There is something lurking in the canals of Amsterdam, as a prostitute discovers one night after she is picked up by a taxi driver. He wants her to perform acts on him that she is not interested in, even for the fare, so he flies into a rage and throws her out of the car, leaving her picking up the contents of her handbag on the pavement. A bag lady wanders up to see if she is all right, but is waved away, so continues up the street until she hears screams, turns, and sees the prostitute being attacked by a figure dressed in a diving suit who drags the body into the nearby water. So Amsterdam now has a serial killer to contend with...
Amsterdamned was a breezy thriller from Holland, brought to us by one of the country's few auteurs who are not as well known as Paul Verhoeven, Dick Maas. His previous horror success had been The Lift, about a haunted, er, lift, but while that was regarded with amusement and slight derision, this was embraced by many around the world who caught it when it was deemed to have the broad appeal necessary to be given an international release. Over the years it has turned up on the televisions of the globe, or in their home video rentals, to pleasantly surprise whose who did not have high hopes for it, yet was transformed into "that film with the great speedboat chase in the canals".
So much for memories, but does it stand up today? While it has problems, mostly down to a slack pace which could have been tightened up with a few skillful edits as it really does go on far too long, the answer to that is yes, for what looks like a Dutch version of an Italian giallo only fifteen years too late, Amsterdamned is pretty good fun. As the title implies, this is not to be taken too seriously, and there is a sense of humour here that borders on the irreverent, but if you want what is effectively a city-based version of Jaws, complete with sequences lifted and adapted from the Steven Spielberg classic for suspense purposes, then Maas was only too happy to supply it to you.
Our hero is a rumpled but ruggedly handsome cop named Eric Visser (Huub Stapel), who is assigned to the case when the prostitute's body turns up. He is a single father living with his ghastly daughter who tells, for example, those phoning him when he's in the bath that he's "probably masturbating" and has a friend who claims to have psychic powers, a development which we expect to have some in impact on the investigation only for it to go precisely nowhere except an extraneous bit where they both go a-hunting for the killer. And don't find him. But then, not even the police are having much luck, and on the strength of this the Amsterdam lawmen were singularly ill-equipped to track down multiple murderers during the eighties.
Eric soldiers on, and finds himself a love interest when he goes to check out a local diving club. She is Laura (Monique van de Ven, star of early Verhoeven movies), a museum tour guide who Eric decides he likes the look of and does his best to chat up, which this being the kind of film it is, works like a charm on her. This seems like a distraction from the real business of uncovering the killer, yet it is performed with a twinkle in the eye which speaks to a light send up of the conventions of this genre. Meanwhile, our rubber-suited psycho picks off more of the locals, from a sunbather to a Salvation Army charity worker to a hapless chap who was merely getting drunk on his houseboat only for the baddie to sink it - and him. It's that near-climactic speedboat chase which sticks in the memory, though, a terrific sequence that perhaps says more to the tourist industry, but for all that is evidence of a job well done. The music is by Maas as well.