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Film Review: Amsterdamned (1988)

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SYNOPSIS:

A cop is assigned to track a mysterious killer who is lurking through the canals of Amsterdam and killing people with no obvious rationale.

REVIEW:

Amsterdamned (1988), which was shot on location in the Netherlands in the Summer and Fall of 1987, is essentially an aquatically-themed thriller concerning a scuba-diving lunatic stalking seemingly random folks in the city of Amsterdam. The killer spends much of his time lurking about the polluted canals of the titular city. The camera is kept at eye level (think Steven Spielberg’s Jaws from 1975) as he snakes through the water, his presence telegraphed by the bubbling and gurgling of his oxygen tank and Darth Vader-like breathing which acts as a harbinger of death for anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with him. After he kills his first victim, an unfortunate prostitute from the infamous Red Light District who ends up dead on a boat filled with Boy Scouts in a shockingly gruesome sequence, a murder spree with no discernible motive is set into play. Eric Visser (Huub Stapel) is the cop assigned to the case. He has a thirteen-year-old daughter who is precocious and tries her best to help him along now that his ex-wife is nowhere to be found. Much of the film revolves around Visser and his partner chasing the killer through a series of “Damn, he got away again!” set-pieces, and while this may sound boring and derivative, director Maas has a visual style that keeps things tense, interesting and moving forward. There is a fairly elaborate canal chase involving the killer and Visser in separate speed boats that is very well-mounted and edited together that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Lewis Gilbert mounted a similar chase in the James Bond film Moonraker (1979) and used rear projection for some of the close-ups of Jaws (Richard Kiel), but director Maas does it all for real here, much like the other predecessor in this arena, Geoffrey Reeve’s Puppet on a Chain (1971) which also set a boat chase through Amsterdam’s canals.

Despite being under the gun by his superiors to catch the killer, Visser manages to find time to romance a scuba diver named Laura (Monique van de Ven) who is jovial and cheerful and agrees to a date despite him being a cop. Their passing fancy with one another comes under close scrutiny from her friend and psychiatrist Martin Ruysdael (Hidde Maas) who used to be a scuba diver (red flag!) but gave it up years ago. Visser and Laura become closer and consummate their relationship. Laura becomes the perfect damsel in distress towards the film’s end and despite the revelation of the killer, Amsterdamned still manages to pack a decent punch.

The director also wrote the musical score (think John Carpenter) and it works very well for the film. It exudes a definite air of tension. Amsterdamned boasts the best Jaws-inspired underwater scare that pays homage to the Ben Gardner death from that film. It ends with (what else?) an Eighties pop-tune called (guess!) “Amsterdamned”!

The new Blu-ray comes with a wealth of extras:

First up is a feature-length audio commentary with writer and director Maas and editor Hans van Dongen moderated by Severin Films’ David Gregory. Rarely does this commentary go off-topic; it’s engaging and the conversations stick to the action at hand, filled with interesting recollections and tidbits about the history of the making of the film.

Amsterdamned – The City, The Film, The Creators is a thirty-six minute documentary by Hans Heijnen which is a behind-the-scenes look at the opening shots in the canal, the canal chase, the final sequence in the paddle boat with helicopter, the first murder with the Scouts, etc. Since filming in the Red Light District was (and still is) prohibited, the city of Groenburgwal had to stand in for this area for one sequence by the art direction team. There is also the revelation of the use of a matte painting that completely fooled yours truly, and left my jaw agape when the trick was revealed. Ingenious!

Tales From The Canal is an eight-minute onscreen interview with lead actor Huub Stapel (Eric Visser) aboard a speedboat through the canals in the Kaiserstraat section of the Netherlands, whose hair is now white and recalls his experiences making the film.

Damned Stuntwork is an eighteen-minute interview with Stunt Coordinator Dickey Beer who began his career on Richard Attenborough’s 1977 film A Bridge Too Far and continued on with Return of the Jedi (1982) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), in addition to many others.

The Dutch trailer which runs 3:13.

The U.S. trailer which runs 1:42.

The Lois Lane band’s music video of the song that plays over the end credits, “Amsterdamned”, directed by Dick Maas! It’s interspersed with scenes from the movie and runs 3:30.

Poster & Still Gallery.

There is also a lavishly illustrated collectable booklet with a typically excellent and informative essay by author Michael Gingold who writes about how the idea for the film came about as a result of an incident that occurred in 1985.

 

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