Comic art by Dick Maas

Dick Maas is best known as the director of such cult film classics as 'De Lift' ('The Elevator', 1983), 'Flodder' (1986) and 'Amsterdamned' (1988). He is known for his subversive mix between horror and sardonic comedy. Along with Paul Verhoeven and Jan De Bont he is one of the few Dutch film directors who acquired cult status both in his home country as well as internationally. Dick Maas received several national and international film awards, most notably the Grand Prix at the Festival of Avoriaz (France). He was the first Dutch director to receive this award. Little known is that he was also a comic artist, earlier in his career.

Born in 1951 as Dirk Willem Herman Maas in Heemstede, he studied at the Free Academy in The Hague for a while. In his spare time, he worked as a cartoonist and artist of comic stories. Some of these were photo comics. When he was 12 he sent in jokes to the Dutch comedy duo The Mounties. He self-published the underground periodical Formule S, of which only one issue appeared in April 1973. He created the buck-toothed boy characters 'Mug en Zifter' (a pun on the Dutch word "muggenzifter", roughly translated as "hair-splitter") and contributed to underground magazines like Joost Swarte's Modern Papier (1972), Evert Geradts' Tante Leny Presenteert (1972) and Aloha (from 1972). A book with Maas' 'Mug en Zifter' stories was published by Har van Fulpen's Drukwerk in 1976. Although his career in comics was short, the medium's over-the-top way of storytelling has remained an influence on his later film projects.


Appie eet een happie (from: Tante Leny Presenteert 8, 1972)

In 1974 he was admitted to the Dutch Film Academy, where he graduated three years later. He directed some short films during the late 1970s and early 1980s before making his debut with the thriller 'De Lift' ('The Elevator', 1983), about an elevator who kills its passengers. The film was made with a fairly low budget and short production time of only 32 days. To save costs Maas composed his own soundtrack, which he since then did for all his other films. Despite its cheap production the picture still had professional and well-known Dutch actors in its cast, including Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Piet Römer and Cor Witschge. It did well at the box office and was awarded with a Gouden Kalf for "Best Direction". Thanks to international distribution by Warner Brothers 'De Lift' managed to become a worldwide cult hit, fondly appreciated by horror fans. Clips from 'De Lift' were also used in the music video of 'When the Lady Smiles' (1982) by Dutch rock band Golden Earring, which Maas directed. He also shot three other music videos for the same band, namely 'Twilight Zone' (1982), 'Clear Night Moonlight' (1984) and 'Burning Stuntman' (1997). Three decades later Maas directed an American remake of 'De Lift' named 'Down' (also known as 'The Shaft', 2001), but it received lukewarm reviews and has since then been forgotten.


Flodder in Amerika film poster by Martin Lodewijk

In 1986 Maas directed the black comedy 'Flodder', about a dysfunctional family who move into a posh neighbourhood. The picture made stars out of Nelly Frijda (Ma Flodder), Huub Stapel (Johnnie Flodder) and Kroatian-Dutch actress Tatjana Šimić (Kees Flodder), who was featured in a memorable erotic scene. While the humor was crass it was also praised for its satirical depiction of class differences. As embarrassing as the Flodders are they are still painted in a more sympathetic light than the upper and middle class people who look down on them. 'Flodder' managed to become a commercial cult hit in the Netherlands as well as Flanders, Belgium. It was also dubbed in English, French and German. As such, a sequel was unavoidable. 'Flodder in Amerika!' (1992) brought the family to the United States and was largely filmed in New York City. Simultaneous with the original Dutch-language version the actors also recorded their lines in English. American actors like Jon Polito were also brought in to appeal to a potential American audience. Despite being panned down by critics 'Flodder in Amerika' was still succesful enough to greenlight a TV series about the family. The sitcom 'Flodder' (1993-1998) was broadcast on Veronica and both co-directed and co-written by Maas. Among the scriptwriters for the series were comic artist Hanco Kolk and former 'Donald Duck' scriptwriter Wijo Koek. The show was a huge ratings hit in the Netherlands and in Germany. Another movie came out, simply titled 'Flodder 3' (1995), which combined three unused scripts for the TV show. Once again critics didn't like this sequel, but audiences still went to see it. The 'Flodder' franchise was eventually put to a halt after actor Coen van Vrijberghe de Coningh (who played Johnnie Flodder in the TV series) died from a heart attack.

'Flodder' remains Maas' most popular work. Both the movies as well as the TV series have been repeated numerous times on Dutch television. The word 'Flodder' has even become an eponym for asocial, obnoxious and vulgar families. Naturally the characters leant themselves well to a comic strip version. In 1992 a comic book based on 'Flodder in Amerika!' (1992) was released, written by Maas and Wijo Koek while Marcel Bosma provided the drawings. Originally Martin Lodewijk seemed to be the natural choice, since he designed all the film posters to the franchise. Lodewijk made a two-panel try-out, but already had enough work on his hands and thus he pulled back from the project. In 2016 a new comic book about the Flodder family was published: 'Het Mysterie van de Dode Blondjes' (2016). Maas and Wijo Koek returned as scriptwriters, but this time the Argentinean artist Fernando Sosa did the artwork through Stefan de Groot's Striptekenaars.nl agency. The story was notable for being a brand new script.

For several years Maas didn't own the rights to the Flodder franchise. He sued, lost in 2009 but in appeal the judge pointed the rights back to him, which paved the way for new potential 'Flodder' projects. It also made it possible for him to veto unauthorized comic book adaptations of his films, like the book 'Filmfanfare' in 2011. The book was intended as a homage to 57 Dutch film classics, adapted into several one-page comics by 57 renowned Dutch comics artists. Naturally both 'De Lift', drawn by Aimée de Jongh, and 'Flodder', drawn by Boris Peeters, were planned for inclusion. However, Maas was not informed, nor paid, and thus he registered an official complaint. He was supported by film director Alex van Warmerdam ('Abel', 'De Noorderlingen') and Dorna de Rouveroy, who owned the rights to the movies of Wim Verstappen.

In 1988 Maas made a return to horror with 'Amsterdamned' (1988), a gory thriller about a serial killer operating in the Amsterdam canals which also gained a cult following. In 1993 Maas was guest director of an episode of the TV series 'The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles', based on the youth of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas' exotic adventurer Indiana Jones. While set in the early 20th century where Jones meets various historical characters Maas' episode stood out because it centered around the utterly fictional count Dracula! The episode, 'Transylvania', was never broadcast on TV, but is available on the video and DVD set.

In later years Maas made an attempt to crack the American market by directing the comedy-thriller 'Do Not Disturb' (also known as 'Silent Witness', 1999) with a completely American cast. Despite starring William Hurt, Jennifer Tilly and Denis Leary, the picture nevertheless went direct-to-video in the USA. After this failed experiment Maas went back to the Netherlands, where he shot the black comedy 'Moordwijven' ('Murdering Babes', 2007), about three wives who hire a killer to assassinate their adulterous husbands. In 2010 he once again showed his love for subverting innocence by directing a horror movie about the beloved Dutch holiday character Sinterklaas: 'Sint' (2010). It caused a media uproar because some moral guardians felt the movie poster was too frightening and upsetting for children passing by. Maas next thriller, 'Quiz' (2012), became the first huge flop in his career, but 'Prooi' (2016) - about an escaped lion - became a commercial success thank to a viral campaign built around its trailer.

In 1984 Maas and producer Laurens Geels founded the production company First Floor Features, a nod to the elevator-theme of 'De Lift'. The company produced most of Maas' film projects in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. It also funded other Dutch film classics, such as 'Abel' (1986), 'De Noorderlingen' (1992), 'Lang Leve de Koningin' (1995), 'Karakter' (1997) - which won the Academy Award for 'Best Foreign Feature' - and 'All Stars' (1997). The company also oversaw the production of the 'Flodder' TV series. Unfortunately it went bankrupt in 2004. In 2017 Maas published a book about making films in the Netherlands, titled 'Buurman. Wat doet u nu?', named after an infamous scene in 'Flodder' (1986) where Tatjana Šimic's character is taken doggystyle on her horny neighbour's bonnet hood and asks: "Neighbour. What are you doing?' The book provides an overview of Maas' film career, without sugarcoating the less appealing aspects and incidents. It also offers practical tips on how to make your own movie.

Mug en Zifter, by Dick Maas (1973)

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