“You must realize that today in Germany, anything can happen, even the improbable — and it’s just the beginning.”
In early 1930s Germany, the wealthy von Essenbeck steelworks family members — including its soon-to-be-murdered magnate (Albrecht Schoenhals), a ferociously ambitious mother (Ingrid Thulin), her pedophilic son (Helmut Berger), her power-hungry lover (Dirk Bogarde), and a Nazi-loving Brownshirt (Reinhard Kolldehoff) — find themselves trapped in a web of corruption, intrigue, and murder.
Luchino Visconti’s epic saga of familial corruption and depravity — notorious for its original “X” rating — is a tough pill to swallow. While many critics (at the time and now) view it as brave, intelligent, and artistic, all I see is plenty of bombastic emperor’s clothing. I’m in most agreement with the FilmCritic.com reviewer (see link below), who accurately points out that it’s hampered by several serious flaws: horrendous dubbing (what was Visconti thinking?!), lame performances (very few actors, despite their credentials, emerge unscathed), overly self-conscious camera techniques (Visconti relies on zoom shots far more than he should), and a poorly written, convoluted script. In truth, The Damned is a tedious, never-ending affair, only redeemed (partially) by its sumptuous cinematography and costumes.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Helmut Griem as Commander Aschenbach
- An effective (albeit historically suspect) recreation of the Night of the Long Knives gathering and massacre
No. While it holds some historical importance for its Oscar-nominated (!) screenplay and its erstwhile status as an X-rated import, I can’t in good conscience recommend it as must-see viewing. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.