The production was difficult, made worse by marital difficulties between the star and the cinematographer. Budgetary constraints forced Verhoeven to scale down the ambitious screenplay, and his intended themes of the exploitation of the poor by the rich and the social changes of the times rather fell by the wayside in favour of the episodic main plot. Verhoeven has also admitted that he could not leave behind the strong sexual content of his previous film. (Beginning with a scene on board ship where Katie discovers her sister having sex with a sailor in return for food, there's quite a lot of sex and nudity in this film, rather less appropriately than in Turkish Delight.) There's also a heavy emphasis on the hardships Katie endures. Katie Tippel failed at the box office. Verhoeven has said that if he could remake any of his films, it would be this one.
However, there are aspects to this film that make it worthwhile for Verhoeven fans. Despite their marital discord, Van de Ven makes an engaging heroine and De Bont's camerawork is rich and colourful. Hauer, in a smaller role, is assured but has less to do. Verhoeven's pacing is strong in the first half, even if it does peter out towards the end. Katie Tippel may be a failure, but it's an interesting one.
Tartan's DVD is, unlike others of their Verhoeven releases, is not anamorphic. The sound is Dolby digital 2.0 mono, with the original Dutch-language dialogue. You have the option of watching the film with or without English subtitles. This appears to be a slightly shortened version of the film - the American DVD runs 107 minutes, which would translate to around 103 with PAL speed-up. However, this version of the film appears to be identical to the one broadcast on Film Four. I don't know what's in that missing four minutes or so.
Disc extras: the original trailer, film notes by David Parkinson, star and director biographies, Tartan World Cinema trailer reel.