A scuba diving serial killer lurks in dark canals in Dick Maas’s stylish slasher “Amsterdamned”

By on March 8, 2019

A scuba diving serial killer lurks in Amsterdam’s dark water canals in Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas‘s stylish slasher Amsterdamned (1988), now streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Dutch actor Huub Stapel plays single father “Eric Visser,” the city’s best homicide detective.

He and partner “Vermeer” (Serge-Henri Valcke), are assigned to find out who is leaving him with all this literal “wetwork.” (Both actors also appeared in Maas’s 1983 film The Lift).

Along the way, Visser partners up with his rival, river policeman “John van Meegeren” (Wim Zomer). They were once best friends until Visser stole away John’s girlfriend.

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Like a lot of murder procedurals, there’s also an obdurate mayor — much like Amity’s fearful civic leader in Steven Spielberg‘s Jaws — who wants the police to wrap up their murder investigation before all the tourist dollars disappear.

Before the end of the film, Visser’s whipsmart pre-teen daughter “Anneke” (Tatum Dagelet) and his scuba-driving love interest “Laura” (Monique van de Ven) may actually be closer to unmasking the killer than he is, which means they’re both in grave danger.

Anneke also has a school chum with psychic abilities named “Willy” (Edwin Bakker) who just might be able to see the future during visions, which might come in handy.

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Like most slashers, we don’t know who the killer is for most of the movie, but we certainly see what he’s capable of.

We’re occasionally shown his waterline P.O.V. and hear him breathing hard in his regulator like an underwater Darth Vader.

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There’s one outrageous scene where a Dutch tourboat, floating along the Keizersgracht canal, slams into the body of a murdered prostitute hanging from the bridge at Reguliersgracht.

Her bloody corpse slides across the glass-topped bus, horrifying the screaming children and adult tourists inside.

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In addition to directing, Maas wrote the pulse-throbbing thriller screenplay, composed the great ’80s-era synth-driven original score, and co-produced the film, too.

In this online interview we found, Maas says the story for Amsterdamned was inspired by an incident that took place by the local prison:

“Someone escaped from the prison and was helped by a diver. That triggered the story. A killer hiding in the canals of Amsterdam seemed a good starting point.”

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Maas says that Amsterdam authorities cooperated with his production crew for the film’s spectacularly-choreographed James Bond-ish speedboat stunt sequence, which kicks off at the Amstel Marina, at Jachtwerf Bibo, Koenenkade 24, south of Amsterdam.

The director says they weren’t allowed to go full-speed in some of the Dutch capital’s famed canals, and the authorities likely had good reason to be cautious.

After crashing his boat and injuring his arm and bruising ribs while filming the incredibly-choreographed sequence — which reportedly took two full weeks to film — Stapel was out of commission for three weeks, laid up in an Amsterdam hospital.

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Read more about Amsterdamned below.

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Many film reviewers thoughtfully point out that Amsterdam is practically a character in Maas’s film, and they’re not wrong, although we should point out that many of the points of interest you can see here no longer exist or don’t look the way they did back in the late Eighties.

Frequent travelers familiar with Amsterdam’s famed canal system — the city, known as “Venice of the North,” has 165 canals, totaling about 31 miles of waterways — might recognize the bridge at the junction of the two canals, Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht, where the first victim is killed by the mysterious scuba-masked killer.

The very same Keizersgracht canal also appears in Steven Soderbergh’s 2004 long-con thriller Ocean’s Twelve.

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In addition to lots of recognizable Amsterdam towers, tunnels and bridges, we also see the Victoria Hotel (Damrak 1-5), the Magere Brug (“Skinny Bridge”) on the Amstel River, Amsterdam’s “Western Isles,” the University of Amsterdam (doubling as the local police station exterior), the diner inside the Carlton Hotel (Vijzelstraat 4), Amsterdam’s state museum (Rijksmuseum), the Windmill restaurant at De Bernisse Molen, Molenstraat 13 in Geervliet, and a deserted tower — a remnant of the city’s 16th century fortifications — which can be found at Montelbaanstoren – Oude Waal-Oudeschans 2.

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For the Red Light District scenes, Maas had to use the Groenburgwal 69/canal locale. It substitutes for the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal, which was too much of a tourist attraction to shut down for filming.

Other Amsterdam locations where Maas shot Amsterdamned include the southern shore of main waterway Het Ij, north of Havens Oost, at the end of the 28 bus route, and the north shore of the Amstel at Oude Turfmarkt, just to the south of Dam Square.

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Maas also includes a few “easter egg”-type Dutch-related quickie cameos, like the scene where well-known film critic Simon van Collem peddles by on a waterbike, and famous Dutch writer Simon Carmiggelt — a columnist for underground paper Het Parool — is seen sitting at the sidewalk café at Spiegelgracht 31 (both men passed away shortly after the film’s release).

Fellow Dutch director Bert Haanstra is also seen conducting a brass band aboard a boat (we’ve read that this was meant as an homage to Haanstra’s classic 1958 Dutch movie Fanfare), and one of the killer’s victims is Leontine Ruiters (credited as “Leontien Ruyters”), who later became famous as a hostess on the Dutch TV version of “Wheel of Fortune.”

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Blue Underground‘s beautiful new 2K scan from the original 35mm negative was done in Amsterdam, with final color grading supervised and approved by director Dick Maas.

Watch Amsterdamned and other great Blue Underground titles on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.