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Flesh & Blood [Eureka Classics] (Blu-ray Review)

A deliriously violent medieval epic from genre master Paul Verhoeven ( Robocop, Total Recall), Flesh + Blood sees a savage and amoral band of mercenaries take revenge on the noblemen who betrayed them.  In Western Europe, 1501, a small army of mercenaries led by the charismatic and mercurial Martin ( Rutger Hauer; Blade Runner, The Hitcher) reclaim a heavily fortified castle for its owner Arnolfini, who then betrays the band and ejects them from the city by force. Swearing revenge, Martin leads a violent assault on the nobleman and ends up accidentally kidnapping the beautiful Agnes ( Jennifer Jason Leigh The Hateful Eight), the fiancée of Arnolfini’s son Steven, who in turn pledges to wipe out the mercenary group once and for all.  With its vision of a brutal and morally bereft Medieval Europe, the film shocked audiences who had become used to the highly romanticized depictions of the era commonly seen on the big screen. Originally censored in the UK due to its extreme amounts of sex and violence, Eureka Classics is proud to present Flesh + Blood fully uncut, and on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK in a special Dual Format edition.

Film 

Flesh & Blood would be Dutch auteur director Paul Verhoeven’s (Robocop) foray into American filmmaking. Well, almost. Flesh & Blood was funded by Orion Pictures and a Spanish and Dutch film production company put in the rest. With that in mind and like most of the characters in the film, not everyone involved made it out unscathed.

The year is 1501 and an Italian city has fallen. A group of mercenaries have taken refuge in a castle. They are promised shelter and plunder and are swiftly betrayed by those that still wield power and influence. Martin (Rutger Hauer) and his band of miscreants are eventually tossed out of the first castle they were in and carry on until they find another castle in which they also plan to take.

What Martin and his crew don’t realize until it’s too late is that those in inhabitants are all plague ridden. To complicate things even more, Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who was originally promised to another man, is taken as Martin’s woman by force. True to Agnes’ character she falls in and out of love with Martin while fascinated by the prospect of running wild with a bunch of mercenaries. It’s a weird “Stockholm syndrome” case with regards to her character arc, but Leigh is fantastic in her role, though.

Many things can be said about Flesh & Blood but being dull or stale are not those things. The film does not romanticize the genre. It’s filled with gross and crude characters who probably reek to high heaven. Every other person has bad teeth, scarred, or damaged in some way. It’s also a cynical film, as it addresses it’s themes. There are no defined heroes. Martin may be our lead but he’s killer and rapist. Agnes is hard to root for, because she likes the attention and the adventure.

Flesh & Blood bombed and was edited down to the controversial scenes of sex and excessive violence. Here, presented for the first time in the UK is Paul Verhoeven’s original vision of sword, sex, and blood uncut. It’s a terrific film that will most likely make you want to take a shower afterward to wash the filth off. No, that is not a negative comment, that is a term of endearment. Flesh & Blood is a terrific film.

 

 

Video

Encoding: AVC/MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail: This is one of those films that begs for a 4k restoration but what we get is just slightly above average. Contrast levels are decent and sharpness levels don’t seem to have been tweaked. DNR was kept in check – I did not pick up on any scenes that were slathered in digital noise reduction. 

Depth: Depth is average – certain scenes do come off as soft, however.

Black Levels: Black levels are average – only slight crush was detected but it was only minimal – blink and miss sort of thing. 

Color Reproduction: Certain shots of scenery look fantastic – almost like a Skittles’ commercial. Gardens are lush and the skies have an almost purple hue to them.

Flesh Tones: Everyone is looking good until the plague hits. Up until then everyone has pink in their cheeks and color in their skin. Once the ravages of wars et in – it gets rather rank with foulness, disease, and death. 

Noise/Artifacts: There are a few instances of dirt and debris throughout but nothing that would detract from one’s enjoyment. I assume these anomalies are inherent to source. A film such as this only benefits from a few imperfections, in my opinion.

 

 

 

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English LPCM 2.0 (48 kHz/24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This is a high resolution 2.0 track and it is exceptional. Dialogue, music, effects, etc., all share the audio-sphere and do a great job of not overlapping. The sound levels are clean, clear, and concise. I did not spot instances of clipping or distortion either. Flesh & Blood sounds terrific on this Blu-ray disc.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are nice and balanced it. They play through the front speakers without any problems.

 

Extras

Unlike previous editions out there in the last few years, this brand-new edition contains some very nice features. There are some interviews highlighting Verhoeven’s career up until 2016, I believe during the filming of Elle. There’s an interview with Gerard Soeteman, his co-screenwriter, and an audio interview with Rutger Hauer. The interview with the late-great composer Basil Poledouris was previously published in the Kino-Lorber and original MGM release – as was the audio commentary from the Kino version. They’re grade-A extras all the way around, though.

  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase (first print run only)
  • Audio commentary by director Paul Verhoeven
  • Paul Verhoeven in the Flesh (21 mins)
  • An extensive interview with director Paul Verhoeven from 2016, covering the entirety of his career up until that point (45 mins)
  • Audio interview with actor Rutger Hauer (24 mins)
  • Interview with screenwriter Gerard Soeteman (17 mins)
  • Interview with composer Basil Poledouris
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film (first pressing only)

 

 

Summary

For whatever reason – I did not think much of Flesh & Blood back when I actually owned the Kino version. Well, I must have been in a bad mood, because the Eureka Classics’ version is truly a revelation. Paul Verhoeven is a true auteur and the fact that he had the brass to create a sword-epic on a limited budget that touched upon cynicism and other social and moral ills of the time (then and now) was great. A Princess Bride this is not. The Eureka Classics Blu-ray has  average video and above average sound, with near reference special features. The film is fascinating and Paul Verhoeven is even more fascinating. Flesh & Blood is highly recommended!

 

 

Flesh & Blood is released

on Blu-ray August 6, 2018!

ORDER NOW!

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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