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THESE ARE THE DAMNED (aka: THE DAMNED)(director: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Evan Jones/from a story “The Children of Light” by H.L. Lawrence; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editor: Reginald Mills; music: James Bernard; cast: Macdonald Carey (Simon Wells), Shirley Anne Field (Joan), Oliver Reed (King), Alexander Knox (Bernard), Walter Gotell (Major Holland), Viveca Lindfors (Freya Neilson), James Villiers (Captain Gregory); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Michael Carreras/Anthony Hinds/Anthony Nelson Keys; Columbia Pictures; 1963-UK)
“Takes an anti-establishment view of the nuclear arms race.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joseph Losey (“The Big Night”/”The Criminal”/”Eva”) directs this curio sci-fi film about radioactive children bred at a top-secret military facility in the cliffs of Weymouth, England, to survive a nuclear holocaust. It’s based on the novel “The Children of Light” by H.L. Lawrence and written by Evan Jones. There’s a subplot about a rowdy biker gang as rebels without a cause, that overwhelms the film with images of bad 1950s biker flicks.

In the quiet seaside town of Weymouth a pack of unruly Teddy Boys, led by the surly King (Oliver Reed), use the sexy 20-year-old Joan (Shirley Anne Field), the sister of the incestuous King, to lure a seemingly wealthy middle-aged womanizing tourist named Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey) away from the promenade where they mug and beat him. The beaten Simon is brought by military security officers to be assisted by his sculptress friend Freya (Viveca Lindfors) and a scientist named Bernard (Alexander Knox), who are drinking at a local hotel. For some inexplicable reason, Joan tries to tempt the dirty old man, Simon, again when she sees him by his yacht. When her snarling thuggish brother spots her, he threatens her if she doesn’t leave the yacht. But Joan tells the dropout from the world of insurance executives to take off for the sea, she wants to be free of her brother’s maniacal guardianship. With the gang looking for them, the two would-be lovers hide in Freya’s studio located near the side of a cliff. When the gang discovers their whereabouts, they run from her brother and all three fall from the cliff into the sea. They are rescued by nine strange eleven-year-old children, who live in a hidden cave and have body temperatures that are ice cold. Soon they uncover that the children are mutants, as their parents died when exposed to radiation and that Bernard and a military team are conducting secret experiments with them to see if they could possibly create “a new kind of man” to survive a nuclear attack. Whoever comes into contact with the children and is not wearing radiation gear, will die.

The schlocky Hammer Films, noted for their low-budget and cheesy horror films, allow American blacklisted director Losey to be creative in this somewhat intriguing cold war thriller–he takes an anti-establishment view of the nuclear arms race. Losey awkwardly but nevertheless rather gamely transcends the limits of the genre by putting his personal stamp on a film that is both an apocalyptic sci-fi film and a teen rebellion flick. Too bad it’s so humorless and dour, and the acting is so wooden. Otherwise this film had a strange fascination that kept me tuned into its damning tale about civilization about to destroy the world, leaving us a horrifying message which is not as absurd or pretentious as other critics suggested.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”