BLUE MOVIE (CULT EPICS Blu Ray DVD Combo, Feb 2019) Dutch,1971 89 mins. Color. Dutch, with optional English subtitles.
“This is Holland Today.” -Michael (Hugo Metsers, BLUE MOVIE)
BLUE MOVIE is an interesting motion picture that became one of the most successful Dutch films ever made (it is still listed as number 5). Its importance cannot be overlooked, as it was a film that showed that an intelligent thoughtful film could be made that contained actual (as well as simulated) sex within it.
Indeed, were it not for films like BLUE MOVIE helping break down and through the censorship that films endured both in Europe and the U.S., it is doubtful that Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noe, and Lars Von Trier would probably not being creating their works today.
A “blue movie” was one that was considered racier than the standard film of the time. Andy Warhol had done a film also called BLUE MOVIE (1969), which became the first film with explicit sex that received a wide theatrical release in the U.S. and began what became in the 1970s as “porn chic”.
The 1971 film being reviewed here could have played like a comic sex romp similar to the popular Robin Askwith films from England that followed in the decade, such as CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER (Columbia, 1974), were it not for the thoughtful direction, script and performances. That said, the filmmakers do sometimes see the humor in the various couplings, with one sequence within an elevator showing the couple going at it within the box, while frustrated people gather below wondering what is holding up the lift.
Michael (Hugo Metsers*, at age 28 ,starring in his first feature after just two t.v. appearances) has been released from prison after five years ,due to having sex with an under-aged girl .His parole officer Eddie (Helmert Woudenberg )escorts Michael (oddly none of the characters seem to have a last name, not even those who are married seem to have a surname) to a sterile modern apartment block. Michael’s small apartment seems almost as small as a prison cell, barely furnished. Eddie tells Michael that he will be keeping an eye upon him.
Still, Michael has urges, and, one night, peers around his balcony and watches his neighbors have sex. Later, he meets with the neighbors, and becomes sexually involved with the wife Elly (Carry Tefsen). He soon finds others within the building are open to sexual exploration, and he is soon having flings with several within the complex, including one amusing bit wherein a husband walks in on his wife and Michael, only to jump in and join them!
Michael, however, starts developing actual feelings for Julia (Ine Veen) ,an unmarried mother within the complex. He cares for her but skips a date with her rather than possibly hurting her.
He continues exploring the sexual mores of the time, and soon comes upon the idea of making money off the obvious fixations within the complex. He starts a private sex club and his neighbors stand about staring at black & white porn films (which have the most graphic sex of a few seconds that are depicted within Blue Movie), and later nude models walk about and finally a doctor is invited who examines the guests who wish to take part in an orgy .
One of the guests, Newman (Bill van Dijk, later to star on Broadway in the title role of CYRANO THE MUSICAL ,1994 as well as international pop star) commits suicide by leaping from the balcony of the apartment . Things start to fall apart, but Michael realizes that he truly has feelings for Julia. Can sex be truly satisfying without an emotional connection?
One of the Dutch Sex Wave, these films helped change how films were reviewed and censored. The producers released several other films that continued and expanded the trail blazed by BLUE MOVIE, and CULT EPICS has several of them available (see trailers mentioned below).
Though low budget, the film shows true talent both in front of and behind the camera.
The most notable is the director of photography is Jan de Bont .Mr. de Bont, after hopping back and forth from other European productions (most notably THE 4TH MAN ,Rob Houwer Productions,1983)and low to mid budget U.S. films ( CUJO, 1983;Sunn Classics/Taft) , he got major notice for his works on such blockbusters as DIE HARD (Fox,1988) before becoming a director himself on the megahit SPEED (Fox 1994),
The soundtrack by Juergen Drews (he played a street singer in the giallo SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS (Deter Geissler Filmproduktion ,1971) is a simple effective score, which at times reminds me of the music used in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A.,1969) .
CULT EPICS has done a phenomenal job with their restoration.
A 1080p HD transfer (thanks to the Eye Institute in Amsterdam, using original 16mm and 35mm negative elements), the picture is clean ,with outdoor scenes having a strong blue tinge . This seems to be more due to the color stock used than any intentional referencing to the title. The film is as sharp as it has probably ever looked.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track on the blu ray Dolby Digital dual Mono sound is crisp and clear, with no noticeable pops in the Dutch language only soundtrack. Optional English subtitles are easy to read.
Extras on the discs include
-A 1971 Interview from the director Wim Verstappen (who passed way in 2004) who discusses (in Dutch, with burnt in English subtitles) about making the film, dealing with censors, raising funds outside of the country, and plans for a thriller.
-A 2018 interview with producer Pim de la Parra while he was attending a retrospective of the “Dutch Sex Wave “. We learn that the director based his film upon sexploitation films that he had seen when he had visited New York.
-Another 2018 interview (in English) with Hugo Metsers Jr, son of the lead actor. He talks about seeing this film when he was quite young, and how seeing his father was the star destroyed any eroticism the film might have had upon him. He also recalls his father is happier with stage work over film.
– A short piece on, the Eye Film Institute. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of film, particularly Dutch works. Also, in their collections are rare film books, posters, and publicity material, as well as screening rooms. By the way, should you wish to check out their website in English, https://www.eyefilm.nl/en . The structure, built near the river in Amsterdam, looks like the Sydney Opera House mated with the MOMA in New York!
– A poster and photo gallery for BLUE MOVIE.
-Four trailers for films by the same production team (Pim & Wim’s Scorpio Films), including
BLUE MOVIE (which gives you an idea of how the film may have looked before the restoration),
OBSESSIONS (1969 ,which shows a strong Hitchcock influence as well as a Bernard Herrmann score that he used from pieces he created back in 1957 for the CBS Music Library!) available from Cult Epics http://www.cultepics.com/product-detail/obsessions/
FRANK & EVA (1973, also starring Metsers) http://www.cultepics.com/product-detail/frank-eva/ ,
and MY NIGHTS WITH SUSAN, SANDRA, OLGA and JULIE (1975 ,that appears to be a more erotic variant of THE BEGUILED ,Universal, 1971) ,currently not listed as available from Cult Epics.
Recommended, especially for fans of foreign films, art house, and erotica.
Kudos to Cult Epics for the care that they give to these films.
–Kevin G Shinnick
*- there is another Dutch actor, also named Hugo Metsers, who was only about 3 when BLUE MOVIE was made.
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