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Operation Amsterdam

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Operation Amsterdam
Original cinema poster
Directed byMichael McCarthy
Written by
Based onnovel Adventure in Diamonds by David E. Walker.
Produced byMaurice Cowan
CinematographyReginald Wyer
Edited byArthur Stevens
Music byPhilip Green
Maurice Cowan Productions & Rank Organisation[1]
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 12 January 1959 (1959-01-12) (UK)[2]
  • 6 July 1960 (1960-07-06) (U.S.)[2]
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Operation Amsterdam is a 1959 black and white British action film, directed by Michael McCarthy, and featuring Peter Finch, Eva Bartok and Tony Britton. It is based on a true story as described in the book Adventure in Diamonds, by David E. Walker.[3] The action of the story covers 12–13 May 1940 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday) during the German invasion of the Netherlands. The composer Philip Green composed two original pieces of music for the film, the Pierement Waltz and the Amsterdam Polka.[4]


In May 1940, as the German invasion of the Netherlands is under way, the British government decides to send a team to the Netherlands on board HMS Walpole [5] to secure stocks of industrial diamonds before the invaders can get to them. Accordingly, two Dutch diamond experts, Jan Smit (Peter Finch) and Walter Keyser (Alexander Knox), with a British Army Intelligence officer, Major Dillon (Tony Britton), are dropped by ship off the Dutch coast. They survive a German air raid and escape the attention of a suspicious Dutch policeman. Needing a car, they commandeer one driven by Anna (Eva Bartok), who is trying to commit suicide because she blames herself for the death of her Jewish fiance's parents. Anna turns out to be a member of the Dutch security forces and agrees to help the mission.

The four of them drive to Amsterdam where they meet Jan's father, Johan (Malcolm Keen), at his diamond business house. Johan agrees to try to persuade other dealers to bring their diamonds later that day for transport to Britain. However, many of the stones are stored in a time-locked bank vault which won't open for 24 hours because of the Whit Monday holiday so they recruit Dillon's contacts, a Dutch resistance group, to break in.

Fifth columnist elements in the Dutch army launch an attack outside the bank but the group manage to break into the vault and recover the diamonds. Jan kills the leader of the fifth columnists, a Dutch army lieutenant (Tim Turner). While the resistance fighters withstand the attack, the three agents and Anna make their escape. They drive back to the coast, dodging a German air attack on the way, but find that their boatmaster has been killed. They commandeer a tugboat to take them back to the waiting destroyer, but Anna elects to remain in the Netherlands and work with the nascent resistance movement.



The film was based on a true story. British intelligence smuggled out ten million pounds worth of industrial diamonds from Smit's Diamonds in Amsterdam. This was turned into a book Adventure in Diamonds by British journalist David Walker, which forms the basis of the film.[6] Jan Schmidt, who Finch plays, was killed in 1946 and the character of Anna disappeared.[7]

Filming started 7 July 1958.[8] It was shot at Pinewood Studios and on location in Amsterdam. Peter Finch told the press during filming: "I like my part in the film, it is one of my strongest".[9] He made the movie under his contract with the Rank organisation.[10] According to Tony Britton, who co-starred, Finch was unhappy with the movie and offered Britton the choice of either lead as he felt "it's all the same to me. Get the bloody film over and let me off the hook."[11]


Variety said it had "plenty of excitement... a well-conceived and smoothly holding piece of film making".[12] The Guardian called it "an unusually effective war film, partly because it is so largely true, partly because its scene... is so eerie and unfamiliar".[13]

The film was one of seven Rank films bought for distribution in the US by 20th Century Fox. The others were Upstairs and Downstairs, Sink the Bismarck!, Northwest Frontier, Ferry to Hong Kong, The Wind Cannot Read and The Captain's Table.[14]

The New York Times said "a surprisingly lukewarm drama has been culled from this tingling, true-life incident... Although it offers some fine tense panoramas of its doomed background, the picture remains curiously conventional in size and scope.... Not until the finale does the picture really get off its haunches.There are two consistent assets, one being a crisp, direct performance by Mr. Britton, as the realistic leader of the daring trio. First, last and always, there is Amsterdam itself."[15]

Director Michael McCarthy died on 7 May 1959.[16]


  1. ^ a b IMDb Company credits Retrieved 2011-09-05
  2. ^ a b IMDn release info Retrieved 2011-09-05
  3. ^ Adventure in Diamonds
  4. ^ Stubblebine, Donald J. (1997). British Cinema Sheet Music: A Comprehensive Listing of Film Music Published in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, 1916 Through 1994. McFarland Publishers. p. 98. ISBN 0786403136. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  5. ^ HMS Walpole, event 13 May 1940 –
  6. ^ Filmer, Fay (20 September 1958). "GOSSIP". Picture Show. London. 71 (1851): 3–4.
  7. ^ "Peter and Eva in War film". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 July 1958. p. 88.
  8. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (16 October 1958). "Old Yeller' Author Sells 'Creek' Tale: Gipson, Nash on, New Scripts; Rank Studios Found Thriving". Los Angeles Times: B11.
  9. ^ Nepean, Edith (1 November 1958). "Round the British Studios". Picture Show. London. 71 (1857): 11.
  10. ^ Dundy, Elaine (1980). Finch, bloody Finch : a life of Peter Finch. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. p. 233.
  11. ^ Faulkner, Trader (1979). Peter Finch, a biography. Taplinger Pub. Co. p. 206.
  12. ^ "Operation Amsterdam". Variety. 21 January 1959. p. 6.
  13. ^ "New Films in London". The Guardian. 17 January 1959. p. 3.
  14. ^ "Of Local Origin". New York Times: 25. 7 January 1960.
  15. ^ Thompson, Howard (7 July 1960). "Operation Amsterdam' Takes Place Here". New York Times.
  16. ^ "Obituaries - "Michael McCarthy"". Variety. 20 May 1959. p. 78.

External links

This page was last edited on 6 March 2023, at 01:32
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