Spetters  (1980) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

(We are reluctant to give a blanket recommendation to a film like this. It is a slice of life drama about kids trying to escape from dead-end lives in a Dutch town in the 1970s. It is filled with male nudity and a graphic male rape. It is obviously for a niche audience. Having given that preamble, let me say that both Tuna and I liked this film. It really gives you the feeling that you are watching real people.)

Scoop's comments:

Is there any kind of movie Paul Verhoeven hasn't made? I guess you can't accuse him of getting in a rut. S/F, war, hippie romance, comedy, crime thriller, and whatever Showgirls is.

If you aren't familiar with him, he was a wunderkind in the Dutch film world, an internationally recognized genius whose early promise almost assured him a spot alongside Bergman, Tarkovsky, Welles, and Kurosawa as a member of the cinema pantheon.

It didn't work out that way. He went to Hollywood and made commercial films instead. Here are his top 12 rated films at IMDb.

The five in yellow are his outstanding early Dutch works. The six in blue are his major Hollywood efforts. Flesh and Blood is a "tweener".  Many people claim that Verhoeven sold his soul to Hollywood Satan, or at the very least prostituted his great talent for fame and fortune. I think he had the right to choose the stage upon which he wished to perform, and I like some of his Hollywood films. They are technically slick, and at their best they blend action, eroticism, and humor very effectively. I do think, however, about what might have been if his career had developed on its original path.

Although Verhoeven gads from genre to genre, certain things run through his films fairly consistently. He tells all of his stories with underplayed satire and humor, and he often features frank sex and nudity. While he had to compromise somewhat for Hollywood, he managed to slip as much past the censors as anybody ever has. Basic Instinct and Showgirls are pioneers, after a fashion. Of course, even Verhoeven couldn't manage to portray in Hollywood films some of the events he portrayed in Spetters. Imagine three young Hollywood stars having a penis measuring contest where we actually see all the details, soft and semi-erect. Not likely? That scene is in Spetters, along with a graphic homosexual rape scene, and various other appearances of penises.

Spetters is, more or less, his contemporary sports movie. Don't expect it to follow the standard Hollywood sports movie clichés, however. For example, don't look for the underdog to triumph in the big match. Verhoeven disdains that kind of unrealistic sentimentalism. His movies stay on the cynical side of objectivity. If anything, you can look for the promising newcomer to get injured for life, and for his hopeful friend to find out that, despite all his dreams, he sucks.


Female: Breasts from Renee Soutendijk in multiple scenes. Breasts in one scene from Saskia ten Batenberg and Marianne Boyer.

Male: all possible body parts from Hans van Tongeren, Maarten Spanjer, and Toon Agterberg

The film, like much of Verhoeven's work, is full of nudity and graphic sex. Highlights include

  • several scenes of penis being stroked

  • male/male fellatio

  • homosexual rape,

  • a pecker contest in which the three leads compare their penises, including stroking them to erection, to see whose is the biggest, and

  • fairly hot hetero sex scenes.

Spetters is essentially a working class coming of age film, concentrating on four characters who are trying to find the path that will suit them in life. The three men, the spetters ("hotshots" or "grease stains"), are in the dirt biking scene. Rien is an upcoming superstar. Hans isn't any good, but is a nice guy. Eef is a good mechanic, who has some psychological problems because of the strict religious upbringing of his father. The final main character is a lower class tramp and golddigger who runs a traveling french-fry stand. Although she lives a gypsy existence in a trailer with her gay brother, she is shown to be smart and ballsy, and is willing to use anything at her disposal to move ahead in life. The characters are well rounded, with good characteristics and bad. They make bad decisions. They fail. Their lives take happy turns and tragic ones, because it is not really a movie about dreams coming true, but about how dreams get modified over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes in bitter dejection.

In reality, Spetters runs a storyline quite parallel to Showgirls - a sexually explicit working class soap opera about fundamentally decent people who chase their dreams amorally, then either find failure or determine that they were chasing the wrong dreams.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterboxed 1.85:1. Not a distinguished transfer.

  • full-length commentary from Paul Verhoeven


Verhoeven's most interesting twist on the sports movie genre is the fact that Rien, the future young champion, literally can't live without the stardom he expected. When he is injured and loses the use of his legs, he gives up. He has the world's greatest dad, who owns a bar/restaurant and wants him to join the business. He has the world's most devoted girlfriend and good friends. He could still have a great life in a wheelchair. Still, without his working legs and his working manhood, he chooses not to continue.

Hans then takes over Rien's bike and tries to live up to his friend's commitments. In a clichéd sports movie, Hans would win the big race, but in fact the film follows the path on the cynical side of Reality City, as per Verhoeven's tendency. Hans just can't cut it in Motocross. He does, however, fill in admirably for his friend in other ways, so the ending includes some hope for some of the characters.

Tuna's comments:

Spetters (1980) is the fifth Dutch film from Paul Verhoeven. He had just come off of Soldier of Orange, which was about the upper class and noble causes, and wanted a change of pace. Also, his first four films were based on novels, which means he was basically constrained to a story line. It occurred to him that a story about the blue collar class might be an interesting contrast to his last film. He constructed the story from newspapers, and  personal memories. It is set in a small, and rather provincial, town about 30 minutes from Amsterdam. It is the sort of town that everybody dreams of escaping, and making it big. As is true of many lower class situations, the best chance to escape is sports.

Motorcross was a hot sport in the Netherlands, largely due to their national champion, who nearly won the world championship. Indeed, Rutger Hauer's character was very closely patterned after this racer, down to his also being a dentist. Hauer agreed to this, for him, rather minor part because he liked the idea of working with young, new faces.

Spoilers Ahead

The story seemed like a slice of life to me, with sever intertwined sub-plots, none of which stuck out as the main story line. Thank God for DVD and commentaries. Verhoeven confirmed that it was meant to be a slice of life story, depicting life and times in that social strata. It centers around three young men.

  • Rien (Hans van Tongeren), a very promising motorcross amateur who is almost sure to win fame and fortune.
  • Eef (Toon Agterberg) who is a mechanic, son of an abusive Calvinist farmer, and a latent homosexual, although it his sexual preference becomes less latent as the film progresses
  • Hans (Maarten Spanjer), who is a perennial failure at everything he tries, but also competes at motorcross. Hans is the least self-serving, and nicest of the three.

Spoilers ahead

Rien is dating Maya, Marianne Boyer, who works in a supermarket, and is an immigrant from Indonesia. At lot of Indonesians escaped and moved to The Netherlands around that time, but met with a lot of racial prejudice. Along comes blond bombshell Fientje (Renée Soutendijk), and her gay brother Jaap (Peter Tuinman), who run a snack trailer. She also wants to make it big, and has learned to manipulate men, but keeps choosing the wrong men. Fientje first sets her sights on Rien, sure that he will become rich and famous. Her dreams, and his, are ended when he suffers a spinal cord injury in a freak accident. Then Eef convinces her that he can afford to take her to Canada, and they will become rich there. Strike two, as her brother proves that Eef likes boys, not girls. That leaves Hans, who she tries to promote as a racer, but realizes that he doesn't have the ability.

Act three gets pretty serious. Rien commits suicide, unable to accept paralysis and the end of his dream. Eef, after being gang raped by Jaap and several friends, realizes he is gay and comes out to his father. Rien's father has a nervous breakdown, and sells his pub. The ending is not without hope, however, because Hans and Fientje get together, buy the pub property, and turn it into a disco.

In contrast to the intensity of act three, act one is full of humor and sex. Ii my favorite scene, Eef and Hans take two girls to a construction site for sex. Hans is with one girl who discovers that her period has started, and Eef can't get an erection. Neither couple wants the other to know that they are not doing it, so both couples fake noisy orgasms.

End Spoilers

Of the four young stars, Renée Soutendijk went on to a huge career, with 50 credits at IMDB so far. Verhoeven believes that Hans van Tongeren had at least as much potential, but committed suicide three years after making this film. Both he and Hauer did most of their own motorcycle stunts.

The Critics Vote

  • no mapor reviews online

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "C. It is one of Verhoeven's weaker films, but I still found it engaging enough to keep my eyes on the screen and my hand off the fast forward". Tuna says, "Verhoeven succeeded here is what he was trying to do, and the character development was excellent, which helped to keep my interest. Although not my favorite of his films, I am glad I watched it. The proper score is C. If you like this sort of film, Verhoeven knows how to make films, and the story is unique, and rather true to life."

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