• Amsterdamned

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: August 29th, 2017.
    Director: Dick Maas
    Cast: Huub Stapel, Monique van de Ven, Serge-Henri Valcke
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Dick Maas - probably the most famous Dutch director out there after Paul Verhoeven, shares a great deal in common with the ROBOCOP helmer. Both have a pitch black sense of humor and a taste for outrageous kinetic action sequences. Both like sexually suggestive imagery. And both make great entertainment with a lovably sleazy streak.

    Detective and single father Eric Visser (Hub Stapel), is on a hunt for a serial killer stalking the canals and streets of Amsterdam. A maniac in full frogman getup is murdering people with a harpoon gun and dive knife (think that extraordinarily nasty and huge blade with a serrated edge that Johnny Rambo carried). Prostitutes, people wandering too close to the canal edges and even members of the Dutch equivalent of the EPA - no one is safe. The killer is also fond of mutilation. Decapitation being a particular favorite.

    Structured a bit like an Italian Giallo with action sequences expertly blended in, AMSTERDAMNED seems functionally basic in terms of plot. But that's deceiving. Yes we have a killer and a mystery that the cop needs to solve. We have a sexy lady (Monique van de Ven as tour guide Laura) the hero beds and then has to rescue in the finale. There are meddling police officials who lack faith in our investigator. There's a couple of potential red herrings - Laura's psychologist Martin (Hidde Maas) and a criminal who flees on a motorcycle after questioning. But what makes AMSTERDAMNED so unique is threefold: it's setting, the bizarrely outfitted killer, and the fact that our hero is actually kind of a bumbler who, while always looking cool in his three-day stubble and cigarette accessory, is consistently a day late and a dollar short when it comes to tracking the killer. Higher ups keep pushing Visser's supervisor to ditch him due to the lack of results and try new detectives but the supervisor adamantly refuses because "Visser is the best!" - erm, not really. The film also has a rarity on display - effective comedy relief - in the form of Visser's precocious wisecracking tween daughter and her geeky boyfriend who claims to be psychic.

    Maas does a smashing job with his Amsterdam location. Aside from PUPPET ON A CHAIN and a few exploitation oddities, Amsterdam has never been much of a fixture on film outside of its home base. People often dismiss it as a favorite destination of potheads or simply overlook it compared to the likes of Paris. But it really is one of the great cities of this continent.

    Alternately beautiful, sinister, and delightfully grungy, Maas makes full use of the territory. Lovely cafes and restaurants and one of Europe's architectural jewels, the Rijksmuseum, are juxtaposed with polluted canals and the gaudy red light district. The film makes terrific use of all the various activities going on in the canals. A centerpiece is an insane two boat chase with the detective in a high powered speedboat recklessly pursuing the killer who's in his own souped up boat. A full orchestra playing on a huge open top gondola almost gets hit and nearly deep-sixed. Tourists in canalside cafes get drenched. There's also a crazy car chase over the city's narrow streets where the police force's cavalry is deployed. That's right. When was the last time you saw mounted cops on horses in a car chase? If LETHAL WEAPON had a threesome with a Dutch flick and an Italian Giallo, AMSTERDAMNED might pop out. The frogman killer in his full regalia should have been as iconic as Freddy or Jason.

    The cast are uniformly strong with Stapel carrying a slightly aloof but cool air with strong comic timing and the gift of being very convincing in the action sequences. Ven is sexy and down to earth and very believable. The music, composed by Maas himself, is perfect if utterly 80's. The theme song by musical collective Loïs Lane is highly amusing but also catchy. Lastly, this is a very strong film technically with excellent cinematography, underwater photography and stunt work.


    There's bad news and good news here, but unfortunately the bad news can't be fixed without some action from Blue Underground.

    The Dick Maas supervised this 2K restoration. The 1.85:1 framed 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer is excellent at its foundation. Color reproduction is strong, and the image organic and stable. The problem is the compression and disc authoring. The transfer got crippled in the final step, with sloppy work that creates heavy compression artifacts and its sinister cousin macroblockimg. I could try to explain this but the reality is, this is something best left to RSP!'s big-ass screencaps. Just eyeball any of the film's darker scenes to see precisely what I'm talking about. The bigger your display, the smearier it gets. My 50 inch plasma was not pleased and I shudder to think what this is going to look like on even larger screens. The good news? Blue Underground are aware of the situation and may end up doing a replacement program. Watch this space for updates.

    UPDATE! Blue Underground have corrected the compression issue and have issued and offered replacement discs to customers. The artifacts previously noted are now history and the excellence of this transfer is on full uncomprisided display. I can now give this disc the highest recommendation.

    EDIT - on 9-5-17 Blue Underground posted this information:

    Audio? Much better with a wealth of choices. Pick your sonic assault: Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 or English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 or French Dolby Digital 2.0 - whew. There are also multiple English subtitle options and a Spanish track for the main feature.

    I sampled all the tracks except the French and found the Dutch and English presentations excellent. The Dutch surround had great separation and effectively opened things up without sounding artificial. The speed boat chase in particular benefited with some nice panning sound effects. The stereo track was strong as well but obviously more narrowly focused though it should please purists. The English dub is quite well handled with the added bonus of Huub Stapel and Monique van de Ven doing their own voices in English.

    The first big extra is an audio commentary with director Maas and film editor Hans van Dongen moderated by Severin films posh head honcho David Gregory. Maas and Gregory have great chemistry and discuss everything related to the film with some fascinating diversions into Dutch culture and the struggles of a filmmaker in the land of tulips and windmills. Dongen is quieter but pipes in when appropriate like discussing the action sequences and the boat crash that seriously injured actor Staple.

    A period documentary of almost 40 minutes is included. In Dutch with English subtitles and looking pretty rough in SD 4:3, this is still well worth a look. The actors and technicians discuss the making of the film with loads of on set clips and interviews. Some raw footage is included as well.

    Actor Stapel - looking fit and firmly now in his silver fox phase is interviewed on a gondola cruising the Amsterdam canal. It's a great setting and the man is quite the cool cat. He talks for 10 minutes in English in his laconic Dutch accent about his career and the film with a very detailed description of the AMSTERDAMNED boat crash that left him with minor but permanent nerve damage. Having forgone a big movie career, Stapel has settled into a very busy one on the stage and in tv. He seems content and is a lively interview subject.

    Stuntman Dickey Beer gets 20 minutes on camera to talk about his career. The man's a bit of a legend - he started on A BRIDGE TOO FAR in 1977 and has worked with everyone from Paul Verhoeven to Steven Spielberg on the Indiana Jones franchise to the recent and excellent Jake Gyllenhaal thriller NIGHTCRAWLER. He spends a fair amount of time on AMSTERDAMNED and his close association with Maas and the various challenges the stunt heavy film presented.

    A meaty still gallery showcasing many of the film's excellent worldwide posters, production stills and lobby cards is here compiled by Dick Maas from his extensive personal archives. The film's Dutch and English trailers are included, and an excellent 18 page "history of" booklet by ex-Fangoria scribe Michael Gingold. Gingold has some sharp observations and is always a good read.

    Finally, the Loïs Lane music video is included. Far too sexy and bloody for the MTV of that era, I'm left wondering just where the hell this played. Interesting trivia bit, Dutch band GOLDEN EARIING (of "Radar Love" and "Twilight Zone") were originally hired to write the theme song. And they did - it's called "My Killer, My Shadow" and resides on their 'Keeper Of The Flame" Lp. The chorus of the song prominently uses the film's title. But director Maas went with the Loïs Lane track at the last minute - pissing off EARRING.

    The Final Word:

    A great film initially let down by bad disc authoring. But now that that has been fixed, this is a wonderfully comprehensive package for a film that deserves a wider audience.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!