The Damned (1961)

March 4th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Joseph Losey | Cast: Macdonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Oliver Reed, James Villiers | Thriller, 82′

The film that concluded the journeyman phase of Joseph Losey’s career. Based on H. L. Lawrence’s novel ‘The Children of Light’, and called ‘The Damned’ because ‘Village of the Damned’ had recently scored a big hit. I would have loved to have been present when this film was first screened for the top brass at Hammer Films, who must have seen the film out in stunned silence.

Unable to know what to do with it, they pushed it out as a second feature, when it rescued by an admiring review from Philip French just months before Losey made his critical breakthrough with ‘The Servant’. Writer Evan Jones said they could have made half a dozen different films from what they’d shot and that one cast member so exceeded expectations they built his part up; he didn’t name names but I suspect he meant Kenneth Colpe.

Despite Losey’s admission that he’d never read the novel, it’s actually a very faithful adaptation of the original. The opening chapters depicting the hero fleeing the accidental killing of his wife have been discarded, the children in the book are hot to the touch rather than cold, the villain in both is called Bernard and and one point he instructs his minions to send a helicopter (so much for Losey’s claim that that was an original idea!) While Oliver Reed and his marauding gang obviously inspired the Droogs in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. @RichardChatten

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