Cast & Crew
When American Simon Wells tries to pick up an attractive woman named Joan on the promenade at Weymouth, he is robbed and beaten by a motorcycle gang. Bernard, a scientist, and his friend Freya, a sculptress, come to his assistance. Later, Simon meets Joan again and learns that she is the sister of King, the leader of the motorcycle gang. She and Simon hide from King in Freya's studio, but he finally locates them, and as they attempt to run away, all three fall from a cliff into the sea. A group of strange children rescue them and take them to a cave, where Simon and Joan discover that the children belong to Bernard's secret research project. Exposed to radiation before birth, the children are now capable of surviving in a radioactive atmosphere in case of nuclear war; they have been kept completely isolated from the outside world, cared for and educated by automation. King is antagonistic toward the children, but Simon and Joan decide to help them, not realizing until it is too late that the children are radioactive. As Simon and Joan attempt to lead the children out of the cave, they are intercepted by soldiers under Bernard's direction. King tries to escape with one of the children, but after the child is recaptured, King's car goes out of control and plummets off a bridge. Bernard then allows Simon and Joan to escape in a boat, knowing that they will soon die from exposure to the intense radiation. Meanwhile, Freya has also found out about the project, and Bernard is forced to kill her and seal the children inside the cave.
These Are the Damned
The movie is a catalogue of ideas that would inflame guardians of England's public image. A seaside town is depicted as overrun by a pack of unruly Teddy Boys, biker hoodlums led by King (Oliver Reed), a sullen thug with incestuous designs on his sister Joan (Shirley Anne Field). The gang uses Joan as bait to mug Simon, an American tourist disenchanted with modern life (MacDonald Carey). Simon meets the bohemian artist Freya (Viveca Lindfors, in her best role), a free-spirit sculptress of subversive statues resembling the charred remains of Hiroshima victims. Freya is in turn the mistress of Bernard (Alexander Knox), a stuffy executive in charge of an ultra top-secret military experiment. It is so secret, Bernard says, that should he tell Freya about it he "might be condemning her to death."
Simon defies King's gang and escapes on his boat with Joan, who seeks to break free of her brother's control. King pursues them near Bernard's secret project, a heavily-guarded compound reminiscent of Hammer's earlier Quatermass films. Simon, King and Joan soon find themselves in a futuristic bunker hidden below the sea cliffs, with a group of imprisoned children. The focus of Bernard's experiment, the sheltered and polite children wear tidy school uniforms and are being raised by remote control. The only contact with their 'keepers' is through a television screen, from which Bernard condescendingly promises that their many questions about life and the world will be answered, "When the time comes." The children are a mystery to Simon until Joan discovers that their body temperature is "ice cold." Bernard is rearing a breed of radioactive people to continue the human race in a post-nuclear radioactive world.
These Are the Damned takes a shockingly anti-establishment view of the nuclear arms race. Bernard justifies his atrocious experiment with the conviction that nuclear annihilation is inevitable. Freya goads him with loaded libertarian questions: Why is a public servant permitted to have secrets from his master, the public? She knows that Bernard is up to no good in his secret lab but worships oblivion in her own way, through her morbid statues. Screenwriter Evan Jones is quick to choose sides; as in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange the hooligan motorcycle gang is simply a mirror image of the institutionalized brutality of society at large. The Teddy Boys' outlaw disenchantment is a direct reaction to the warped values of the adult generation. As Bernard puts it, "The age of senseless violence has caught up with us too." James Bernard's Teddy Boy theme Black Leather Rock is an anthem for a new era of anarchy.
Joseph Losey's prowling HammerScope camera uses landscape to heighten his dramatic contrasts. The sleepy holiday town gives way to the barren cliffs of Weymouth. The concrete and steel warrens of Bernard's inhuman project lie just below Freya's cliff-side studio, implying a direct relationship between political art and society's hidden agendas. The violent climax sees huge helicopters pursuing King's sports car down the seaside highway like ominous Orwellian watchdogs.
Viewers are apt to find an even stronger image burned into their memory when the bunker doors open and the children stumble out into the light. As a rubber-suited goon threatens, Joan introduces one of the liberated children to the joys of a tiny flower. It's a perfect visual expression of the later pacifist motto, "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things." Freya and Simon should be running for their lives instead of confronting Bernard with the obscene truth of his atrocious project -- the 'graveyard bird' helicopters are already closing in for the kill.
These Are the Damned was cut by nineteen minutes for one version, removing many of its sharp philosophical speeches and a handful of interesting character confrontations. An encounter between Freya and King was cut in half, inadvertently making it look as if a rape occurs. Losey reportedly objected when the studio insisted that the Bernard character personally commit one of the final murders, as his plan was to assign that role to the faceless helicopters. If released in a timely fashion These Are the Damned might have been a key film of the Ban the Bomb years. It was instead shelved, cut up and discarded for reasons that were never made clear.
Sony/Columbia restored the film to its original 96-minute length in the early 1990s, and it has been greeted with enthusiasm at film festivals ever since. What was once considered one of Joseph Losey's weakest efforts is quickly becoming recognized as the very best of English Science Fiction filmmaking.
Producer: Michael Carreras, Anthony Hinds, Anthony Nelson Keys
Director: Joseph Losey
Screenplay: Evan Jones, H.L. Lawrence (story)
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Film Editing: Reginald Mills
Art Direction: Don Mingaye
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).
by Glenn Erickson
These Are the Damned
Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films - A 3-Disc Set on DVD
The collection begins with a murder thriller, 1958's The Snorkel. Written by Peter Myers and Hammer's in-house scribe Jimmy Sangster, from a story by Italian horror director Antonio Margheriti, The Snorkel is an elaborate "how did he do it?" gimmick film. As with more than a few Hammer mysteries, it takes place at a beach setting, on the border between France and Italy. The killer avoids suspicion because he can prove that he was in the wrong country during the crime. Rocky cliffs render sneaking through the border almost impossible -- by normal means.
Director Guy Green gets the most from the second gimmick, which is explained in the film's first scene. The killer seals himself into a gas-filled room, and breathes by donning an adapted diving snorkel mask. We know from the beginning that it's Paul Decker (Peter Van Eyck), a wife-killer who soon decides that his teenaged stepdaughter Candy (Mandy Miller) must die as well. Bizarre murders in a French setting remind us a bit of Clouzot's Les Diaboliques, while Candy's precocious investigation points forward to a number of sixties' chillers. Discounted as an unreliable witness, Candy must trap her stepfather on her own.
Van Eyck is an undeveloped but menacing villain, and lovely Betta St.John offers good support as Candy's chaperone. Grégoire Aslan is the prerequisite French detective on the case. Mandy Miller's likeable teen heroine is a doubtful mix of immature emotions and steely resolve, as shown in one poorly handled scene when Candy underreacts to the death of her beloved dog. The film's good reputation comes from fans that admire the killer's technically elaborate murder scheme, and ace Hammer cameraman Jack Asher's arresting camerawork. A final surprise lifted from The Third Man could have provided a perfect shock finish, but the movie goes on a bit longer, clearly to tie up some moral loose ends for the censors.
1960's Stop Me Before I Kill! (known in England as The Full Treatment) is produced, co-written and directed by Val Guest, a superior filmmaker who made two of Hammer's best science fiction efforts. Despite locations in the South of France and excellent Megascope cinematography by Gil Taylor, the thriller is let down by an unusually weak script. Racing car driver Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis of Mr. Sardonicus) recovers from a wedding-day car crash but finds himself stricken with an illogical desire to strangle his wife Denise (Diane Cilento). Alan and Denise meet French psychiatrist David Prade (Claude Dauphin) on the Riviera. The charming aristocrat ignores Alan's unprovoked fits of temper and convinces him to submit to analysis. Meanwhile, Denise worries that another of Alan's violent episodes may be her last.
The story and script by Ronald Scott Thorn is a tangle of bad psychiatry and painfully transparent mystery plotting. Top-billed Claude Dauphin's macabre chitchat about deadly spouses is clearly meant to upset Alan; the doctor follows the couple to London "just in case" his services might be needed. Alan's mood swings from sweetness to rage at least once in every scene in a way that's simply laughable. All of the film's important clues -- a Siamese cat, bruises on Denise's neck, a cable car in disrepair -- are clumsily foreshadowed. Alan even has a box of antique surgical instruments that seem awfully handy for a man with violent impulses. All three main actors do fine work under the circumstances and the location photography is splendid, but Stop Me Before I Kill! is definitely not Hammer's finest hour. Sony's encoding is an uncut English version, as it includes a brief glimpse of nudity in a swimming scene.
Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960) sounds like trashy exploitation but is actually a responsible, thought-provoking movie about child molestation -- perhaps the best ever made on the subject. Director Cyril Frankel (On the Fiddle, The Devil's Own) does excellent work with John Hunter's adaptation of a play by Roger Garis. Sheltered eleven year-olds Lucille Demarest and Jean Carter (Estelle Brody & Janina Faye) tell their parents that the doddering Mr. Olderberry (Felix Aylmer) lured them into his house with candy and asked them to dance naked for him. Jean's parents, newcomers in their Canadian hamlet, find that the law is ineffective against the powerful Olderberry family, the founders of the town. The old man's businessman son controls almost everything. The police are unhelpful and Mr. Demarest (Robert Arden of Mr. Arkadin) is entreated to declare his daughter unfit to testify. Olderberry's lawyer (Niall MacGinnis) traumatizes Jean on the witness stand. He implies that the Carters are perverted "outsiders" and threatens to force the girl to submit to psychiatric and physical tests.
Freddie Francis's superior camerawork lends realism to all aspects of the story. Gwen Watford and Patrick Allen are excellent as Jean's caring parents and little Janina Faye (of Horror of Dracula and Day of the Triffids) is outstanding as the brave and innocent Jean. Felix Aylmer's senile Olderberry Sr. is disturbing, as we're accustomed to seeing the actor play figures of authority. By the end of the trial scene we've nearly forgotten that this is still a Hammer thriller, and when the two girls suddenly find themselves once again in jeopardy, the final reel of the picture is electrifying.
Directed with taste and discretion, Never Take Candy from a Stranger comes to a chilling conclusion. In England the film was released as Never Take Sweets from a Stranger. It would make a thoughtful double bill with William Wyler's The Children's Hour, another problematic story in which children testify about a socially taboo subject.
A compact and intense bank robbery tale, 1961's Cash on Demand provides Hammer stalwarts Peter Cushing and André Morell with a showcase for their acting talents. Adapted from a Television play, David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer's script makes an asset of the film's single set. Director Quentin Lawrence broke out of TV only occasionally but acquits himself admirably.
The focus is on Cushing's bank manager Fordyce, a veritable Ebenezer Scrooge who alienates his employees and browbeats his top clerks Pearson and Sanderson (Richard Vernon & Norman Bird) over inconsequential errors. That's when Bank Security Chief Hepburn (André Morell) shows up. The layout of the bank's rooms and vault (designed by Hammer's Bernard Robinson) becomes critical when Hepburn reveals to Fordyce that he's a bank robber, and that his confederates have already kidnapped Fordyce's wife and child.
Forced to play along with Hepburn's scheme to loot the vault, the once-imperious Fordyce begins to crack up under the strain. Although fifty years of caper movies make a few of Cash on Demand's explanations and situations seem a little obvious now, the tension stays high. It's especially pleasant to see Peter Cushing given so much screen time to develop his character -- we're reminded of his breakout role in the BBC's landmark teleplay of 1984, where he carried the entire show. After Morell's robber beats him about the face, Cushing must take a few seconds to wipe the tears from his eyes. It's a marvelous little moment of acting. Cash on Demand is a real gem and a very welcome surprise.
1963's Maniac has excellent production values but labors under the weight of yet another gimmicky and obvious script by Jimmy Sangster. Hammer producer Michael Carreras directs this one with Sangster taking over producing responsibilities. In the interesting Camargue region of France, American artist Paul Farrell (Kerwin Mathews) parts company with his rich girlfriend, and finds warm companionship at the café of the two Beynat women. Paul romances the daughter Annette (Liliane Brousse of Paranoiac), only to be seduced by her mother Eve (Nadia Gray of La dolce vita). He then unwisely helps Eve spring her husband from an asylum for the criminally insane. It seems that Annette was raped five years before, and that Monsieur Beynat killed the offender with a blowtorch. One thing leads to another and Paul is soon helping Eve dispose of a corpse. Just when their problems seem resolved, Eve's mad husband reappears, seeking revenge.
Sangster's wild plot reversals are too contrived to achieve the intended impact, while the dialogue repeatedly tips us off to what should be narrative surprises. Anybody familiar with TV whodunits knows that if a character's face isn't shown clearly, it's only a matter of time before some kind of identity switcheroo occurs. The acting is fine, especially that of Kerwin Mathews and Liliane Brousse. Ms. Gray struggles with the almost unplayable Eve, a woman who is both sincere and deceitful, often at the same time. The blowtorch and mutilation killings are mercifully kept off screen, but all credibility disappears when we are told that a bandaged patient has been burned beyond recognition - we can see his untouched eyes and eyebrows, so why doesn't the suave Inspector Etienne (George Pastell) immediately recognize him? For that matter, why does the Inspector discount Paul's obvious participation in a prison break and a murder?
The final entry in the Icons of Suspense package is a categorical misfit. It's Joseph Losey's These are the Damned (1963; aka The Damned), one of the best and most profound science fiction films ever made. An angry expression of Ban-the-Bomb and anti-government secrets sentiment, Losey's film also has more to say about teenaged angst and societal alienation than Kubrick's somewhat similar A Clockwork Orange. The openly pessimistic story looks backward to Hammer's earlier Quatermass movies with their top-secret scientific projects, and forward to the growing "age of violence" that will soon permeate all levels of society. Completed in 1961, the film wasn't seen until 1963 in England and 1965 in the United States, and both releases were drastically edited. Sony's stunning Megascope transfer is the full original version, essentially seen nowhere until a few years ago.
"Public servant" Bernard (Alexander Knox) presides over a secret project hidden in barren cliffs not far from the seaside town of Weymouth. Bernard's artist lover Freya (Viveca Lindfors) works in a stone house nearby, creating weird sculptures that look like people and animals charred by fire. A group of local "Teddy Boy" thugs led by the psychotic King (Oliver Reed) chases the disillusioned American Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey) and King's runaway sister Joan (Shirley Anne Field) to these same cliffs. Pursued by Bernard's security forces, Simon, Joan and King find themselves in a hidden bunker where live a group of strange girls and boys. The result of a nuclear accident, the mutated children are cold-blooded and radioactive: Bernard is raising them in isolation so that they will be prepared to live in the conditions that will prevail after the expected nuclear holocaust. The intruders attempt to free the young prisoners, not realizing that the children are lethal to normal, warm-blooded humans. Bernard can't contain his shocking secret, which fills Freya with both despair and fury: "Is that the extent of your dream, Bernard, to turn nine ice-cold children free in the ashes of the universe?"
These are the Damned is world-class cinema that surely confused audiences expecting a biker saga or a replay of an earlier movie about "deadly" children, Village of the Damned. Just prior to his discovery as a major art-film director, Joseph Losey finds a new form for a new anti-establishment genre. His disturbing story begins with a grating James Bernard rock song expressing the nihilism of the Teddy Boys ("Black Leather Black Leather Smash Smash Smash!"). The teen thugs parallel the equally irresponsible, death-worshipping military unit led by the haughtily paternalistic Bernard, who looks us straight in the eye and states unequivocally that nuclear annihilation is unavoidable. Details are everything, and These are the Damned produces a never-ending string of impressive images: the underground quarters of The Children, watched by closed-circuit TV; the machine-gun toting guards reminiscent of the possessed goons from Quatermass 2; the twin giant helicopters that pursue King's stolen sports car down a lonely beach road.
The movie encounters acting difficulties with beautiful Shirley Anne Field, who nevertheless has a transcendant moment showing a frightened girl the beauty of the world outside her prison-cave. Losey's only real directorial stumble is his gross over-emphasis of Oliver Reed's incestuous desire for his sister. Macdonald Carey is convincing as a middle-aged American out of his element, but makes an uninspiring hero. Redeeming these problems is the stunning Viveca Lindfors, a Swedish actress foolishly discarded by Hollywood. Ms. Lindfors's life-affirming Freya is an indelible original. The maker of sculptures that also worship death, she becomes the muse for a mad bureaucrat who has learned to genuinely stop worrying and love the bomb.
Joseph Losey's career is blessed with the kind of symmetry that film critics love. These are the Damned seems a thematic extension of elements in the director's first movie The Boy with Green Hair, another plea for human tolerance in the face of war. Green Hair's ghostly "war orphans" are very much like Damned's prepubescent guinea pigs, innocent victims lost in an insane world they didn't create. Both groups of children beg for help and understanding. A bona fide subversive classic, These are the Damned increases its grip on the audience as it speeds to one of the most doom-laden finishes in Science Fiction: "Help us! Help us! Please help us!"
Sony's DVD set Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films contains six flawless enhanced B&W transfers with very clear audio; every film is encoded with English subtitles. The films all appear to be uncut English versions with American title substitutions. The Snorkel and These Are the Damned are substantially longer than their original American releases. Sony's keep case packaging stacks all three discs on a single hub, a controversial practice already given a thumbs-down by collectors concerned about scratches.
All of the films come with American trailers. The various sales pitches fairly openly show us why the movies were not wildly popular. Never Take Candy from a Stranger comes off as sordid sensationalism. The Snorkel touts its gimmicky central plot device, and even uses the word "gimmick" in its voiceover script. The schizophrenic trailer for These are the Damned plays the outlandish "Black Leather" song over some of the film's most awkward moments. The 2007 premiere of These are the Damned on the TCM cable channel caused a minor sensation. Sony should have put the film out as a special edition but fans will be pleased to see it finally available in such a handsome presentation.
For more information about Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, visit Sony Pictures. To order Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films - A 3-Disc Set on DVD
Filmed on location at Weymouth and Portland Bill, England. Opened in London in May 1963 as The Damned; running time: 87 min. The working title of this film is On the Brink.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States 1964
Released in United States 1997
Released in United States March 1980
Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival (Pre-Millenial Tension) September 26 - October 12, 1997.
Film Won the Golden Asteroid at the 1964 Trieste Festival of Science Fiction Films
Released in United States 1964 (Film Won the Golden Asteroid at the 1964 Trieste Festival of Science Fiction Films)
Released in United States March 1980 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs) March 4-21, 1980.)
Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival (Pre-Millenial Tension) September 26 - October 12, 1997.)
Released in United States 1962