Apr 242015

One of the movie studios that I adore is Hammer, the British movie company that put out a lot of great horror films from the 1950s through the 1970s. While horror was their bread-and-butter, they did put out the occasional sci-fi flick as well. One of those was These Are the Damned that was released in 1963. (The original British version is titled The Damned.) This movie is an unusual one for Hammer, and it features a young Oliver Reed. These Are the Damned is not your typical sci-fi film and is either loved or hated. Let’s find out where it falls on our scale in our These Are the Damned review. As always, there may be spoilers below, so read with caution.

These Are the Damned
To be honest, These Are the Damned is one of those films that starts off going in one direction but later on veers off into unexpectedly into a totally different one. The film opens up with a middle-aged American tourist, Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey), picking up a young woman, Joan (Shirley Anne Field), who’s definitely throwing off some vibes. It turns out that the woman is a lure as her brother, King (Oliver Reed), and his gang ambush the tourist, beat him up, and rob him. The movie then visits a meeting between a sculptor, Freya Neilson (Viveca Lindfors), and a government scientist, Bernard (Alexander Knox), who we find out are lovers. When she presses him on what he does, he tells her that can’t because he “might be condemning her to death.” It is revealed that she owns a home near an army base that Bernard is in charge of where secret things apparently go on there.

The first half of the movie is almost a crime drama as Wells decides to help Joan escape from her creepy, overprotective brother while the brother’s gang gives chase. Wells and Joan take his boat and wind up anchoring just off the sculptor’s house. They make love there but are then pursued to the military base. The couple climb down a cliff face where they discover a bunker complex that holds a group of children, all of whom are 11 years old. King pursues them and finds his way into the hidden bunker as well. We learn that the children are monitored by Bernard but have no interaction with the outside world. Even stranger, the children are all ice cold to the touch.

This is where the film veers from crime drama to sci-fi. The children are part of a massive government experiment, one that Bernard considers essential to the survival to the  human race. The introduction of outside adults throws the experiment into chaos as the children are desperate for parental figures. I won’t give away the crux of the experiment, but it is rather chilling.

These Are the Damned

Oliver Reed as the gang leader with his sister.

These Are the Damned is a very bleak movie. I think that it’s the second bleakest Hammer film I’ve come across (The Gorgon is the most bleak Hammer film, in my opinion.) This is a movie that has to be watched in its entirety to be understood and absorbed as it’s kind of like a slow burn. Personally, I love the movie and consider it one of the best sci-fi flicks of the 1960s. The characters are pretty nuanced, and those you might initially consider villainous turn out to have an unexpected side to their character or hidden depths. The performances, as is usual for British films, is superb. Oliver Reed is suitably creepy as the brother who loves his sister way too much, and Alexander Knox brings a weariness to his portrayal of the government scientist as he understands that the future of mankind rests on his shoulders. It is somewhat jarring to see Macdonald Carey wooing Shirley Anne Field as he’s almost thirty years older than her, but the jarring nature of their age difference just reinforces the bleak existence of loneliness that is the central tenet of the film.

I highly recommend These Are the Damned. It’s a strange mishmash of crime drama and sci-fi, but the combination works if you stay with the film and let it develop. If you want lots of action and effects, this is not the film for you. My final These Are the Damned review verdict: A+

On a side note, the song at the beginning of the film is pure evil as it worms into your head and doesn’t leave. Here it is for your listening pleasure!

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