to the deep symbolism of the imagery. Of course, Verhoeven did them as a joke and was sort of making fun of symbolism in cinema. Suckers! Jeroen Krabbe and Renee Soutendijk are together in what could be considered a precursor to Basic Instinct (except with a good actress). This was technically Verhoeven’s final Dutch film until Black Book in 2006.
Flesh + Blood – I don’t think you can call this his American debut. It was written by Gerard Soeteman (who’s worked on all of Verhoeven’s Dutch productions), shot by Jan de Bont, and starring Rutger Hauer. But it’s in English and stars Americans Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bruno Kirby (because when you think “medieval times, you think “Bruno Kirby”). It feels like one of Paul’s Dutch films. Let’s call it his English debut. And for you sickos out there, you can catch a glimpse of Bart Simpson’s udders in an early scene.
Robocop – Holy crap! There had never been anything like this before. The humor, the violence and the actors were all great. When had there ever been a nerd looking bad guy like Kurtwood Smith before? Everyone was great (Nancy Allen was the weakest link, but she was ok). An interesting tidbit is, Verhoeven didn’t even want to do this. He didn’t get the humor. His wife made him re-read the script and told him to do it. Lesson being, guys listen to your wives.
Total Recall – I am not a huge fan of this. Even when it came out I thought the dialogue and acting were weak. The profanity was not organic and felt forced. But this has an interesting story to how it came about. The script was started back in the 70’s, and let’s just say it would’ve been an entirely different movie with Bruce Beresford directing and Patrick Swayze starring. Although, I would’ve preferred the Cronenberg, Jeff Bridges pairing. Jeff would never shoot his wife in the head and say “Consider that a divorce.” But all that aside. I still watch it on occasion. It’s Paul Verhoeven after all.
Basic Instinct – I hated this when it came out. I think Joe Eszterhas was the worst high paid screenwriter in Hollywood (Akiva Goldsman took the crown in later years). I thought the acting was horrible. But years later, after I had seen The 4th Man, and then listened to Verhoeven talk about Basic Instinct, I looked at it with new eyes. Now I don’t take it too seriously, and look at it more as a fun trashy film like Wild Things. Still not my favorite, but Paul re-teamed with Jan de Bont one last time before Jan decided to begin a promising directing career with Speed (and subsequently ended all promise with Twister). See the director’s cut for more Rob Bottin gore (where have you gone Rob? Don’t let KNB do all the work. You’re better then they are (not to put down KNB, they’re good too).
Showgirls – Ya know what, I only saw it once. I own the special DVD set with shot glass and everything, but I was afraid to see it. If I hadn’t re-evaluated Basic Instinct, I probably would’ve hated this more. But if I watch this as an intentional comedy, it’s more enjoyable to sit through. Paul was on top of the world after Basic Instinct, and this one basically sunk him.
Starship Troopers – I love this movie. No where near as good as Robocop (also written by Ed Neumeier), but I got the joke. This failed at the box office, but picked up a rather large cult following and found new life on DVD (enough of a life that a couple god awful direct-to-video sequels were made) The CGI bugs by Tippet Studios still look great today (and better than many current cgi monsters).
Hollow Man – Hollow Man? Why is that on your list? It’s terrible. Yeah, but I watch it with the commentary track on, so it’s more enjoyable. This is all Hollywood would let Paul do, which is a damn shame (yet they give Michael Bay millions to make Pearl Harbor and The Island. No justice).
Zwartboek (Black Book) – Thank Zeus Paul went back to Holland. Jost Vacano retired, so he had to work with Roland Emmerich’s D.P., Karl Walter Lindenlaub. Paul was again working with Gerard Soeteman from a story they started thinking about in the 70’s. Carice Van Houten is awesome (but unfortunately shacked up with co-star Sebastian Koch, so there goes my dreams of wooing her). For you Verhoeven fans, there are familiar faces like Derek de Lint, Dolf de Vries, and Thom Hoffman. I think this deserved an Oscar nomination more than France’s Days of Glory (it’s ok, but I think its nomination was more politically motivated).
Paul is supposedly working on a new film with Gerard Soeteman, and I hope he has several films left in him (he had a heart scare a few years ago, and I was afraid he wasn’t going to finish Black Book). Keep ‘em coming you magnificent bastard.