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Anchor Bay presents
Katie Tippel (Keetje Tippel) (1975)

"Money turns people into bastards."
- Keetje Tippel (Monique Van de Ven)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: November 29, 2001

Stars: Monique Van de Ven, Rutger Hauer
Other Stars: Eddy Brugman, Andrea Domburg
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic sexuality, language, disturbing imagery)
Run Time: 01h:47m:02s
Release Date: October 23, 2001
UPC: 013131125498
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B+C- B

DVD Review

Katie Tippel (Keetje Tippel) (Monique Van de Ven) is the second-oldest daughter of the large, poor Oldema family that moves from Friesland to Amsterdam in 19th century Holland in search of work. In the city, Katie's father and sister find and lose a succession of jobs, and Katie works briefly at a dangerous wool-dyeing factory and as a milliner's assistant, encountering sexual harassment in both lines of work. Katie is forced into prostitution by her own mother (Andrea Domburg), but when she meets an artist (Peter Faber) and begins working as his model, she begins a climb into legitimate society with her ambitious lover, Hugo (Rutger Hauer). Meanwhile, the influence of the royal family begins to wane as workers unite to move the country towards socialism.

Director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Gerard Soeteman adapted Katie Tippel ("Katie the Streetwalker") from the autobiographical writings of Neel Doff, a Dutch socialite who began writing her frank memoirs (in French) when she was in her fifties. According to Verhoeven's commentary, he was never completely happy with the script, and some of the reasons are obvious. The story has no dramatic throughline—it plays on-screen as a series of episodes, without a traditional plot structure as such, and even the ending seems abrupt and disconnected. The film is tied together only by Katie herself, as her family and friends are relegated to the periphery, where they remain underdeveloped and inconsistently motivated. The film's background story, about the rise of socialism in Holland, isn't well-realized either—we see demonstrations in the streets, and the wealthy taking sexual advantage of the poor, but there's little sense that class conflict is reaching a boiling point. This is partly due to the production's budget, only two-thirds the size Verhoeven felt he needed; crowd scenes are smallish in scale, the "period" feel is not entirely convincing, and lighting isn't always sufficient in darker scenes.

Star Monique Van de Ven carries the film as best she can given its fundamental limitations, and her portrayal of an unsophisticated but intelligent girl is convincing and touching—her childish giggles at bonbons and fancy hats contrast effectively with her grim acquiescence to the requirements of survival. Van de Ven makes Katie a girl worth rooting for without making her a saint, no small feat in such grim surroundings. And Verhoeven handles the content with his customary graphic realism—the film's many sexual scenes are presented as animal, exploitative acts, with copious frontal nudity but little romanticism or apparent pleasure. Nor does Verhoeven's camera (cinematography by Jan de Bont) shy away from the earthy realities of life in the Oldema household—drowned puppies, dirty diapers, and illness abound, and there's nothing glamorous about life without money in Katie's world.

This is definitely not a Hollywood picture—it's harsh and explicit, sometimes to a fault, but that's what Paul Verhoeven does best. Katie Tippel is not his best film, but it's no Showgirls either. Fans of the director's Hollywood work may want to give this early effort a look.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Katie Tippel is presented in its original 1.66:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with an anamorphic, slightly windowboxed transfer for maximum image resolution. The low budget film has a soft quality about it, occasionally exacerbated by grain and light level variations, but the DVD transfer by Crest National successfully captures the film's look, with natural tones highlighted by spots of bright color. The source print exhibits a few flecks here and there, but the dual-layer digital presentation looks fine, with minimal edge enhancement and no distracting compression artifacts.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The monaural analog soundtrack of Katie Tippel hasn't dated well—there's some hiss and background noise in dialogue scenes, and dynamic and frequency range are noticeably limited by the recording technology of 1975. Still, dialogue and sound effects are generally clear, and Rogier van Otterloo's score (with stock music assistance) sounds clean enough. Not an impressive soundtrack, but it's properly transferred to DVD in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono format.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Paul Verhoeven
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:04m:18s

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
Extras Review: Anchor Bay supports this latest entry in the Paul Verhoeven collection with 25 text-menu chapter stops, optional English subtitles (on by default), and several worthwhile extras.

Theatrical Trailers include the German (Das Madchen Keetje Tippel) and United States (Keetje Tippel) theatrical trailers, nicely presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic format from reasonably clean source prints. Both trailers are fairly explicit, with nudity and other adult content included; the U.S. trailer plays up the "foreign film" angle for the sake of prestige, comparing it to the work of Fellini, Bergman, and Bertolucci.

A 22-image Stills Gallery reproduces the film's original lobby cards, as well as a number of stills provided by Verhoeven himself. Most of these are publicity shots, with just a few candid behind-the-scenes photographs.

Well-written and substantial Talent Bios provide histories and filmographies for director Verhoeven and stars Monique Van de Ven and Rutger Hauer.

Director Paul Verhoeven contributes an entertaining (though intermittent) running commentary in his inimitable style, discussing the film's genesis and production with humor and some creative use of the English language. He provides quite a bit of additional insight into the film's story, discussing the Neel Doff memoirs on which the script was based, and he looks back at the film's emphasis on sexuality with some rueful chagrin. The Dutch director also discusses the film's "painterly" look and budget limitations, and is quite honest about what he would have done differently given the budget and the opportunity. Verhoeven is always fun to listen to, and his commentary here is no exception.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Paul Verhoeven's Katie Tippel (Keetje Tippel) is a flawed but still interesting portrait of one woman's life in nineteenth-century Holland. Anchor Bay's transfer features a good transfer and yet another entertaining commentary by Verhoeven. Worth a spin.


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