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Anchor Bay presents
Business is Business (Wat Zien Ik?) (1971)

"Not everyone likes a woman to look like a slut."
- Nel (Sylvia de Leur)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 12, 2001

Stars: Ronnie Beirman, Sylvia de Leur
Other Stars: Piet Romer, Jules Hamel, Berard Droog, Henk Molenberg, Albert Mol, Eric van Ingen, Allard van der Scheer, Jan Verhoeven
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Nudity, violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:49s
Release Date: October 23, 2001
UPC: 013131125597
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BA-A C+

DVD Review

Having become the most successful European director in Hollywood, Dutch born Paul Verhoeven has made a number of Hollywood boxoffice hits, including the sexy thriller Basic Instinct, the brutal adaptation of Heinlein's Starship Troopers, the futuristic Robocop and Schwarzenegger vehicle, Total Recall. Not one to shy away from controversy, he also made the first Hollywood picture that received an NC17 rating with Showgirls. He started his career making documentary films for the Royal Dutch Navy and Dutch television, where he moved to fiction with the highly popular medieval epic series Floris, starring Rutger Hauer. In 1971 he made his first feature film, Business Is Business (Wat Zien Ik?), very loosely adapted from Albert Mol's popular series of short stories about the life of two street prostitutes in Amsterdam.

"What's wrong? First you knock her lights out, then you're all tears about her leaving." - Greet

We are in the famed red light district, where Greet (Ronnie Bierman) and her friend Nel (Sylvia de Leur) ply their trade, serving an eclectic group of customers with bizarre fetishes from dressing up as a rooster to being dominated as a housemaid. Both are tiring of the business, especially Nel, who is also tiring of her boyfriend Sjaak (Jules Hamel), who routinely beats the snot out of her for not raising enough money hooking to support his fishing hobby. While out looking for work one night, Greet meets Piet (Piet R ö mer), a wealthy, but married, business man who Greet sees as more than just a customer. As her relationship with Piet grows, Greet encourages Nel to seek an alternative to her loser of a boyfriend by placing an ad in the personals, though this ends up with an unexpected result (writer Albert Mol makes a cameo as the blind date). As a result, Nel next meets Bob (Bernard Droog), a quiet salesman from out of town, who is selling advanced cleaning products on the street, and also who looks like a promising alternative to her current lifestyle. When she is nearly thrown out the third floor window by her enraged boyfriend, Nel packs up for Eindhoven and a life of domestic bliss. However, despite feeling happy for Nel, when her own relationship begins to unravel, Greet wants her to come back to her old life, but there are other plans in the works, including Sjaak, who is trying to hunt Nel down to exact his revenge. The shenanigans of all involved are guaranteed for a good laugh.

Greet: Was it too hard?
Customer: Oh madam, it's never been so good.

Business Is Business is a strange look at situations that arise in the world of prostitution, based on case studies that added to many of the sequences, but their serious tone is handled with an over-the-top sense of humor, where the absurdities of their customers are just a part of everyday business. Whether acting out their fantasy of being punished by their school marm, or being the subject of medical procedures, the girls are willing to collaborate in their customer's whims—after all, business is business. While these escapades make for interesting diversions throughout the film, the central story lies in the relationship between the two woman, and Nel's need to flee her abusive relationship, and Greet's changing feelings on Nel's hope for a new life. The film is highly stylized, adopting a wide range of influences from the western and B-movie to Eisenstein's Ivan The Terrible. Any serious elements get a comedic touch, as Greet's involvement in Nel's domestic disputes always end with some incredible finale, such as her boyfriend knocked out with a stuffed fish on his head.

The acting is great, the story cute and unpredictable, and the characters, especially the customers, go beyond ridiculous, but the leads are very likeable. The film is cinematographer-turned-director Jan de Bont's (Speed, Twister) first feature with Verhoeven. They would go on to create a number of successful Dutch films—including Oscar ® nominated Turk's Fruit (Turkish Delight), and De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man)—before both relocated to Hollywood, but here is the beginning of the Verhoeven legacy; violent, funny and featuring plenty of nudity—all Verhoeven trademarks, though the director feels somewhat uncomfortable with the film, despite its enormous success in Holland. While not truly indicative of his style due to its heavy comedic tone, this does make an interesting watch in context of Verhoeven's later work.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the image here is extremely good, slightly soft and free of many flaws. Fine grain is well preserved, giving a natural film look, and there is no sign of edge enhancement. Colors, though dated, are deep and full, with solid black levels. Another fine transfer from Anchor Bay.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is clean and clear, with no distortion. Looped dialogue doesn't always match the lip movements, but is part of the source. Frequency range is very acceptable, and the sound is smooth and not overly bright.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Paul Verhoeven
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: As with other discs in Anchor Bay's Paul Verhoeven Collection, Business Is Business contains a running commentary by the director, though he notes his participation for this film was somewhat under protest. If there is one thing he does as well as make movies, it is to provide commentary for them, and this is no exception, blending a very natural amount of technical, philosophical and anedotal information. Stories are bountiful, as are the insights into his working relationships with cinematographer Jan de Bont, producer Rob Houwer and scriptwriter Gerard Souteman, all of whom worked on a number of Verhoeven's Dutch films. The director has no problem criticizing or poking fun at his own work, and is also very candid in his descriptions of various elements from the film, or his respect for the social climate of his former homeland. Another great listen.

The theatrical trailer is also included, along with a small photo gallery that contains behind-the-scenes shots showing the crew, plus shots of the film's opening in Rotterdam.

The director's biography features 30 screens containing text, one sheet art from some of his films, and behind-the-scenes shots. His comments are no holds barred—just like his movies.

A heavy card insert has the original poster art for the German release (Was sehe ich..!), backed by the chapter listing.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Paul Verhoeven's first feature film takes a hilarious look at the life of two prostitutes in Amsterdam. Featuring a barrage of bizarre and wacky situations, the extent of the comedic element is a bit foreign to Verhoeven's work, but Business Is Business provides a great opportunity to see the origin of his career, and the work of cinematographer Jan de Bont, who has become an accomplished director in America himself. Anchor Bay has provided a nice transfer, and the commentary track is another stellar inclusion.


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