“The beauty of [a] Mill Creek box set is discovering a movie that you would otherwise never find.”
— Sam Panico, in his review of fellow the “Drive-In Classics” entry, Throw Out the Anchor
Sure, by way of his string of hits with Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), and Basic Instinct (1992), we’re all fans of Dutch writer and director Paul Verhoeven. Then there’s the box office flop that is Showgirls (1995; Golden Raspberry for “Worst Director”) and his (I felt, misguided) fascism-in-space romp, Starship Troopers (1997). While he had a career in the Netherlands dating to the early 1960s, Verhoeven didn’t make his feature film-debut proper until a decade later with the comedy Business Is Business (1971) and the romantic “erotic drama,” Turkish Delight (1973; Oscar-nominated as “Best Foreign Language Film”). Katie Tippel, aka Keetje Tippel, was Verhoeven’s third film prior to his critically-acclaimed, international breakthrough with the romance-thriller Solider of Orange (1977), which introduced the world to Jeroen Krabbé and Rutger Hauer. Both actors came to star in two of Verhoeven’s later international hits, the murder-mystery, The Fourth Man (1983), and the historical adventure, Flesh + Blood (1985), respectively.
It tells the story of Katie (Monique van de Ven, the wife of cinematographer and director Jan de Bont of Speed and Die Hard fame; she made her debut in Turkish Delight), a young girl led into a life of prostitution to help support her impoverished family in 1881 Amsterdam. Based on the memoirs (it’s debated if the story is, in fact, real, made-up, or a patch work of the lives of others) of Dutch-born, Belgium-bred and French-writing Cornelia Hubertina “Neel” Doff, she is remembered as one of the Netherlands’ most important authors. Then noted as that country’s most expensive production, the film became the Netherlands’ number one box office draw of the year. Paul Verhoeven has said that, of all of his films, this is the one that he wants to remake and, in fact, he pulled elements of Katie Tippel into the Joe Eszterhas-penned disaster, Showgirls.
He should remake this film . . . or at least see this though a restoration (well, he did, as we’ll discover). The Mill Creek version does nothing to enhance your appreciation of the film as the version, here, is muddy and the dubbing, awkward. However, as Sam stated: this is a unique, bargain-based introduction to exposing yourself to Paul Verhoeven’s Dutch-language works; a film you would not see, otherwise.
In addition to Mill Creek, Anchor Bay offers a higher-quality, single-disc version — complete with an audio commentary track by Paul Verhoeven. For a deeper dive into that Anchor Bay version, this November 2002 examination by Dale Dobson at Digitally Obsessed will get you there. For another take — in addition to insights on four more of Verhoeven’s Dutch-language works, there’s no review finer than James Newman’s for Images Journal. Of course, Anchor Bay is no more, but used DVDs abound in the online marketplace.
You Tube offers a very clean, subtitled rip from the Anchor Bay version. I never heard of or seen this film (I’ve only gone back as far as Solider of Orange at Roger Ebert’s urging, as I recall) and I enjoyed it. It is, however, a dark, depressing film . . . and hardly a film you’ll snuggle up next to your honey near a crackling speaker and burning mosquito coil. It is also classic Paul Verhoeven: a film rich set design, costuming, and exquisite cinematography.