The Damned (Joseph Losey / United Kingdom, 1963):
(These Are the Damned)

"The age of senseless violence," by Joseph Losey. Hiroshima and Byron are among the preliminaries, "Black Leather" ("Smash, smash, smash...") sets the tone -- the descending crane from Weymouth's Jubilee Clock to visiting American Macdonald Carey is followed by the ascending crane from Oliver Reed's "teddy boy" stompers to a statue of King Charles III, Shirley Anne Field's meaty ass brings them together. Carey's boat is named Dolce Vita and, in one of those sudden moments Losey's characters spring to in the midst of their alienation, Anne Field leaps into it, leaving her possessive brother (Reed) and her atrophied lifestyle ashore; the tentative couple ends up at the coastal lair of a sculptress (Viveca Lindfors), which houses "a fatal attraction for lovers" and, in the caves beneath it, unspeakable government experiments. The dolly-out through the window from the rocky wilderness into a modernist office is central, a summarization of the kind of world that makes possible Alexander Knox's scientific scheme, zapping schoolchildren with radiation to inoculate the future generation against the nuclear horrors. The fallout boys and girls with ice in their veins are trenchant ramifications of young Dean Stockwell in The Boy with Green Hair, their liberation means contamination -- a POV tracking shot surveys the kids' quarters with chilled detachment, all Losey has to do is cut to Walter Gotell's reaction in his atomic suit for a devastating effect. A prophetic work, for the filmmaker (Figures in the Landscape is an extension of its concluding images), the sci-fi genre (Village of the Damned and Children of Men, among others, flow from it), and the unfortunate course of history. Carey as a middle-aged expatriate might suggest Losey, but his real stand-in is Lindfors' misanthropic bohemian, who, faced with inescapable decimation, defiantly presses on with her art ("Nothing we can do to prevent it? Oh well... Back to work"). With Kit Williams, Tom Kempinski, Rachel Clay, James Villiers, and Kenneth Cope. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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