Review

  • On the southern coast of England, a gang of hooligans led by a man named King (Oliver Reed) harass an American yachtsman (Macdonald Carey) and a sculptor living on the shoreline (Viveca Lindfors). Shirley Anne Field plays the gang leader's sister who attracts the yachtsman. All of them are about to learn the secret of the mysterious government installation on the rocky coastline, headed by the character played by Alexander Knox.

    "The Damned," aka "These are the Damned" (1962), is a B&W Hammer flick that mixes drama, mystery and sci-fi with a bit o' horror. Yet don't expect a creature feature; this is way more realistic.

    It was no doubt influenced a little by "Village of the Damned" (1960), but accusations that it's an inferior rendition of "Children of the Damned" are unwarranted since it debuted two years earlier, not to mention the story is very different from either. I would say it's a mixture of those movies along with the later "The Shuttered Room" (1967) and "Messiah of Evil" (1973). Reed's ruffians are reminiscent of the former and the creepy coastal mysteriousness is akin to both. Another one is "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" (1976).

    Carey brings to mind Robert Mitchum in his older age while Shirley Anne is easy on the eyes. Meanwhile the quirky song in the opening act, "Black Leather Rock," is evocative of the swinging early 60s. From there on the movie gets increasingly melancholy.

    Speaking of which, why is it called "The damned"? Because everyone in the story is damned in one way or another: The artist creates sculptures resembling carbonized cadavers after mass nuclear warfare. The alienation of King's gang is echoed by the physical isolation of the innocent children. The matter-of-fact bureaucrats leading the secret program are so sure of imminent atomic ruin that they're essentially craving it; they've misplaced their humanity to the point that they are more the walking dead than the kids. It's a sad society locked into destruction with practically everything a cancelation of life.

    The film runs 1 hour, 27 minutes, and was shot at Bray Studios, just west of London (interiors) with exteriors done in Weymouth, Portland Bill and Chesil Beach, all on the southern coast of England in Dorset.

    GRADE: B+