George Sluizer, Director of 'The Vanishing,' Dies at 82

George Sluizer - H 2014
AP Images

George Sluizer - H 2014

The Netherlands native also helmed 'Dark Blood,' released almost two decades after River Phoenix's death

George Sluizer, who directed two versions of the thriller The Vanishing — one a Netherlands-France co-production, the other American and each with a different ending — has died. He was 82.

Sluizer, a native of the Netherlands who also helmed River Phoenix’s final film, Dark Blood, died Saturday in Amsterdam, his wife told the Dutch news site NL Times.

Sluizer’s first version of The Vanishing — the story of a man who is obsessed with finding out what happened to his wife after she’s abducted at a roadside oasis — was the mostly French-language 1988 film Spoorloos, for which he worked off a screenplay by Tim Krabbe, adapted from his novel The Golden Egg.

Stanley Kubrick once told Sluizer The Vanishing was “the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen.”

Fox’s 1993 version starred Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock as the couple and Jeff Bridges as the abductor. The original’s shocking ending was changed, and Roger Ebert, in his review, called it “a textbook exercise in the trashing of a nearly perfect film, conducted oddly enough under the auspices of the man who directed it.”

Phoenix was just 23 and Dark Blood was about 80 percent finished when he died in October 1993 of a drug overdose. Sluizer chose to finish the movie after being told by doctors in 2007 that he didn’t have long to live after he suffered an aneurysm, and the film premiered in 2012 at the Netherlands Film Festival. It was released stateside by Lionsgate last year.

In Dark Blood, Phoenix plays a widower who lives in the desert and holds a Hollywood couple hostage.

Sluizer, who wrote, produced and directed documentaries to start his career, also helmed such films as Twice a Woman (1979), Crimetime (1996), The Commissioner (1998) starring John Hurt and The Stone Raft (2002).

Sluizer’s 1961 short film De Lage landen (The Low Lands) won a prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, and he served as production manager on Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982).

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