These Are the Damned / The Damned (1961)

“I’m 11. We’re all 11. We all have our birthdays the same week.”

Synopsis:
A group of children born with immunity to radioactivity are held captive by British officials (led by Alexander Knox), who believe they are the only hope for humanity after an imminent nuclear holocaust. When three young adults — Simon (Macdonald Carey), Joan (Shirley Ann Field), and Joan’s brother King (Oliver Reed) — stumble upon the children in their cave, they attempt to rescue them.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This highly controversial, “sobering science fiction film” by director Joseph Losey (which wasn’t released in the United States until 1965, in a shortened version) is noteworthy for “combining social criticism with sci-fi” and “suggesting that the British government was capable of insidious plots.” While the film isn’t entirely successful — it’s burdened by distracting subplots, and only becomes truly interesting once the children appear on-screen — it nonetheless makes for highly provocative viewing. It bears striking similarities to Kazuo Ishiguro’s poignant novel Never Let Me Go (2005), about clones who are raised in isolation for a grim future as organ donors; both stories invoke the ethical dilemmas of raising children apart from mainstream society for questionable purposes.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Shirley Anne Field as Joan
  • A fascinating, controversial sci-fi premise

Must See?
Yes. The controversy surrounding the release of this unusual little film makes it must-see watching.

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2 Responses to “These Are the Damned / The Damned (1961)”

  1. Not must-see.

    As I recall, a number of Joseph Losey films can be extremely irritating – and this is one of those. It’s not that well-written (and much of its dialogue is unconvincing); its pacing is off; you’re not sure if the film is actually leading somewhere or is pretentious. It takes about 45 minutes before it starts allowing its point to begin surfacing.

    Generally, it feels leaden from start to finish. And I’m still not sure I get that the ‘point’ is anything but cockeyed. But neither the script nor Losey seem determined to let clarity ring through. If I missed something crucial here about the future of mankind…well, I didn’t particularly care whether I did or not, due to the unevenness of the thing.

    The acting is mostly awful. And poor Viveca Lindfors (trying here, more than anyone, to seem as though things make sense): such a talented actress; too often in roles that are beneath her.

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Topnotch, thoughtful Hammer sci-fi well directed by Joseph Losey and I thought it was pretty well written with good performances. The May to December romance adds interest and the grim tone and ending are memorable.

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