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Rutger Hauer’s best 15 performances

This isn’t just a simple list of film’s. It’s my personal tribute to an actor that i had absolute respect for and was deeply saddened by the news that he passed away earlier this year. Fair warning this is a lengthy look and discussion on Rutger Hauer, his film choices and the top 15 performances (in my opinion). If you’re a Rutger Hauer fan i sincerely hope you enjoy reading this as much as i enjoyed writing it.

Part one – Introduction: The Dutch & German Years 1968-1980

On the 19th July 2019 Rutger Hauer passed away after a short illness in his home, Beetsterzwaag in the Netherlands.  It’s comforting for his millions of fans to know that the globe-trotting actor left this life peacefully surrounded by his immediate family. Rutger began his acting career at the age of 23 on Dutch TV in a series called ‘Floris’.

Floris 1969

It was directed by Paul Verhoeven, a director that would become an important figure in Hauer’s career. A year earlier in 1968 Rutger Hauer filmed scenes for a Belgian-Dutch film “Monsieur Hawarden” but unfortunately Hauer’s contributions were cut from the finished movie during the editing process. “Floris” ran for 12 episodes and the series, set in the 16th Century was a hit on Dutch TV. Dubbed versions of the show were sold and aired in the UK and East Germany. In the UK the show, aired on ‘Yorkshire Television’ in 1979 and was re-titled ‘The Adventures of Floris’, sadly none of those dubbed episodes have survived, probably long taped over, as was common practice back then as a means to save costs on purchasing brand new tape. Skipping forward a little, a West German production company remade ‘Floris’ in 1975 and asked Rutger Hauer to return to the cast, to which he duly obliged, the West German version was re-titled ‘’Floris von Rosemund’’ and the emphasis was much more orientated toward the comedy side of things.

Rutger appeared in five other TV shows, in a few episodes here and there but film seemed to be his passion and he got his wish in 1973 when he appeared in the hour long movie ‘Repelsteeltje’ or as it would be known the English speaking countries, ‘’Rumpelstiltskin’’. Later in 1973 director Paul Verhoeven cast Rutger Hauer in what would become ‘’Turkish Delight’’ (or The Sensualist depending on where in the world you happened to see it). To say ‘’Turkish Delight’’ was a big deal in the Netherlands would be an understatement as it quickly became the most successful film in the country’s Cinema history, propelling lead actor Rutger Hauer and director Paul Verhoeven to an untouchable level of domestic stardom. [Hauer in ‘Turkish Delight pictured below]

turk

The film was also popular in West Germany, and Hauer was asked to play the lead role in the 1974 action movie ‘’Das Amulett des Todes’’ (later to be dubbed in English and released as ‘’Cold Blood’’) Hot on the heels of ‘’Das Amulett des Todes’’, Hauer was back in West Germany that same year to film the lead role in ‘’Pusteblume’’ (known as ‘Hard to Remember’ overseas) However, 1974 wasn’t through with Hauer just yet. As the year was drawing to a close, Hauer’s agent received a call from Hollywood, the questions were simple, how was Hauer’s English speaking voice, and was he free to fly out to Kenya to appear in a small role in a major Hollywood Movie called ‘The Wilby Conspiracy’. The answers were in the affirmative and before 1974 was through, Rutger Hauer shared scenes with screen icons Michael Cane and Sidney Poitier.

1975 The Wilbury Conspiracy

‘The Wilby Conspiracy’ was released worldwide in the summer of 1975, and although Hauer had only played a small role, he’d been noticed by American casting agents. Hauer would recall to friends just how huge the sets were on ‘The Wilby Conspiracy’ in comparison to the more modest Dutch and West German productions he’d been used to. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to cast the star again, Paul Verhoeven hired Hauer to co-star in ‘Keetje Tippel’ (or ‘Katie Tippel’ outside the Netherlands). The 1975 movie was the biggest budgeted Dutch film of its time and was a big success. In 1975/6 Hauer appeared in two more Dutch movies ‘Het jaar van de kreeft’ (or ‘The Year of the Cancer’ in English speaking countries) and the 1976 Dutch epic ‘Max Havelaar‘ running at nearly 3 hours. In 1977 Paul Verhoeven again chose Rutger Hauer to star in his new film ‘Soldaat van Oranje’ (or ‘Solider of Orange’).  The movie was a hit in West Germany and in Dutch cinema and it also attracted acclaim from other countries in Europe.

SoldierofOrange

Between 1978 and 1979 Hauer appeared in five more Dutch/German productions but his earlier success eluded him, until again, in 1980, Paul Verhoeven cast Hauer in ‘Spetters’ (translated to English as ‘Splashes’) and it was this movie that attracted interest from America, where it had been critically acclaimed. Interest from American producers quickly followed but Rutger nearly didn’t travel to work in America. His mother, Teunke Hauer, passed away in 1979 and Rutger was so grief struck he considered not going to Hollywood. His father, Arend Hauer insisted that Rutger go and make his mother proud of him.  With a heavy heart Rutger Hauer left for America, and in 1981 was cast alongside Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone in the movie ‘Nighthawks’.

1981b Nighthawkes

Part Two – Rundown of Rutger Hauers 15 Best Movies

At the time he passed, Rutger had appeared (including TV) 174 acting roles, so condensing them down to a manageable 15 wasn’t easy. And list like these are always subject to personal taste. My criteria for the movies in this list are based more so on the actual performance Rutger Hauer gives in the films more-so than whether the movies are considered to be part of his overall best features. * Before we start, a fun facts Rutger Hauer, amongst other big movies, turned down roles in ‘Das Boot’, ‘Robocop’ and ‘Hostel’.

 

Number 15 – Escape from Sobibor (1987 TV Movie CBS/ITV)

1987 Escape from sobibor

As the 1980’s progressed Rutger Hauer had become a staple on the big screen, but it was his support role to Alan Arkin’s leading character in ‘Escape from Sobibor’ that won him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and the film itself received a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film. ‘Escape from Sobibor’ is based on a daring real life escape from the infamous Nazi death camp Sobibor, which took place in 1943. The film is a powerful and suspense led drama, with Rutger Hauer portraying real life hero Lieutenant Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Pechersky, who assisted the Polish resistance fighter Leon Feldhendler (played by the excellent Alan Arkin) in the desperate escape. If you are a fan of Rutger Hauer you have most likely already seen ‘Escape from Sobibor’, but if you haven’t, it’s a must-see movie, not just for Hauer fans, but fans of quality movies in general.

Number 14 – Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

2011 Hobo

‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ started life as a faux-trailer, sandwiched (amongst other such trailers) between the Tarantino/Rodriguez double bill ‘Planet Terror’’ and ‘’Death Proof’’. The double bill was released together and titled ‘Grindhouse’, an ode to days gone by where cars would pull up to an outdoor screenings and get to see a warm up B movie before the feature presentation. It would take ‘Grindhouse’ writer Jason Eisener four years to get his short trailer featuring Rutger Hauer funded and made into a feature.  Part of the problem may have lay in the fact that the expensive experiment by Tarantino and Rodriguez failed at the box office. Canadian Production Company (CPC) got on board, bringing with them Whizbang Films and Yer Dead Productions and a number of Associate Producers, who brought about the budget to make ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’. If you grew up in the 1980s, then this tongue in cheek yet ultra over the top violent movie will no doubt provide you hours of repeated fun. It was also a chance for an aging Rutger Hauer to don the lead action hero role one last time, and he almost single handidly makes the movie worth watching.  As a long time Hauer fan I hoped ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ would help garner Rutger Hauer a fresh audience, and in a way, it did. Fantastic entertainment!

Number 13 – Eureka (1983)

1983 Eureka

Directed by the eclectic Nicolas Roeg in 1983, ‘Eureka’ stars Gene Hackman as a gold prospector Jack McCann who strikes it lucky in 1925 in the freezing and unforgiving Canadian wilderness. As time goes by, Jack becomes more and more paranoid, obsessed with the notion that his daughter Tracy McCann Maillot Van Horn (played wonderfully by the always brilliant Theresa Russell) and her daughters husband Claude Maillot Van Horn (played by Rutger Hauer) are out to steal his fortune. Hauer’s character has to put up with Jack McCann’s insulting sly remarks so as not to engage in the fully fledged row that surely develop. However, it is not his daughter or son in law that Jack McCann has to worry about. Enter the strangest coupling for two mobsters circa 1983 in Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke. These gangster representatives wish to purchase Jack McCann’s island home, so they can build a luxury casino on it. Events turn from bad to worse leading to a horrific ending scene. ‘Eureka’ feels like it has an odd cast, especially seeing the young Mickey Rourke & already established Joe Pesci plot Gene Hackman’s demise together, but its Rutger Hauer’s sometimes aloof and often humorous take on the character of Claude Maillot Van Horn that is likely to stay with you after the movie is over. (Oh, and that scene of complete and utter horror which I’ll let you sample for yourself if you haven’t caught this movie already).

Number 12 – Fatherland (1995 – HBO Films)

1994a Fatherland

Fatherland is an adaptation of the book of the same name by author Robert Harris. The film begins with a prologue outlining the story’s alternate timeline. In ‘Fatherland’, the failure of the D-Day invasion causes the United States to pull-back from providing the European’s support against the Nazi’s and General Dwight D. Eisenhower retires in disgrace. The US continues to wage War against Japan and, led by General Douglas MacArthur, assures victory using atomic bombs. Meanwhile back in Europe, Nazi Germany successfully invades the UK, resulting in King George VI and the rest of the royal family fleeing to Canada in exile while still ruling the Empire; under Nazi supervision Edward VIII regains the throne while Wallis Simpson becomes his queen. Winston Churchill also flees into exile in Canada and lives there until his death in 1953. Germany organizes the rest of Europe into the Greater German Reich or “Germania” for short. German society is largely clean and orderly – at least on the surface – with the SS reorganized into an elite, peacetime police force. However, Germany are still at war with the Soviet Union, with an 85 year old Joseph Stalin very much still in control. 1960 sees President Kennedy elected and the Nazi’s see this as a chance to ease Political tensions.   President Kennedy heads to Germany for a summit meeting, but a week before he’s due to arrive, a dead body is found floating in a lake not far from Berlin. We meet SS Major Xavier March (Rutger Hauer) who is assigned to investigate what happened to the corpse. Charlotte Maguire (Miranda Richardson), an American journalist gets given a photo and note which leads her to the case of one dead Wilhelm Stuckart a trusted Nazi party lawyer. SS Major Xavier March is reassigned to the Stuckart case. The plot thickens to the point that it’d be hard to keep up with in this style of review, but Rutger Hauer, Miranda Richardson & Peter Vaughan excel in their roles, with Hauer’s SS Major Xavier March helping uncover an horrific truth. Fatherland is certainly one of the best Hauer movies of the latter half of the 90’s and if it’s a title you have yet to view, do put it on your to see list, you won’t regret it.

 

Number 11 – Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)

1989d Bloodhounds on broadway

Howard Brookner directed, co-produced and co-wrote Bloodhounds of Broadway. Featuring an ensemble cast, with Rutger Hauer appearing as ‘The Brain’, ‘Bloodhounds of Broadway’ is based on four Damon Runyon short stories: “The Bloodhounds of Broadway”, “A Very Honorable Guy“, “The Brain Goes Home” and “Social Error”.

It was nearing the end of the 80s, a decade that had saw Hauer starting out in Action roles, but as the decade wore on, no doubt encouraged by the acclaim lavished on ‘Escape from Sobibor’, Rutger Hauer made the extremely noncommercial move of turning down movies like Robo-Cop (although personal issues with Robo-Cop’s director played a part which I’ll go into shortly) and countless other action films as his mainstay as they no longer excited him as an actor.

It also meant Rutger, who had never been fond of weight training, didn’t have to spend hours in the gym in order to gain and maintain a physique to compete with every other muscle bound action star out there.  ‘Bloodhounds of Broadway’, being that it’s a collection of four stories tightly wound together is hard to review aside from my saying that the impressive cast handle the bizarre stories which take place in a diner on New Year’s Eve, 1928, in their stride. Co-starring Matt Dillon, Randy Quaid, Jennifer Grey, Julie Hagerty & Esai Morales Jr, and Madonna (who actually puts in a fine performance) the surreal tales immerse you into the fateful New Year’s Eve and its odd happenings. Sadly, director Howard Brookner was dying from Aids and he didn’t live to see the movies opening. Although the movie did poorly at the box office (any film this off the beaten track tends to flop to a mainstream audience) Howard Brookner would surely have been proud of his cast and crew in creating such a unique and mesmerizing viewing experience an absolute underrated gem in which Rutger Hauer shines throughout.

Number 10 – The Blood of Heroes aka: Salute of The Jugger (1989)

1989c Blood of Heroes (Salute of The Jugger)

This Australian-American post-apocalyptic film was written and directed by David Webb Peoples the man who had written ‘Bladerunner’, ‘Ladyhawke’, and ‘Leviathan’, one imagines David Webb Peoples involvement alone was enough to tempt Rutger Hauer away from the career defining European masterpieces he’d been making for two years prior to taking the lead role as ‘Sallow’ the captain of a team playing a brutal game in what could best be described as ‘Rollerball’ set in a post-apocalyptic desert played with dog skulls instead of sports equipment. Teams who play this ruthless game (often to the death) wander around the wastelands and upon encountering a settlement (referred to in the movie as ‘market towns’, or ‘dog-towns’) challenge the occupants to the previously mentioned game, simply known as ‘the game’. Sallow and his fellow wandering team are a crack unit at ‘the game’ and steam roller over most of the opponents they come across. If a wandering team beats the ‘market towns’ team, the custom is to provide the players (known as ‘Juggers’) with the towns best entertainment including food, music, alcohol and sex. Sallow isn’t wandering without purpose though he is on his way to the fabled nine Cities, buried deep underground, where the remaining mega rich of society run a Jugger league. It is every wandering Jugger teams dream to find the nine cities and for the players to get a chance to win a place in the underground league where a life of luxury awaits them. Rutger Hauer looks to have done some weight training, as his Sallow character is muscled and mean looking. After losing one of his regular team mates to a bad injury in a particularly savage game, female player ‘Kidda’ (played by Joan Chen), who had been on the opposing team when Sallow lost one of his best players wants to join Sallow’s team, and she follows them across the deserts and wastelands at a healthy distance until she’s finally allowed to join when it becomes apparent that Sallow’s previous team mate isn’t only hurt, but can no longer walk, effectively giving him a death sentence out in the wilds. Hauer is enigmatic as hell in this movie, and I have no idea why it didn’t do good business as the box office. The cast, which includes Vincent D’Onofrio take the proceedings extremely seriously and Hauer fans must have been waiting with baited breath for him to return not only to the action genre, but to the science fiction genre at that. Whether you know this movie as ‘’The Blood of Heroes’’ or ‘’Salute of The Jugger’’ all depends on which edit you have (there’s almost nought to choose between them), but if you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t know this movie at all then sit back, and enjoy the very final bona fide Rutger Hauer action movie (having been filmed right after ‘Blind Fury’ an action movie that Hauer states in his biography ‘All Those Moments’ was the movie he was at his peak physically, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate and disagree, Hauer looked more muscular for ‘Blood Of Heroes’ more so than any movie before or since) Hauer did admit in the book that these training sessions were taking a toll on him and that he was going to try and search more movies that weren’t only action orientated. Many actors would have kept up training and kept taking the big pay days, but Rutger wasn’t of that mind set.

Number 9 – Bone Daddy (1998)

1998 Bone Daddy

Coming after a busy year of leading roles mainly in the B movie horror and sci-fi genres, 1998s ‘Bone Daddy’ was a stylized looking crime thriller directed by Canadian writer director Mario Azzopardi. To say that it borrowed a little from the mega hit ‘Seven’ starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in terms of look (intro credits) and overall gore would be an understatement but that’s more the fault of the trailer edit and the films marketing. Although ‘Bone Daddy’ deals with a deranged killer, just as ‘Seven’ did, the comparisons ought to end there. Rutger plays Dr Palmer, who had been a pathologist before writing a successful book which was a fictional account of a particularly grizzly case. In Palmers book, he writes the killer as being caught, when the actual real life murderer was never caught.

The killer was removing bones from his still living victims and this horrific fact had propelled the real murders into the public eye, it also meant Palmer, who had been known to have worked on the case in real life, had a book on his hands that would probably do very well. He had not factored on angering the real killer who was still at large. As soon as the book is released, Palmers editor goes missing, having been kidnapped. Palmer decides to investigate and in the interest of not giving the twist away, all I’ll say is the new murders are a little closer to home than Dr Palmer could have ever realized. As a word of warning, the viewer isn’t spared seeing the killer in action as he has his victims helplessly tied down and begins removing bones from them whilst they’re fully awake. According to the Wikipedia page ‘Bone Daddy’ gained a cult audience because of those uncompromising scenes (Although Wikipedia is the only place I’ve read that ‘Bone Daddy’ has achieved any such cult status). Overall ‘Bone Daddy’ is a well written, intelligent ‘’who done it’’ and Hauer is excellent as the bewildered Dr Palmer. ‘Bone Daddy’ is definitely one worth checking out whether you’re a fan of Rutger Hauer or not.

Number 8 – Past Midnight (1991)

1991a Past Midnight 

After having made the popular Sci-Fi ‘Wedlock’ for HBO, Rutger wanted to get back onto the big screen with a more thought provoking movie. ‘Pacific Heights’ (1990) starring Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith & Matthew Modine was a psychological thriller about a couple letting a room to a career criminal, and Keaton notched up the creep factor to 10. It made a large amount of money and proved a well-paced, well written and most importantly, well distributed movie of this type didn’t need elaborate action scenes and explosions to be a box office hit. So when Hauer was presented with ‘Past Midnight’, he was delighted. He had some reservations about the script and after substantial re-writes by none other than a then young script editor Quentin Tarantino, Hauer was happy with the results. Hauer had been assured that ‘Past Midnight’ would get a cinema release and since he was now confident in the script he signed onto do the movie. He saw it as a transition from his 80s action roles into more serious drama movies and had high hopes for ‘Past Midnight’. Rutger plays Ben Johnson, a parolee, released after serving 15 years for murdering his pregnant wife. Johnson is assigned a parole officer Lee Samuel’s (played by Tom Wright mainly known for his TV roles) and in order to properly help Johnson reintegrate into society after such a long sentence is provided with a social worker Laura Mathews (played by Natasha Richardson, an actress with a good filmography behind her having worked with Ken Russell on ‘Gothic’ and the Paul Schrader directed biopic ‘Patty Hearst’, making Natasha and Hauer a commercial pairing for 1991) Jan Eliasberg was brought into direct, an odd decision given that she had only previously worked on TV productions and Theater plays. Whoever had the hunch to hire Jan was proved right because she was able to bring the most out of the suspenseful scenes of which there were many. Hauer’s character, Ben Johnson swears he’s innocent, but at first he exhibits a cold creepiness about him that leaves you wondering just how innocent he could really be. Laura looks into Ben’s case and she believes he was wrongly convicted, citing all the evidence to be merely circumstantial. Her colleague, parole officer Lee Samuel’s isn’t convinced and is concerned when Laura and Ben begin spending more time together.

At this point the film takes some unexpected plot twists so in the interest of those who haven’t watched ‘Past Midnight’ I won’t ruin the surprises. The movie didn’t get the distribution that Rutger Hauer was promised it would, and it ended up airing first on USA Network in December 1992 a year after the film had been shot, indicating that there had been some problem finding a suitable Cinema distributor even though it was shown at American Film Market and at the Vancouver International Film Festival shortly after it was completed. It was a shame, because after ‘Pacific Heights’ had been such a big hit, there was a rash of similar types of movies released theatrically, ‘Unlawful Entry’ and ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’ spring to mind. ‘Past Midnight’ brought the USA Network a lot of extra viewers when it aired, and in 1993 the movie eventually got released onto videocassette and DVD (laser-disc).

Number 7 – Flesh And Blood (1985)

1985 Flesh And Blood

In the mid-80s Rutger Hauer was on the ascendance, and after just finishing the fantasy movie ‘Ladyhawke’ co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer, he was looking for another movie where he could play a roguish character with a good heart. He initially turned ‘Ladyhawke’ down when the producers first met with him, because they wanted him to play the jealous ‘Bishop of Aquila’, who because his advances toward Isabeau were spurned, casts a spell on the two lead characters ‘Navarre’ and ‘Isabeau’. The spell turns Isabeau into a hawk by day and Navarre a wolf by night, meaning the two lovers will never be together. Regardless of the pay-check Hauer wanted the role of ‘Navarre’ but Kurt Russell had already been cast for that part. When Russell walked away from the production 10 days before shooting began the producers called Hauer and asked if he was still interested in playing ‘Navarre’ and Rutger Hauer said yes.

After sticking to his guns in order to play the good guy in ‘Ladyhawke’ Rutger was looking to play a role which would be of a similar type. As fate would have it, Hauer’s old friend from his time in the Netherlands making TV and movies together, Paul Verhoeven contacted him with a project called ‘Flesh & Blood’. Hollywood studio Orion Pictures put up a healthy budget of $6.5 million dollars, but Orion had some input they wanted implemented into the script even though the cast had already agreed and signed on to make the original story, which had focused more on the feud between Rutger Hauer’s ‘Martin’ character, and the character of Hawkwood (played by Jack Thompson). Verhoeven relented and wrote in a love interest by introducing the character of ‘Agnus’ played by actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. This may not have irked Hauer so much had Verhoeven not insisted on implementing some scenes with Hauer’s mercenary character ‘Martin’ that left the viewer believing that ‘Martin’, far from being a heroic character, was as morally bankrupt as his foe in the movie ‘Hawkwood’. Hauer was especially angry because he’d already explained to Paul Verhoeven that he only wanted to explore well -meaning protagonist characters, which one assumes was the case with the original ‘Flesh And Blood’ script. To be fair to Verhoeven, he pled his case, telling Hauer that such cut and dry good Vs bad within the context of a film set in the middle ages just wasn’t believable. Rutger was having none of it, but being the professional he was, he played the newly written character as best he could, putting in quite a commanding performance. Sadly, audiences didn’t share Paul Verhoeven’s ideals, and the lack of a clear hero and villain coupled with an unnecessary rape scene meant that Orion’s investment went down the drain. The movie did garner some good reviews by critics who ‘’got’’ what the director was trying to do, but the truth was, ‘Flesh and Blood’ was not a sword and sorcery adventure movie, it was a dark and twisted narrative, and Rutger Hauer fell out with long-time friend Paul Verhoeven over the script changes which left Hauer two choices, walk off the movie, or portray the morally ambiguous character as was written. He vowed to not work with Paul again, he felt betrayed and professionally compromised, given that he was clear from the start that he wanted to cultivate a reputation for playing heroic characters. Verhoeven tried to make amends with Hauer by offering him the leading role in his next, big budget movie Robo-Cop. Hauer refused to entertain the part, which eventually went to Peter Weller.

Number 6 – The Osterman Weekend (1983)

1983 Ostermanweekend

Movie producers Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer had gotten involved with The Osterman Weekend via a chance meeting with fellow producer Larry Jones. Peter and William had up until that point been financing and producing B Movies and wanted to take on a larger more prestigious project. Larry Jones explained that he had bought the film rights to the Robert Ludlum book The Osterman Weekend, but couldn’t get a satisfactory screen play developed because of the story being extremely complicated.

The three producers decided to give it a try, and they hired screen writer Ian Masters whose screen play cut out any unwarranted details, and then script editor Alan Sharp (a man whose credentials went as far back as the early 1960s) worked on the characters development and the dialogue.  The Masters/Sharp screen play was green lit. When it came to attaching a director the notoriously moody yet extremely famous director Sam Peckinpah agreed to direct but he hated the script and asked if he could do some re-writes. After the producers saw what Peckinpah turned in, they refused to include what he had written and made it clear they wanted no more meddling with the script. The Peckinpah of old would probably have walked off the picture, but although he was a household name for his work on massive iconic movies like The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Junior Bonner, The Getaway and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the studios knew that working with an alcoholic and troubled director could go very wrong, so they sought independent funding instead of obtaining studio investment into the project. With news that Sam Peckinpah was making a new movie actors were lining up to audition for the chance to work with the revered director.

After proving himself to American audiences in movies like ‘Nighthawks’ and ‘Bladerunner’ Rutger Hauer was cast as the leading man in a movie that boasted an array of famous faces including John Hurt, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper, Meg Foster and the iconic Burt Lancaster. The movie sees Rutger Hauer play the role of idealistic TV news presenter John Tanner who is openly critical of US government corruption. CIA agent Laurence Fassett (played by John Hurt) is devastated when his wife is murdered, and convinces CIA director Maxwell Danforth (played by Burt Lancaster) that he has uncovered a network of soviet spies whom he believes are behind his wife’s murder. The spies are US defectors according to Fassett and they just happen to be close friends of TV host John Tanner. Fassett believes that Tanner isn’t aware of his friend’s activities so he puts surveillance on the men and brings John Tanner in, showing him his friends discussing their nefarious plans. Even after seeing and hearing this, Tanner still isn’t sure if he himself is being played and since he doesn’t trust CIA agent Fassett Tanner nearly walks out, until the CIA director Maxwell Danforth (who is looking to run for the highest office in the land) shows up and is tries to talk Tanner into at least allowing the CIA to plant bugs in his home.

John Tanner, still not quite believing the CIA agrees on the condition that Maxwell Danforth appears on Tanners show. Danforth agrees instantly so Tanner agrees to let the CIA plant bugs in his home. The reasoning for this is because Tanners friends are very soon to attend an annual get together at Tanners home. His friends, Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper), Bernie Osterman (Craig T. Nelson) & Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon) would have no reason to suspect anything was amiss and the CIA convince John Tanner that if his friends aren’t innocent, they may feel comfortable enough at the Tanner household to let something slip. John Tanner decides he doesn’t want his wife Ali Tanner (Meg Foster) nor his young son involved and without being able to explain to his wife why he wants her to be away that weekend their already strained marriage is pushed even further. On route to the airport the Tanners car is crashed into and John Tanners wife and young son are kidnapped from John’s immobile car, Agent Fassett and his men show up out of nowhere killing the kidnappers and rescuing John’s family.

John’s tipping point is reached and he decides that CIA agent Fassett is being on the level with him and cooperates fully. Since John’s wife and son are aware John is involved with the CIA, Fassett tells John that they should be present when John’s friends shop up, as anything out of the ordinary could cause alarm. Unknown to John, the CIA have been pulling stunts in the days preceding the weekend visit by unsettling his friends into a mind-set of paranoia. The guests arrive, and a taut, ultimately deadly mind game ensues. Obviously I’m not ruining the ending for anyone, not all Rutger Hauer fans will have had time to see all his movies, and since the ending of The Osterman weekend is especially suspenseful I’m going to allow those not familiar with it stumble upon it and enjoy it for themselves. Although Peckinpah’s cut was not permitted to be released due to poor test audience reaction (the director’s cut has since been made available as a bonus on the remastered DVD release) The producers brought in new editors and the movie was deemed to be commercially viable. It didn’t do amazing box office business, rather becoming a sleeper hit finding its niche in the video rental market. If this movie has slipped you by, the DVD and Blu Ray re-releases are easy to locate, and seeing this classic for the first time will be time well spent.

Number 5 – Inside The Reich (1982 TV Movie)

1982 Inside The Third Reich

This 250 minute movie aired on ABC network back in 1982 and has had scant re-airings over the years. This I find odd considering the movie won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Film Sound Editing and Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special. Even odder is the fact that the only way to see ‘Inside the Third Reich’ is via VHS, perhaps the sad passing of Rutger Hauer will encourage the owners of this movie to remaster it and release it on DVD/Blu Ray. It was aired one month before ‘Bladerunner’ went on general release, but ‘Inside The Third Reich’ was in-fact filmed directly after Rutger Hauer had finished working on the largely ignored biopic ‘Chanel Solitaire’ released in late 1981. The movie is based on Albert Speer’s autobiography of the same name. Rutger Hauer plays Speer, whose close relationship to Adolf Hitler is well documented. All of the high up Nazi’s are portrayed in the film, Joseph Goebbels is played by Ian Holm and Adolf Hitler is portrayed Derek Jacobi. The movie, following Speer’s book, naturally follows Speer’s account of events, and Albert Speer alleged he planned to kill Adolf Hitler. It was this statement that spared Speer his life after WW2 was over and the trials began. Although we will never know the whole truth, Rutger Hauer is fully committed to the task at hand and delivers a powerfully performance. This is probably the least seen of Hauer’s large body of work, and sadly until someone sees fit to release it on DVD/Blu Ray, you’ll have to either own an old VHS player, or go to extreme lengths to acquire one in order just to view ‘Inside the Third Reich’. As a viewer it helps if you have even a passing interest in WW2 but it isn’t essential, the characters are all introduced quickly and succinctly and Marvin J. Chomsky’s direction is nothing short of superb. (Chomsky had already visited the topic in his 1978 min-series ‘Holocaust’) ‘Inside the Third Reich’ is essential viewing for fans of Rutger Hauer and IF you can somehow see it, I urge you to put aside an evening and allow the movie to take you back to those dark days because as depressing as the subject matter may be, the quality of acting and production on offer here is nothing short of outstanding.

Number 4 – The Hitcher (1986)

1986b The Hitcher

When I was a young boy, around the age of nine or ten, my mother used to do evening shifts at a video rental shop. Because my father worked away a lot, my mother used to let me go with her to the video shop. I think it was in that place that my love of film really began. There were those huge bulky TV sets hoisted up in the air and one of my mother’s tasks was to put on a VHS which was linked to all these screens. With it being an evening shift, the films were either thrillers (which at that age didn’t interest me at all) or horror movies (which I was virtually obsessed about).  Although there was no sound coming from the TV sets, anytime I saw Freddy Kruger or the masked villain’s Jason or Michael Myers I’d watch intently as they murdered their way through whatever movie happened to be playing at the time. Some might say this was irresponsible parenting, and to those people my stock reply is ‘’nonsense’’.  I was certainly not allowed to rent horror movies until I was a good five years older, and I’d argue console games aimed at today’s children are way more violent, plus they’re interactive but I’ll leave that debate to one side because the main reason I mention my visits to the VHS shop were when I browsed the video cases. I recall being engrossed in the covers of movies like ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, ‘Nightmare on Elm St’ and any film featuring Father Christmas.

Then one day, I happened across a video case that made me stop and look. A blonde haired man, in a grey rain jacket, with some kind of head injury was stood looking back at me, coolly holding a shotgun. For some reason the image stuck with me, and my mother let me watch ‘Ladyhawke’ by way of a compromise. As fun as I found that movie, the image of the lonesome man stood on some mysterious highway holding the shotgun never left me. Some years later I watched ‘The Hitcher’, and what an experience that was. Rutger Hauer must have had a change of heart regarding his will to only play heroic characters, as he stars as John Ryder, a psychopathic hitcher who embarks on a merciless killing spree; slaughtering anyone kind hearted enough to give him a ride. A young man, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) takes on a job to deliver a car long distance as a way to earn a little extra cash. The weather turns to a rainstorm and Jim sees a lone man huddled in a rain coat, getting soaked by the weather, and does the charitable thing by allowing one Mr John Ryder into the car to escape the rain. The mysterious hitcher says nothing, and Jim nervously remarks that his mother told him he should never pick up hitch hikers. Still, the man in the passenger seat says nothing. Then, the hitcher looks across at Jim, and seems to stare blankly at him, making Jim uncomfortable. Jim finally gets the guts to ask the man; ‘’why are you looking at me like that’’, the stranger replies ‘’just looking’’ although he sounds completely detached from his answer, as if he can hardly be bothered replying.

The hitchers’ attention is suddenly sparked when he notices Jim slowing down to look at a car that appears to be slightly off road. As he slows the car, the hitcher pushes down on Jim’s leg making him step on the accelerator pedal. Jim realizes something is very wrong and stops the car, telling the Hitcher to get out. At first, the hitcher opens the door and appears to be doing as he’s been asked, before closing the passenger door again saying words to the effect of ‘’I’m not getting out, drive’’. Jim is in panic mode, until the hitcher explains that the car they just drove past was his car and all he needs to a ride to the nearest gas station. The young man is visibly elated; he now knows what the hitch hiker wants. ‘’That’s not really my car’’ says the creepy blonde haired man in the passenger seat as he pulls out a switch blade, running is softly across the young man’s face. He then explains how he killed the driver and cut off his head, ending with the ominous statement ‘’And I’m gonna do the same thing to you’’. Jim notices that when the stranger had shut the car door moments earlier he hadn’t closed it correctly, and in a moment of sheer survivalism shoves the man out the moving car.

The hitch hiker rolls down the highway as Jim speeds off pleased with him-self for narrowly avoiding certain death. What follows is a cat and mouse game along the highway, at one point as the hitcher kills more innocent drivers the police believe it’s Jim committing the killings, set up by the hitcher, yet when the police are on Jim’s tale, with several cars and a helicopter after him the Hitcher appears in the opposite lane and literally shoots the gas tank of the helicopter with a powerful shotgun blowing it up mid-air before dispatching the police cars with gun shots. He’s playing mind games with Jim. Jim eventually needs rest and takes a seat in a roadside café, when in walks Rutger Hauer and sits across from him. The young man pleads; ‘’what do you want from me’’ … ‘’I want you to stop me’’ comes the chilling reply. Jim befriends a waitress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and becomes convinced Jim is telling the truth. Something very disturbing happens to the hapless waitress (you’ll never guess and I’m not spilling the beans in-case you’re unfortunate enough not to have seen The Hitcher.

Later, because of the incident with the poor waitress which is witnessed by the police who realize they’ve been hunting the wrong man the hitcher is captured.He only gives his name as ‘John Ryder’ and refuses to provide any-more information. Against their better judgement the detectives allow the young man into the interrogation room to face John Ryder.  Jim extends his hand and Ryder takes his hand, holding it, looking almost grateful, then Jim’s anger rages within him and he spits in Ryder’s face, who simply and calmly smiles whilst wiping it off his cheek. A lot more is yet to happen, but I’m going to stop the narrative here and look at how the critics and fans saw the movie. Although it was distributed in Cinemas it wasn’t given a wide release and when it made its budget back, it was released onto home video and did great business. Horror fans and crime fans loved the movie as it offered up a little bit of both genres. The critics were mixed, and one in particular seemed to read too much into things, that being Roger Ebert who was particularly scathing and called the film “dishonest’’, he felt that hidden beneath the surface of the relationship between the hunter and the hunted was some kind of homosexual element. The movies writer denies this, and Hauer himself said that the very notion was somewhat over reaching. It’s been remade a few times, but none of the subsequent movies have come close, and that’s solely due to Rutger Hauer. His performance is both unhinged yet at the same time calm and sedate. It’s an odd way to have portrayed the part, and in doing so, Hauer avoided falling into the many clichéd pitfalls an actor could run into whilst portraying such a character. The Hitcher is just as iconic a role as any other celebrated role he’s ever played, and don’t let the dear and sadly departed Roger Ebert convince you otherwise.

Number 3 – Bladerunner (1982)

1982b Bladerunner

Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a former police officer set in an alternative futuristic 2019. He’s called in to speak with his former boss Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh). Bryant asks Deckard if he would come back to duty as a hunter of some dangerous ‘Replicant’s’. Originally, the human looking Bio-Mechanical beings were created to serve mankind but as they advanced the technology, the Replicant’s began to think for themselves. Most of them were not informed they were Replicant’s but the escapees realize they aren’t human. The small group of these Replicant’s that Deckard is tasked with hunting down for illegally being on earth (they escaped from an off world colony) are; Leon Kowalski (Brion James) Pris (Daryl Hannah) and their leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) who is considered highly intelligent and completely ruthless. The Replicant’s know they have a limited life span and they find out that the Tyrell Corporation is responsible for their existence.  Roy Batty discovers that a former Tyrell employee is responsible for their creation and decides to pay him a visit. Whilst there, Batty is told that when he was created he; like all Replicant’s was given the “Methuselah Syndrome” designed to give the Replicant’s a specific life span, which once reached, will see the Replicants die. Batty isn’t too keen on this and demands more life, which he’s told is impossible. Batty murders his maker and a fit of anger, and he disappears into the dystopian looking future world. Deckard has been tracking them all down, and has managed to already kill Leon Kowalski and another Replicant who has been helping Batty named Zhora. She is working as a stripper. Deckard has to run through the neon lit streets to shoot her. The high octane action is interspersed with quieter moments as Deckard tries to figure everything out. Eventually there is a showdown between Batty and Deckard, in which Deckard is left hanging from a tall building and if he fell, would certainly fall to his death. Confused and feeling beaten in his physical confrontation, Batty gives his final speech, sensing his life span is just about over. This scene was totally improvised by Rutger Hauer and is a much loved part of the movie for many fans. It’s simple, reflective but poignant all at the same time;

‘’I’ve seen things… seen things you little people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion bright as magnesium… I rode on the back decks of a blinker and watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments… they’ll be gone like tears in rain’’

 Bladerunner didn’t make an immediate impact at Cinemas and Hauer explains in his biography that distributors used to give movies a few months to catch on, but after a few weeks Bladerunner was pulled from Cinemas mainly due to critics complaints that it was too dark and depressing, and whilst it may not have been in the same mould as ‘Star Wars’, it was still a brilliant science fiction movie and looks just as lush and superb on screen as it did back in 1982. It’s gained a huge following over the years and was the one film that interviewer’s throughout Hauer’s long career were bound to ask him about, and Rutger being the nice guy he was, never complained, he dully answered whatever he was asked, usually before moving onto whatever was his current release at any given time. It’s an all-time classic and the majority of movie goers have seen it, and they either loved it, or they didn’t, most though concede that it’s a brilliant art film.

Number 2:

Crystal or Ash, Fire or Wind, as Long as It’s Love

aka Up To Date

aka As Long as It’s Love

aka On A Moonlit Night

aka In una notte di chiaro di luna (1989)

1989b On a Moonlit night

Marketing folks eh, sometimes I wonder what’s going through their minds.

This movie is currently listed as ‘Up To Date’ on the film bible site IMDB, yet if you’re lucky enough to find a DVD of the film there’s a German manufactured version with the title ‘On a Moonlit Night’ (here’s my copy to prove it)

moonlitnight

Rutger Hauer had made a conscious decision that although he would still be open to all out Hollywood action movies providing he liked the script, as of 1988 he wanted to also do some serious drama movies after he had won an award for ‘Escape from Sobibor’ his mind was set on more serious stories, I don’t for one second think Hauer sought awards but he was most certainly after a variety of roles. The problem was, his L.A. agent wasn’t getting anything but action movie scripts through, and although they offered big pay days, Hauer needed a sense of fulfillment from his career.  He had done his fair share of action movies (and turned some huge ones down) because as mentioned Rutger Hauer’s decisions were always script driven, even later in his career when he made another conscious decision to act in lower budget movies, he didn’t care if the budget was half a million dollars, or if it was a first time director, or if his name was the only recognizable one in the cast, if he liked the script, he was willing to enter into discussions with producers providing he felt they had the same love for the script as he did, then more often than not he’d accept the role.  ‘On a Moonlit Night’ (that’s what it says on my copy so that’s what we’ll go with) was made in Europe, like his previous movie ‘The Legend of The Holy Drinker’. Just like ‘The Legend of The Holy Drinker’, ‘On a Moonlit Night’ contains his finest acting committed to film.

Full stop.

Yes, Bladerunner and The Hitcher were fantastic movies, but these two movies Hauer made in Italy and France over 1988/89 were the absolute zenith of his acting skills. In ‘On a Moonlit Night’ Hauer plays a journalist investigating the HIV virus and looking at the attitudes of those who were scared of how infectious they believed the virus to be. Playing John Knott, Hauer in an early scene goes into a restaurant and finds out that once he informs the waiter he has HIV but not Aids, they don’t care, they ask him to leave. We also see early on that John Knott is a sexually liberated man and sleeps with strangers when the opportunity presents itself. In the 1980s the virus was thought by many poorly educated people to only initially be spread by gay men having unprotected sex and they’re concern was maybe it could be caught by someone sneezing on them, or sharing a café’s or restaurants utensils. People weren’t (or rather were but didn’t listen) that anal sex without a condom in the context of both straight or gay sex was one of the main way it was sexually transmitted, that and the massive problem of drug users (many whom were prostitutes) sharing needles was also spreading this new ‘plague’. Whilst there are great moments of clarity in ‘On a Moonlit Night’, director Lina Wertmüller is something of a genius and she loves throwing curve balls in her films. It must also be said that she was encouraging Rutger to get in on the writing process.

There are love scenes, followed by full on fist fights, followed by philosophical conversations. Many felt the film too disjointed, but that’s the point, and it’s what makes ‘On a Moonlit Night’ so brilliant. Hauer gets to inhabit a character who discovers he has aids, discovers he has a child he knew nothing about, and all the many different facets to John Knott’s life really allow Hauer to utilize all the different sides to his acting chops and he does so with a committed passion. If you’ve seen ‘On a Moonlit Night’ you’ll understand why I’m purposely not giving too many plot points away, because not only will many Rutger Hauer fans not have been able to access this until recently, but hugely talented director Lina Wertmüller made a film that you would be hard pressed to review in any conventional way. The reason this is at my number two spot is because not only is Jan one of the best directors Rutger has ever worked with, but he gave his absolute all to this film and it’s an absolute must see film for anyone serious about European films, let alone Rutger Hauer fans.

Number 1 – The Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988)

1988 Legend of the holy drinker

When Rutger Hauer was doing the PR circuit of TV interviews promoting The Hitcher, famed Italian director Ermanno Olmi saw the actor and told his assistant ‘that’s him, that’s who I want in my movie’. Tracking back a little after Olmi finished his 1983 film ‘Walking, Walking’, a mystery syndrome struck him and he became too fatigued to get out of his bed for just over three years. One day he got up and seemed recovered, and told everyone he had an idea for a movie. He also wanted to break the habit of a lifetime and hire a well-known actor to appear in the film. Hauer would most certainly have been aware of Olmi’s immaculate reputation as a director who just happened not to speak English (even though he was adamant he wanted his new film to be in English). Ermanno Olmi prepared to meet Rutger Hauer by watching some of his movies (presumably dubbed or subtitled)

Fortunately Rutger Hauer was fluent in Italian and the two got along very well. Hauer played the role of ‘Andreas’ a down on his luck, homeless Polish man who has succumb to abusing alcoholic. Andreas is going about his daily grind living on the streets when he meets a complete stranger (played by Anthony Quayle) who offers Andreas two hundred francs. At first Andreas doesn’t accept the money, because he knows there is no way he could ever repay the man, but the stranger tells him not to worry, and should Andreas ever get the chance to repay the money, to return it to the statue of St. Therese de Lisieux in a nearby church. The strangers calming yet insisting demeanor has Andreas agreeing and he accepts the 200 francs from the man. Andreas continues drinking and begins to have visions of friends who have passed away and he floats through the following weeks in a state of near grace, of wonder and eventually the belief that he is somehow involved in a miracle as each day he wakes up and appears to have the 200 Francs all over again. He begins believing god himself has a purpose for him but at no point is he pious, he’s just in this trance like state of amazement.

Every day he intends on keeping his promise to fulfill the miracle by visiting the church and repaying his debt to the statue of St. Therese de Lisieux but ends up stopping to drink wine all day instead. Hauer dug deep for this role, and he was able to say more with a facial expression than any dialogue could ever hope to say. I’m not going to reveal the poignant ending expect to say that it will probably stay with you forever.

When asked about the film many years later, Hauer said;

“I think that there are maybe two or three films where I got it right, and I think … (Legend of the Holy Drinker) … was one of them” I completely agree.

There were some movies that I wanted to include more for my love of the films that the quality of the acting of the productions, such as Hauer’s fun but hammy acting in the 1992 science fiction movie ‘Split Second’. So instead of rambling on, in tribute to Rutger Hauer here is a gallery of the many great characters he has portrayed over the years.

1

A1

Written by Andrew James Barclay

Categories: Uncategorized

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