The Damned (1963 film)
Children of Ice And Darkness... They Are the Lurking Unseen Evil You Dare Not Face Alone !
|Directed by||Joseph Losey|
|Produced by||Michael Carreras
Anthony Nelson Keys
|Written by||Evan Jones (adaptation)
H.L. Lawrence (novel)
Shirley Anne Field
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Edited by||Reginald Mills|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||96 minutes (cut on release to 87 in UK and 77 in USA)|
The Damned is a 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 tourist Simon Wells is on a boating holiday on the south coast of England after divorcing his wife and leaving his career as an insurance executive. 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 on his small boat. 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.
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 where guards and dogs are soon in pursuit of them all.
The house was rented by sculptor 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".
Wells and Joan make their way down the cliff face. King goes after them. There they discover a small network of caves and bunkers occupied by a group of nine young boys and girls, all aged 11 and born in the same week. Although well-dressed, cared-for and educated, it is clear that they do not know much about the outside world. The children's skin is also cold to the touch.
In fact the children are confined to the bunker which is the underground part of the military base. The premises, which double as a schoolroom and living quarters, are filled with surveillance cameras. Access to the children is limited though they are occasionally visited by men in radiation suits. Bernard gives them lessons via a TV monitor but dismisses some of their more searching questions, saying that they will learn the answers "when the time comes". The children do not even know much about where they are. One of them thinks that they are in a spaceship and are to populate a distant planet.
The children have a small hideout in a connecting cave where they keep pictures and mementos of people they think are their parents. They believe that it is a safe and secret place but Bernard and his associates are well aware of it. Bernard, who is in his own way genuinely fond of the children, has allowed them this degree of privacy in spite of objections by the head of security, Major Holland.
Time passes and Wells, Joan and King feel increasingly unwell but Wells and Joan have promised to help the children escape and pressure King into helping them. The children keep them fed by smuggling food that they have learned to make themselves past the surveillance cameras into the hideout.
Since security has been unable to find the intruders, Bernard tells the children via the TV monitor that he knows their secret and asks that they give up the grown-ups that they are hiding there. He reminds them of a rabbit they once acquired as a pet but which later died and warns them that the same might happen to their would-be rescuers. The children rebel and destroy the cameras.
Men in radiation suits then enter the premises but are overpowered by Wells and King. Using a Geiger counter, Wells discovers that the children are radioactive. Nevertheless he agrees to break them out. They escape the bunker and face the world, the sun and flowers for the first time. Before they can take it all in, they are rounded up and, kicking and screaming, are taken back to the bunker by other men in radiation suits. Freya Neilson, the sculptor, witnesses the events.
King drives off in a sports car, accompanied by Henry, one of the children. Weakened by the radioactivity, King orders Henry out of the car saying that he is "poison". Henry is then grabbed by pursuers and is forcibly taken back to the bunker in a helicopter.
Chased by another helicopter, King crashes his car into a river when confronted with a roadblock at the end of a bridge. Joan and Wells are allowed to leave on his boat but the sickness catches up with them and the boat goes round and round in the sea monitored by a helicopter, which will destroy the boat once its occupants are dead.
Bernard's only real regret about the whole affair is that "his" children now know for sure that they are "freaks" and prisoners and will be more difficult to control. He explains to Neilson that they were radioactive from birth. The plan is to release them "when the time comes", i.e. the inevitable nuclear war. Their bodies will resist the nuclear fallout and the human race will continue. Now that Neilson knows his secret, Bernard asks her to join him. She refuses and, true to his word, he kills her.
The film ends with swimmers and beach-goers enjoying the sea and sand, oblivious to the children who are desperately and vainly calling for help from their cliff side prison. These are the damned.
Production and Release
American director Joseph Losey had moved to Britain after being blacklisted by Hollywood. The film was produced by Hammer, which had enjoyed great success with such science fiction/horror films as The Quatermass Xperiment and The Curse of Frankenstein.
Losey originally wanted Neilson the sculptor to be killed by one of the helicopters, but the studio insisted that Bernard kill her personally. The studio also wished to tone down the incestuous references between King and Joan.
The film was made in May–June 1961 but, due perhaps to political considerations, was not released in Britain until 1963. Even then it was subject to several cuts, from 96 to 87 minutes in Britain and 77 minutes in America where it was released as These Are the Damned in 1965. A complete print was released in arthouse cinemas in 2007. On 15 January 2010, it was released on DVD as part of the Icons of Suspense Collection from Hammer Films.
The movie went over budget by ₤25,000.
The Damned has been referred to as "the highpoint of the first wave of the British postwar Science Fiction films".
- 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
- Kit Williams .... Henry
- Rachel Clay .... Victoria
- Caroline Sheldon .... Elizabeth
- David Palmer .... George
- John Thompson .... Charles
- Christopher Witty .... William
- Rebecca Dignam .... Anne
- Siobhan Taylor .... Mary
- Bruce G. Hallenbeck, British Cult Cinema: Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Hemlock Books 2011 p115
- British Cinema and the Cold War by Tony Shaw, p.185, 2006 I.B. Tauris Publishers
- Fantastic Cinema by Peter Nicholls
- Hammer Films Icons of Suspense Coming to DVD
- Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 67
- Phil Hardy (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
- The Damned at the Internet Movie Database
- "Nefarious Doings in a World of Sunlit Decay" by Dave Kehr, a review in The New York Times, 02-04-2010.