Flesh and Blood (1985)
***Contains spoilers, but they don’t really matter***
On a recommendation from film fan, writer, and blogger, David Miller. I bought this film cheap from Amazon. One thing you can say about Dutch film-maker Paul Verhoeven is that he tackles a lot of varied subjects. From the saucy titillation of ‘Showgirls’, to the camp sci-fi of ‘Starship Troopers’, and on to the solid WW2 resistance drama, ‘Black Book’, you could never accuse him of being stuck in a style, or genre.
This epic production from thirty years ago stars Verhoeven regular Rutger Hauer, alongside a 23 year-old Jennifer Jason-Leigh. There is also the Australian stalwart Jack Thompson, and a crop of British and American character actors, including the wonderful Ronald Lacey, and gangster-film star Bruno Kirby. Cast-wise, he got the whole planet covered with this one. If you like historical sagas, castle sieges, and some of the flesh and blood mentioned in the title, then this one is for you.
The scene is somewhere in Europe, circa 1500. A local lord has employed a mercenary group to help his army get his castle and lands back. The film goes straight into the action, as Hauer and his group assault the castle, spurred on by the promise of looting and pillage for a clear twenty-four hours. They succeed in capturing the place, but find themselves betrayed by their employer, and driven out by his main army. Hiding out, Martin (Hauer) and his band manage to capture the daughter of the same lord. (Jason-Leigh) He soon seduces (well, rapes) her, and not long after that, he falls in love with her too.
Later, this disparate band arrive at another castle, which they quickly capture, to use as a hideout and a base. But they are unaware that those inside already have the plague, (The Black Death) and not long after, Agnes’ (Jason-Leigh) betrothed lover, Steven, arrives with an army to rescue her. More battles ensue, and neither side can get the upper hand, as their soldiers succumb to the plague all around. Eventually, the castle catches fire, and the mercenaries that are still alive are forced to flee, leaving Steven and Agnes reunited at last.
The story hardly matters, and knowing the outcome won’t spoil your enjoyment of this rip-roaring Renaissance romp. It’s got the lot. Tough men, hard fighting, siege towers, explosions, rape and pillage, nudity, plague deaths, and double-dealing a-plenty. Very enjoyable, if dated now, and as few films are made about this turbulent period in European history, somewhat unique in the genre. I can really only think of the superior, ‘The Last Valley’, or the simply wonderful ‘Captain Alatriste’, both of which are set at least one hundred years later. Here’s a trailer.