Hey Girl. Hauer You Doin’?: Spetters (1980)

It’s Wednesday, and that means another edition of the hunkiest feature ever to grace the Lair, Hey Girl. Hauer You Doin’? This time we get into the way back machine with Rutger (and his pal Paul Verhoeven) for their breakthrough film, Spetters. This is a film that’s got everything, drama, violence, sports, comedy, tragedy, and a surprising amount of full frontal male nudity. If that doesn’t get you intrigued, then how about this. Remember ’Hunks’. People used to say that, and not just on TV or in movies, I was there. I heard it. Not to sound like Andy Rooney, but when did that stop? At any rate, imagine my delight when I found out that Spetters roughly translated means hunks. While the idea behind the title might make images of super buff dudes oiled up around a pool,  the Dutch had another idea in mind. These hunks invoked images of another tormented group of teen boys, The Outsiders. So if you’ve ever wanted a teen drama with 100% more wooden shoes than you’ve ever seen in a film, then rev up your engines cause this if for you.

Rien (Hans van Tongeren) is an up and coming star in the burgeoning world of motocross racing, and he aspires to be like his hometown hero, new World Champion, Gerrit Witkamp (Rutger Hauer). Rien and his friends Eef and Hans (Toon Agterberg and Maarten Spanjer) are a rowdy, good natured lot (except the rampant homophobia) until Fientje (Renee Soutendijk) and her brother Jaap (Peter Tuinman) roll into town in their caravan/food truck. Fientje quickly spots an opportunity in Rien, and lands him a lucrative contract to race for Honda. She also splits him from his Joan Jett-ish girlfriend Maya (Marianne Boyer). It looks like Rien is on his way to being the next Gerrit Witkamp until he takes his new bike out for a ride. Crashing due to a careless driver, Rien is paralyzed from the waist down. From there, things get worse. Eef begins to roll homosexual prostitutes for money while struggling with his own sexuality. Hans deludes himself that he has the same talents as Rien and comes up empty. All the while, Fientje makes her way though the boys, disposing of them when their prospects run dry.

Oh yeah. And a Dong Measuring Contest.
That Happens too. 
If the synopsis sounds a tad long, it’s because the movie itself runs slightly in excess of two hours. With as much setup as I’ve given, I haven’t begun to scratch the surface of what goes on in Verhoeven’s Spetters. I had to leave out the leather biker gang, the gang rape, the actual motorcycling, and I gave no time at all to people being kicked in the stomach by wooden clogs. Like Showgirls, and yes this is a favorable opinion, Spetters is an ambitious film that seeks to create a world that steps slightly outside reality. There is a great deal of foreshadowing in Spetters, and there is a direct line to follow through each of the characters. There are no threads left untied of plots left hanging. Though interestingly, like Showgirls, the film ends with a car on its way out of town. By no means is this the best Verhoeven film you could watch, but the quality of the film makes it easy to see why Hollywood took attention of Spetters.

This guy is like Eric Von Zipper's Dutch cousin.
(If you get that you've seen too many 'Beach' movies).
Spetters was deeply controversial in Holland, and I would imagine it remains so. The portrayal of the church, homosexuals, women, and violence has all been cited as criticisms of the movie. Personally, I found the religious sequences both incredibly funny and agonizingly heart rending. Both evangelists and puritans get their equal criticism, and make no mistake, they do get it. Clearly the characters in the film have a homophobic bent, and while Spetters does make some wild accusations about gay sex ( If there are roving bands of homosexuals raping repressed dudes until they like it, I would say that I have some names for them, but that wouldn’t be nice.), but taken on face value, it was all an essential part of one character’s growth. As for the women, surely Fientje is a trifling little mixer, but Maya provides an excellent counterpoint to Fientje’s schemes. As far as the violence goes, I was surprised how hard hitting the film was all around. While it didn’t seem “violent” in a traditional sense,  Spetters did assault the emotions in the way that all good tragedy does.

An average day in the life of Rutger Hauer.
Now I know we’ve gotten very, very far in this review and I’ve said next to nothing about Rutger. Well, that’s because he’s barely in it. The motocross champ has a few scenes scattered about, but he’s not the focus of the film, he’s the fixation of the kids. It did provide Rutger with an outlet to America. Within a year, he faced off against Stallone in Nighthawks, and within two, Bladerunner’s Roy established Hauer fully. So why Spetters is not the splashy role fans of Rutger will hunger for, it is an important film in his career. Some of the other cast members went on to do more work in Dutch film and television, but sadly for Hans van Tongeren, who played paralyzed rider Rien, he made a scant few appearances on screen before committing suicide in 1982.  Renee Soutendijk, who played the woman who broke up the three friends, has continued to work in Dutch television to this very day, and she had (Rutger excluded because he wasn’t in it enough) the most captivating performance in Spetters.

"Ya gang soon I want to do a film about a robot...
get this, who is also a cop. Can you
believe it?"
So what does Spetters have to say in the end? As bleak as things get, I’d have to say that there is still a message about following dreams and being true to one’s self. Without spoilers, I can’t get into the details of why, but I encourage everyone to check this film out. Sure, it is long. At points the running time was my enemy, but the deeper into the film I got, the more layers Verhoeven added to this dense film, the more intrigued I became. So if you want to know what a “hunk” is these days, it’s Spetters. Not just because of the translation, but because it was a hunk of a good film. That wraps it up for this week’s super long Hey Girl. Hauer You Don’? I’ll be back next week with more Hauer to get you out of the mid-week Rut (ger).

Bugg Rating

I should have also remembered to mention the great music in the film, but I forgot. Along with a pop soundtrack, the score was up there for me. Especially the main theme that you can hear in the trailer.


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