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Van Der Valk - Series 1: Part 4 of 4 [VHS] [1972]
Format: VHS TapeChange
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Van Der Valk,"a classic cult British mystery television series, set on the streets of Amsterdam in the early 1970's, has finally been released on DVD. The series, a police procedural that stars Barry Foster (Bob Rusk in Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy [DVD] [1972]; Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]; Ryan's Daughter - Special Edition [DVD] [1970]; and The Sweeney - The Complete Series [Box Set] [DVD]) plays the title character, based on the novels of Edgar Award-winning British mystery author Nicolas Freeling. The entertainment was made by Thames Television for ITV; debuted in the U.K. in 1972, and ran for five seasons. Set 1 includes all six episodes from Series 1. Unfortunately, as the cast speaks in a mixture of accents, some Dutch, some English, and Foster in best cockney, playing his character as one of the lads, the production does not offer subtitles.

The series was shot largely on location in the charming old city of Amsterdam, all cobblestones and canals; however, neither the visual nor the sound quality is up to what we might expect today. Production values are also lower than we might expect with a similar entertainment today - and there are no guest stars. The dramas are gritty, and make full use of their setting, the peculiarities of the Dutch character, and their time. Van Der Valk smokes like a chimney, drinks hard --doing both in the actual station house -- and is out and about, driving a police car after having had a few drinks, with, of course, no seat belts. It's definitely the 1970's, grass cloth walls, caftans, KLM calendars wherever you look, all brown outfits: the real 1970s, not theLife on Mars : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2 (8 Disc Box Set) [2006] [DVD] 1970's.

The catchy theme song by Dutchman Jack Trombey was commercially released as "Eye Level:" it became a Top 40 Hit, and sold millions of copies worldwide. To my ear, it strongly echoes the music you could then hear in Amsterdam, played by organs in the streets: I actually visited that city twice in the late 60's, early 70's, during the years of my English residence, and can still hear the notes.

Foster portrays Van Der Valk in a counter-intuitive way: he's not the character we would expect from the Dutch stereotypes we carry, such as phlegmatic, pragmatic: his policeman is excitable, free-wheeling, and rebellious. The policeman has, in fact, been called a Dutch "Columbo." However, the author Freeling (born Nicolas Davidson in London, England in 1927), had Dutch-German blood through his mother, and lived most of his life in continental Europe, in France; he also frequently went to Amsterdam to research its goings on, so let's assume he knew what he was doing. He published 37 books in all, and won the three most prestigious mystery writers awards, the Edgar of the Mystery Writers of America; the Gold Dagger of the Crime Writers' Association, and France's Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere. Unfortunately for us all, he grew tired of his Dutch creation, and killed Van Der Valk off, just as this series was airing, in 1972.

The episodes are:
1. One Herring's Not Enough. A sculptor/art school teacher walks in to confess killing his wife and her young lover, but there's no sign of such a crime.
2. Destroying Angel. An unknown man living above a seedy bar is poisoned to death. Commisaris Van Der Valk considers it a woman's crime, and suspects one of the sex workers in the brothel next door.
3. Blue Notes. A world-famous Dutch violinist returns to Amsterdam for a rare performance. Someone smashes his Stradivarius, and then he ends up dead.
4. Elected Silence. The daughter of a controversial right-wing journalist disappears; where's the ransom note. What's going on?
5. Thicker than Water. A well-to-do young Englishman shows up dead in an Amsterdam canal, and his powerful mother doesn't seem to care. The dead man's trail leads Van Der Valk through the city's seamiest gay, transvestite, and sado-masochistic bars.
6. The Adventurer. A fatal accident; the dead man, a Lebanese, is carrying a gun and a picture of an anonymous local stonemason. The commisaris is troubled.

Now listen, I initially saw this series during the years of my English residence; it was great company for me. And I loved it: and I loved the underlying Freeling books. I believe I read every one of them, up to the 1972 work in which the author killed off his best-loved character. So don't try to argue with my opinion on this.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2005
It is a pity that this boxed set in unavailable for purchase here in the US because Van der Valk is truly an absorbing and entertaining detective drama that featured the late talented actor Barry Foster as Commissaris Piet Van Der Valk of the Amsterdam Police. With an catchy opening theme called "Eye Level," the series was not only shot on location around quaint Amsterdam and its canals, but was filled with a number of engaging stories involving murder, kidnapping, blackmail, illicit drugs, and prostitution with many elite, high-profile suspects.

Those expecting a crime drama on the order of "Mannix" or the popular UK series "The Professionals" are likely to be disappointed. Van der Valk is a detective drama similar to the popular series "Columbo" here in the US or "Bergerac" in the UK. But unlike Peter Falk's exasperating detective from the LAPD, Foster's character has a certain appeal: a cynical and hardened yet sophisticated cop with a taste for fine wines, classical music, and quoting Baudelaire.

Supporting cast is also excellent with Susan Travers as Van der Valk's wife, Arlette, and Michael Latimer as Inspector Johnny Kroon, Van der Valk's rookie detective-in-training clearly recalling the chemistry between Karl Malden and Michael Douglas in the popular "Streets of San Francisco" soon to be released here in the US on DVD.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2004
Wonderful detective series from the seventies set in Amsterdam in an era when TV detectives really knew what they were doing. Listening to the theme music again sent shivers down my spine! A must-have for any fan of the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2012
In case it gets repurposed, this review was written for the Clear Vision release entitled "Van Der Valk, Series 1 Part 4 of 4."

Although now deleted, this disc does turn up second-hand since Network released their vastly superior sets of this series.

While this disc claims to contain four episodes of series 1, it actually features the last 4 episodes of series 2. If that wasn't sloppy enough, the picture quality is absolutely atrocious, looking like it came from a poor quality second (or more) generation analogue dub rather than the master tapes.

Not good at all. Network has frequent quality control problems, but their release of "Van der Valk" knocks this one into a cocked hat.
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on 11 July 2014
I wanted it because a dear friend played a part in it, Michael Hannah who played a barman. He was a top world class model until he was killed in an air crash in 1974 over Paris in a DC10
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on 20 July 2015
lovely to see it again after 40 years! it has aged well, with classic backdrop in old amsterdam!
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on 23 September 2014
Way ahead of its time, and the late great Barry Foster at his best.
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on 24 January 2015
Lovely story lines,
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on 16 November 2014
pleased with item
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2013
NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE. IT ,S HARD TO TELL THEY,RE IN A POLICE STATION.
THEY,RE ALWAYS WAITING FOR THE PUBS TO OPEN
IT,S DEFINATELY THE POOREST SERIES WE,VE BOUGHT. ( ABOUT 40 )
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