“Be Afraid… It Means You’re Still Alive”
One of the many joys of boutique Blu-ray/DVD labels — and something that streaming just can’t match — is discovering or re-discovering older films deserving of attention. Blue Underground has been in the business for nearly a decade, and with head honcho William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop) leading the charge they’ve displayed an affection for genre delights ranging from serial killers to sexploitation, and from giallo to whatever the hell Bad Boy Bubby is.
Their latest release is the first in what looks to be a handful of films from the Netherlands’ second most well-known director, Dick Maas. (His elevator horror film, The Lift, and his own American remake, Down, are coming to Blu-ray in October.) Amsterdamned is arguably Maas’ most famous feature despite not being available on home video in the U.S. since the heyday of VHS. It’s an entertaining thriller about a mad SCUBA diver and the detective determined to catch him, and in addition to some bloody killings and stylish direction it features one hell of a speedboat chase through the canals of Amsterdam.
A serial killer is stalking the city’s streets, but each new murder brings zero leads. No evidence, no witnesses (outside of an unreliable bag lady), and no hope of stopping the slaughter. Det. Eric Visser (Huub Stapel) isn’t giving up though, and soon he discovers the reason for the lack of clues — the killer’s staying off the streets and moving around via the canals.
Amsterdamned features a simple enough plot, and while side characters roll in as family, love interests, and possible threats, the film stays focused on the cop and the killer. Part of what lifts it above the fray though is Maas’ inclusion of dry humor, eye-catching camerawork, and some very memorable set-pieces.
The film uses a first-person POV early on, a familiar staple in slasher pics, but it’s given a fun layer here as the killer emerges from the water to stalk his prey suggesting some kind of creature on the loose. A victim’s body is also discovered in a spectacularly gruesome way as a glass-roofed tour boat moves slowly under a bridge only to have her bloodied corpse drag across the panes. Adults and kids alike scream in terror, and it’s lovely. Another sequence sees a bikini-wearing lass floating in an inflatable raft as the killer appears beneath leading up to one of the genre’s most threatening phallic inferences since The Slumber Party Massacre. The film’s a mix of slasher and procedural, but Maas has fun adding little nods to Jaws as well in the visuals, his score, and a mayor putting tourist season over human lives.
As mentioned above, the film’s centerpiece is a terrifically entertaining boat chase through the canals of Amsterdam. It was the first movie to attempt such a feat — the waterways are tight, restricted, and heavily trafficked — and the end result is worthy of a James Bond film. Sharp turns, low bridges, and jumps all come into play making for a thrilling and ultimately fiery sequence.
Maas messes around with pacing somewhat as he shifts his film between tones, and while it occasionally stumbles it always recovers. The ending also feels like it could have used a bigger beat, particularly coming a short while after that stellar chase, but it works within the world of the film — and with the varied competency of our hero.
Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray/DVD release features a 2K restoration from the original negative and some insightful extras.
- Commentary with writer/director Dick Maas and editor Hans van Dongen
- The Making of Amsterdamned [36:15] – Vintage look at the film’s production.
- Tales from the Canal: Interview with star Huub Stapel [8:38] – The actor pilots his boat through the infamous canals while sharing memories of the film and his career.
- Damned Stuntwork: Interview with stunt coordinator Dickey Beer [18:12] – The stuntman turned coordinator discusses his career in films from Lucasfilm to Amsterdamned and beyond.
- Trailers, music video, art gallery
Amsterdamned is good, slickly-crafted fun that packs action thrills and attractive scenery into an unlikely slasher, and it’s never looked, sounded, or been better than it is now on Blu-ray twenty-nine years after its initial release.
Buy Amsterdamned on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon.