The Damned aka These Are the Damned – UK, 1961

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The Damned – US title: These Are the Damned – is a 1961 film (released with censorship cuts in 1963) British science fiction film starring Macdonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field and Oliver Reed. It was a Hammer Film production directed by Joseph Losey and based on H.L. Lawrence’s novel The Children of Light.

Middle-aged American Simon Wells is on a boating holiday on the south coast of England. In the town of Weymouth he meets Joan, a 20-year-old girl, who lures him into a mugging staged by her biker teddy boy brother King and his gang. Wells is beaten up and robbed.

Later Joan approaches Wells. While he is prepared to forgive and forget, she implies that he asked for it after trying to pick her up. At that moment King and his gang appear. After they threaten and taunt Wells, he sets off on his boat. As he pulls away he calls on Joan to join him which she does, defying her over-protective brother.

As they float off of the coast Joan tells Wells of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her brother whenever she gets close to other men, noting a previous time when he locked her in a cupboard. Though Wells urges her to escape with him, she decides to return to shore. Wells heads back, unaware that he is being watched by a member of King’s gang.

the damned 1961 hammer film shirley anne field oliver reed bikers

At night Wells and Joan return to a quiet part of the mainland and make love in a cliff top house surrounded by curious sculptures. Caught up and surrounded by the gang, the couple escape into a nearby military base. The house was rented by sculptress Freya Neilson whose lover, Bernard, is a scientist who runs the base. He will not discuss his work, warning her that he “might be condemning her to death”…

Reviews:

“Apart from that the film’s bizarre storyline, which suddenly stops being a tale of teen angst and dips its toe into much murkier waters, is enough to hold the interest over an hour and a half, even if Simon seems to forgive Joan the teenage temptress rather too easily. It’s actually an extremely grim affair once the pathetic gang antics are over and done with…” Chris Woods, British Horror Films

“The movie itself is a fascinating experience, and I do rank it with Hammer’s best movies, though it certainly doesn’t fit in easily with the rest of their output. Excellent performances abound in this one, though I feel the need to take special notice of Oliver Reed…” Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“None of the plot elements – romance, science fiction or teenage motorcycle gangsters – fuse and the movie is in turns naive, confusing, plain silly and tendentious. The cinematography is attractive, though.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Handbook

The Damned - These Are The Damned

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“Yes, it takes itself far too seriously, but in a way that’s it strength, a serious statement that eventually there is no hope – it’s that lack of a comfortable resolution that has stuck with its viewers over the years. The government here is one that is planning for doomsday and has no compunction about eliminating anyone who wants to believe there might be a glimmer of optimism about the future.” Graeme Clarke, The Spinning Image

“Ultimately, the film is a depressing one as there is no happy ending and no real satisfying outcome.  It is also a striking film, visually and otherwise and not one that you are soon to forget after you have seen it, especially as it ends with the haunting cry of the children trapped in their prison and you will hear them in your head even after the picture has ended.” The Telltale Mind

“The highpoint of the first wave of the British postwar Science Fiction films” Phil Hardy (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984

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“The performances are universally weak, and Losey’s clearly ambivalent attitudes to the demands of genre ensures that the film is never exciting. But as an ambitious oddity, it exerts not a little fascination.” Geoff Andrews, Time Out Film Guide

“A bona fide subversive classic, These are the Damned increases its grip on the audience as it speeds to one of the most doom-laden finishes in Science Fiction: “Help us! Help us! Please help us!” Glenn Erickson, DVD Talk

Choice dialogue:

“Never seen a clocktower before?”

Main cast and characters:

  • Macdonald Carey …. Simon Wells
  • Shirley Anne Field …. Joan
  • Viveca Lindfors …. Freya Neilson
  • Alexander Knox …. Bernard
  • Oliver Reed …. King
  • Walter Gotell …. Major Holland
  • James Villiers …. Captain Gregory
  • Tom Kempinski …. Ted
  • Kenneth Cope …. Sid
  • Brian Oulton …. Mr. Dingle
  • Barbara Everest …. Miss Lamont
  • James Maxwell …. Mr. Talbot
  • Nicholas Clay …. Richard

Release:

A complete print was released in arthouse cinemas in 2007.

On 15 January 2010, The Damned was released on DVD in the USA as part of the ‘Icons of Suspense Collection’ from Hammer Films.

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