The Damned (1963)

"The age of senseless violence has caught up with us too."

Fear of the unknown has always been a big part of horror, one that is perhaps the easiest to mine when it comes to telling stories in this genre. There's something about watching movies from an era that I can't internalize based on a personal connection, and yet, I completely experience the paranoia and palpable terror that this film seems to embody. It’s a reminder of how the best films can engage the mind to consider alternative viewpoints about our modern world despite taking place in a different time period. It goes to show that the confused stupor of a country no longer certain of its place in the world, failing to come to terms with its vastly diminished sense of stability, is still identifiable today. Joseph Losey is a director that knows this based on the three other films of his I've seen.

I wouldn't say that the fear is fueled by a distorted (or converted) nuclear version of younger generations as portrayed in this, but more fueled by a lack of complete understanding when it comes to relating from one human being to another. THE DAMNED is an example of subverted expectations, how some sociological themes are timeless, and that Oliver Reed's threatening screen presence is every bit as fully developed here as it is in THE BROOD. The introduction to the gang at the beginning, with its swooping crane shots and the interpolation of a song that you'll immediately stitch in memory, is a marvel in of itself. And it only gets better once the mystery unfolds. This film illustrates how the pervasive pressures of the Cold War could transform sanity into lunacy and vice-versa. And how that pressure and transformation (albeit from other conflicts) still resonates today, especially if you watch the news.

The psychosexual interaction of the characters and the linguistic power games they play out in this anticipates Losey’s collaborations with Harold Pinter in the latter half of the 1960s but at its core, this is an effective, high-caliber sci-fi horror film that won't leave my mind. There are movies and then there are MOVIES. When my former co-host and I covered Joseph Losey early on in our podcasting endeavor, we talked about two films of his that were mind-blowing in different ways particularly THE SERVANT. If we had included THE DAMNED in the episode, it would've been three. Track this down immediately.  A-

James Laczkowski