Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


THESE ARE THE DAMNED (aka The Damned/1963). Director: Joseph Losey.

"Nothing that's warm can live with you."

It's amusing to contemplate how people who went to see this film because of the poster to the left -- which makes it seem like another Village of the Damned -- must have felt when they had to sit through this tedious non-horror film which was nothing like the advertisement suggested -- too bad! Losey combines a story of children held at a military base because they were born radioactive -- due to their mothers' accidental irradiation -- with a romantic triangle consisting of vacationing American Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey), a much, much younger gal named Joan (Shirley Anne Field), and her gang-member brother, King (Oliver Reed), who seems to have incestuous feelings for her among other problems. Other characters include sculptress Freya Neilson (Viveca Lindfords), who lives near the military base and is friends with Bernard (Alexander Knox), who is in charge of the children. Had Losey stuck to scenes in the base, focusing on the plight of the children, this might have amounted to an interesting picture, but the poor kids show up late in the game, after the audience has had to endure tedious scenes of Carey's unconvincing romance with Field, and Reed's smoldering and childish antics. The movie presents a completely contrived scenario in which the triangle characters and the ice cold children wind up together in a natural cave below the base. What can you say about a movie that begins with British teddy boys marching down the street whistling their own theme song [West Side Story anyone?] and gets progressively worse? The final scenes with the children are somewhat moving, but it's far too late to save the movie. Oliver Reed [The Triple Echo] gives another one of his patented intense "I'm Mean and I'm Weird" performances, and is as tiresome as the movie itself, whereas Lindfors [The Exorcist III] acquits herself nicely in an underwritten role. Some of the children are talented as well and Knox is fine as the unpleasant Bernard. This was obviously meant to be seen as something profound and deeply affecting, but it just doesn't work. Arthur Grant's cinematography is superb, however. The film was severely cut (which couldn't have hurt it that much) upon release, but the DVD I saw has the complete version. Losey also directed Knox in The Sleeping Tiger.

Verdict: Interesting premise -- too bad it's a movie you'll probably want to sleep through. **.


angelman66 said...

What is it about director Joseph Losey? All his films have fascinating themes, they seem like movies I want to see, but then turn out to be so slow-paced and boring? Two films I had always wanted to see--Secret Ceremony and Boom!, both from 1968--were such letdowns when I finally saw them. I gather These Are the Damned has the same problem...

William said...

I think those films you mention were in his Liz Taylor phase. Secret Ceremony had new scenes made for its TV debut and if I recall correctly, a new ending. Boom was a terrible version of a Tennessee Williams play. I would actually like to see "The Servant" again but haven't come across it.