30 November 2015 | CosmicDwellings
Highly-Recommended Amsterdam intrigue...
In between the TV showings of the original series of "Special Branch" (1969) and "The Sweeney" (1975), Thames Television delivered a classic piece of Detective fiction in the form of "Van Der Valk" - Commissaris Piet (Simon) Van Der Valk of the Dutch CID based in Amsterdam. It was a very good updated take on the character from a series of best- selling novels by Author Nicolas Freeling and a superlative characterisation by actor Barry Foster in the lead role. Furthermore, it was the marrying of Foster's performance with the intelligent and gritty realism of the scripts and location that made this a must-see of the time (the entire five series - 32 Episodes in total - was made over a twenty-year period). As a youngster, I was more familiar with the third series (1977) which was made by Euston Films for Thames, but watching the episodes of the original series from 1972 and 1973 (2nd series) was most enjoyable too as it not only gave us an insight into how the character of Van Der Valk was originally conceived for television, but also allowed us to experience the production process of the time - a mix of VT (studio) and film (location) work that assisted in the unfolding of the drama. The city of Amsterdam is beautifully captured in each and every overcast shot of period detail - trams, bikes, canals, cars and bars all add to the realistic take on a glorious setting. There was a gap of almost 14 years before the decision was finalised to commence work on the fourth series (screened 1991) and by this time the episodes were produced for a longer format: a two-hour time slot (the trend of the time). However, it was wonderful to see the older Barry Foster continue his memorable characterisation all those years on, and I felt that the series had lost none of that gritty style and intelligence that gave it an endearing quality almost two decades previously. In these longer early '90's episodes there is obviously an emphasis on the changing face of culture and environment, and a new face is added to the Van Der Valk family - namely an adopted daughter called Ruth who has a young child. The Van Der Valk's eldest son, Wim is also in the employ of the Amsterdam Police as an Inspector, and he plays a considerable part in some of the case-cracking proceedings of these later episodes, and reference is also given to his brother in the final series (1992) although he never makes an appearance. Overall, 'Van Der Valk' is a highly-recommended viewing experience especially for those entertained by the crime fiction genre.