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Damned, The

Entry updated 14 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1961; vt These Are the Damned). Hammer/Swallow. Directed by Joseph Losey. Written by Evan Jones, based on The Children of Light (1960) by Henry L Lawrence. Cast includes MacDonald Carey, Shirley Ann Field, Alexander Knox, Viveca Lindfors and Oliver Reed. 96 minutes, cut to 87 minutes (UK) and to 77 minutes (US). Black and white.

Made in the UK by expatriate US director Losey, this film so dismayed the distributors, Columbia, that they kept it on the shelf for two years before releasing it, and then with major cuts. A US visitor to an English seaside town (Carey) becomes involved with the sister (Field) of the leader of some tough local bikers. The pair accidentally learn of a secret, illegal military project in which children imprisoned in Underground isolation prove to be man-made "freaks" who since their birth have been dangerously (to others) radioactive, thereby somehow rendering them capable of surviving in the aftermath of nuclear Holocaust. Ironically, Carey and Field are fatally contaminated by the very children they seek to free. Losey's moral indignation has a paranoid streak, but the film's evocative, allusive imagery is strong, in particular when the children communicate with their obsessed, scientist "father" (Knox) by television and in the final shots, showing a helicopter hovering like a giant carrion bird over the small boat carrying the dying couple – echoing the grotesque, sometimes bird-like sculptures executed by the scientist's lover (in reality by distinguished sculptress Elisabeth Frink), which stand on the clifftops nearby. The Damned is one of the most memorable sf films of a period when few really good directors would come within miles of the genre. [JB/PN]

see also: Cinema; Paranoia.


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