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These Are the Damned

These Are the Damned(1965)

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  • Cold War Existential Sci-Fi

    • H. E. Parmer
    • 10/2/10

    This is hands-down the grimmest entry in the handful of straight science fiction films produced by Hammer Studios in its heyday. In its own way, it's as spare, bleak and existential a story as anything from the French New Wave.American man-of-means Simon Wells (MacDonald Carey) has been bumming around England in his cabin cruiser. In a small coastal town, he gets involved with young, beautiful Joan (Shirley Field) -- and her violently possessive brother King (Oliver Reed), the leader of a local gang of leather-jacket-attired "Teddy Boys".While all this is going on, we're also introducted to Freya Neilson (Viveca Lindfors) an avant-garde sculptor who lives in a cottage by the sea, and her mysterious friend Bernard (Alexander Knox). Unknown to her, Bernard runs a nearby top-secret government installation, where a group of apparently quite normal children are imprisoned deep underground. Contact with the children is restricted to a television link, over which Bernard conducts classes and acts as a sort of surrogate father to his charges.The children have no idea that they're mutants, immune to radiation and themselves so radioactive that they're deadly to any unprotected normal human. (The government plans to re-populate the planet with them, after the inevitable nuclear war.) But they're growing up now, and naturally getting impatient with their confinement. When Simon, Joan and King accidentally enter their world, and help them escape, the results are beyond merely tragic.So there you have it: no creepy-crawlies from outer (or inner) space, no mad scientists, no eye-catching special effects, just a thoughtful, character-driven and relentlessly downbeat story with a wicked commentary on the age of Mutally Assured Destruction. If you're an Oliver Reed fan, you really shouldn't miss this opportunity to see him in a standout early role, and Carey and Field are tremendously poignant as the doomed lovers.

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