There are many things we didn’t really plan for when we started this website simply to give people somewhere to hang out and talk about movies, TV, and entertainment. We didn’t plan for it to grow quite so quickly. We didn’t expect to get both nice and nasty letters from streamers and production houses. We certainly didn’t expect to become experts on Dutch cinema, but here we are, and here is Leopardo with another International Retro ReviewSchatjes!

One day, an Ouposter somewhere will be at a trivia night. There will be one of those asshole quizmasters who isn’t trying to keep people entertained and instead show off just how clever they are. They will ask what they think is an obscure question about the cinema of the Netherlands and that Outposter will look that asshole right in the eye and say “Flodder!”.

On that day, we raise a glass to Leopardo. Here he is…


Schatjes! aka Army Brats (1984)

It has been a while since the last time I retro-reviewed a movie. This has a very good reason: I had other stuff to do and couldn’t be bothered. So, high time for another International Retro Review of a movie from the country that invented both the Compact Cassette and the Compact Disc: the Netherlands!

This time, I will be reviewing the movie Schatjes!, aka Army Brats, from 1984. It is a black comedy/drama written and directed by Ruud van Hemert. Up until this movie he had really only directed for TV, and after this he has only directed a handful of other movies. He died in 2012.


 About The Movie

This movie is supposed to be a black comedy with dramatic elements. It isn’t very funny though, there are no setups or punchlines, no jokes. The comedy is supposed to come from the absurdity of the situation and it kind of works, but sides will not be split. Its IMDB score is currently 6.4, I’d go a little lower than that. It was well received at the time and got a sequel called Mama is boos!, aka Hitting the fan, in 1986.

It has a weird tone. Everything is played completely straight, no matter what happens. For example, one kid gets another kid to try to kill one of their parents, and the result is one of them loses their allowance. As if it was just a prank gone wrong.

That is, until the finale when the whole “playing it straight” idea is thrown out of the window and we get presented with an ending that is so ridiculous, it could only work if everyone involved is either blind or a psychopath, even the extras. It is in fact such a crazy ending, the sequel actually uses it to retcon this entire movie out of existence for a fresh start.


The Cast

Not many familiar faces here. Rijk de Gooyer was big on TV and as a comedian, but not outside the Netherlands or maybe Belgium. Peter Faber is perhaps the biggest name, he was in A Bridge Too Far and if you took my advice from earlier and watched New Kids Nitro, he’s in that too.

One of the more hilarious cast members is Akkemay. Her full name is Akkemay Elderenbos, but she decided when she was 12 (or her parents did, I guess) that she would be such a big star that only her first name was needed. Like Madonna, or Cher. Checking out her IMDB shows that not only did she not return for the sequel, her only movie credit after this one is for De Aanslag aka The Assault, which is not too bad as it was the best foreign picture Oscar winner in 1987, but after that, it’s basically a short run on a TV show and 5 single-episode guest stars on other TV shows where she portrayed such memorable characters as “Cashier”, “Nurse” and “Woman #1”.

Akkemay – Madelon Gisberts. Eldest child and only daughter
Frank Schaafsma – Thijs Gisberts. Eldest son and terrorist
Peter Faber – John Gisberts, father and airforce captain / helicopter pilot
Geert de Jong – Danny Gisberts. Bored wife of John
Rijk de Gooijer – Pete Stewart. Airforce major and John’s superior officer
Pepijn Zomer and Olivier Zomer – Interchangeable youngest sons
Erik Koningsberger – Madelon and Danny’s “tennis instructor”


The Plot

These people hate each other! Not everybody hates everybody else the same or all the time, but from the opening scenes, it is clear this is not a healthy family situation. But none of the characters are likable to the audience either.

The Gisbert family lives in a large house close to the airforce base where John works. John is a literal helicopter parent. Just not a figurative one. He uses his training missions to watch his wife and children. His eldest son, Thijs, is a hooligan. His daughter Madelon sunbathes nude which distracts the helicopter pilots that keep flying over their house. His wife Danny had an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend Dennis once and is now frantically trying to break them up to have another go. The two youngest Valentijn en Jan-Julius are either ignored or bribed when they need to do something.

Everyone has a foul mouth, especially the kids, one of whom speaks with an Amsterdam accent which makes it worse.

Thijs and Madelon actively hate their parents and will go out of their way to piss them off. Madelon destroys her mother’s dress, and Thijs floods the house. John never seems to get very angry, because he doesn’t really have to deal with it. He’s out working most of the time. Danny is furious because she is stuck with the hellspawn. And the pranks get worse, Thijs blows up his parents’ bed to kill John, but John just goes to work anyway and just demands something of a family meeting so he can decide who will lose their allowance. It then turns out that it was Madelon’s idea to kill Danny, not John. Thijs just bombed the wrong side of the bed.


Of course, something needs to be done. Simply ignoring the kids until there is a problem and then trying to push the whole “parenting” thing off on each other does not seem to be working. Also, John has missed two promotion opportunities already, so it is decided that the eldest kids should go to boarding school. That way neither John nor Danny has to worry about them and just do what they want for themselves.

This is where the movie hits its stride. John promises payback for every prank. The parents and the kids fight each other for control of the house, and it becomes a warzone. It is still played completely straight. The grounds are merely divided by barbed wire in the beginning but, eventually, the kids take over the house and board themselves up in it waiting for the final battle.

The whole thing is mean-spirited. It’s an absurdist comedy, with black humour, but it is like pointing at a car crash and saying “Well, laugh!”. The characters are all so unlikeable. And yet, you keep watching. It has a very unique and interesting tone.

But the ending is terrible! Do you guys mind spoilers for a 40-year-old Dutch black comedy? Well, sorry, but here it comes.

First, the movie completely breaks its flow by having, in the final 10 minutes, one of the characters break out in song. I don’t just mean the character starts singing. I mean, the lighting changes to bright stage lights, the characters are now on a different, clean set, one of the worst sappy love songs to have ever existed is inflicted upon an unsuspecting audience, and after it is over the movie just picks up where it left off. WHY?!


But the final scenes are the most insulting. There is a car chase between the kids and the parents, where the parents accidentally drive into a pit where there is road work being done. For some reason, nobody notices and the road is finished, the car is buried. John and Danny never even try to get out, even though there is plenty of room to open the doors. Then we get some silly “where are they now” title cards for the kids, like the writer finally realized he forgot to put jokes in his comedy movie and decided to cram some in just before the credits roll.

The Elephant In The Room

I was not sure if I should mention this part, but it could come up in the comments so I might as well address it now. Many years after this movie came out, a legal expert confirmed in a documentary that technically, scenes in this movie could be considered child pornography. Akkemay shot her nude scenes when she was 14.


The writer/director had already died by that time and the statute of limitations had ran out. It could just be sensationalism on the part of those documentary makers, as this wasn’t exactly a secret before and there was never a trial, I don’t even know if there was even an investigation. Her mother was present at the shoot. Akkemay herself confirmed she did nothing she wasn’t comfortable with. The scenes are very tame. And, you know, it was the eighties. Still, nude scenes were filmed with a minor, so this movie may not be legal viewing material where you live. Or maybe you just don’t want to see it.

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