Movie Reviews 365 – These are the Damned (1963)

 

Famed British production company Hammer Studios ruled horror cinema during the late sixties and early seventies with their lush and bloody Gothic offerings featuring stars like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. But in the earlier days the studio produced more mainstream thrillers, film noir and even Science Fiction films, underpinned by the magnificent Doctor Quatermass series.  One of those oft overlooked gems includes These are the Damned (released in North America simply as The Damned).

An mid aged American businessman visiting a small English seaport village is drawn by a beautiful young girl into an alley where he is brutally beaten and robbed by a gang of motorcycle riding hooligans led by the girls dominating brother King (Oliver Reed). Somewhat remorseful Joan (Shirley Anne Field) befriends Simon (Macdonald Carey) who not only still wants the girl, but hopes to rescue her from the clutches of her ruthless brother.

Escaping King, Joan brings Simon to safe haven she has frequented before, a remote house atop a seaside cliff, but the house is that often used by Freya (Viveca Lindfors) a sculptress who interrupts the couples interlude. Leaving the house Joan and Simon are chased by King and his boys but military personnel are scattered around the cliffside and intercept the two before King can get to them. They later learn they’ve  stumbled upon a highly secretive military operation run by Freya’s husband Bernard (Alexander Knox) in which a handful of kids have been kept completely isolated within chambers in the cliff. But these are no ordinary children as Joan discovers their ice cold skin and complete lack of basic common knowledge and how even Bernard only communicates with them via televised sessions.

The secret of the children may be a key to surviving the cold war’s nuclear crisis but the answer is so disdainful that Freya cannot even believe her own husband is behind the plan. But stumbling upon the children has even more immediate consequences.

This is a quirky one that begins as a rough and tumble troubled youth story that suddenly changes cadence to a dark science fiction mystery. One moment were listening to a rockabilly tune that goes “Black leather. Black leather. Rock rock rock” (trust me it’s catchy and played for all it’s worth) and suddenly we’re dealing with ignorant kiddie captives and military hide-and-seek. Oliver Reed’s King undergoes a similar transition from powerful angry young man to a blabbering and scared wimp.

I had to dig into the background of this one as it reminded me of so much of Village of the Damned (based on John Wyndham’s 1957 The Midwich Cuckoos) that I wondered if one was riding the coattails of the other. As These are the Damned was itself being based on the novel The Children of Light by H.L. Lawrence written in 1962 I have to give Village of the Damned props and readily admit that it (both novel and movie) are better.

It may be inferior but if you like Village of the Damned, spooky kids, or atomic age stories, you’ll enjoy this one.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: