The Damned
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Losey
Screenplay byEvan Jones
Based onThe Children of Light
1960 novel
by H.L. Lawrence
Produced byMichael Carreras
Anthony Hinds
Anthony Nelson Keys
StarringMacdonald Carey
Shirley Anne Field
Oliver Reed
Alexander Knox
Viveca Lindfors
CinematographyArthur Grant
Edited byReginald Mills
Music byJames Bernard
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 16 November 1962 (1962-11-16) (Australia)
  • 7 July 1965 (1965-07-07) (USA)
Running time
94 minutes [1] (cut on release in the US to 77 minutes)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£170,000[2] or £160,000[3]

The Damned (U.S. title: These Are the Damned) is a 1961 British science fiction horror film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Macdonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors and Oliver Reed.[4] Based on H.L. Lawrence's 1960 novel The Children of Light, it was a Hammer Film production.


Simon Wells, a middle-aged American tourist, is on a boating holiday off the south coast of England. He has recently divorced and left his career as an insurance executive. In Weymouth, he meets 20-year-old Joan, who lures him into a brutal mugging at the hands of her brother King and his motorbike gang.

The next day Joan joins Simon on his boat, and defies her overprotective brother who attempts to keep her from leaving.

Simon is willing to forgive and forget; Joan implies that the beating was inevitable after Simon attempted to pick up Joan in a bar. She describes the abuse she suffers from King whenever men show interest in her. Simon urges her to run away with him but she insists upon returning to shore. Their time on the water is observed by a member of King's gang.

Meanwhile, within the caves of the nearby coast live nine children, all aged 11, whose skin is cold to the touch. They appear healthy, well-dressed and intelligent but know little about the outside world. Their home is under continuous video surveillance and they are educated via closed circuit television by Bernard, who deflects questions about their purpose and their isolation with promises that they will learn the answers someday. The children are regularly visited by men in radiation protection suits.

That night, Joan and Simon meet at a cliff-top house where they have sex. The house is surrounded by King's gang but the couple escape and reach the relative safety of a nearby military base. The couple descend the cliff to the beach, pursued by King. They find a network of caves leading to an underground bunker attached to the military base, where they meet the children.

Although Bernard is forced to keep the children under watch, he allows them one chamber in the caves without cameras. The children are unaware that their "secret hideout" is known to their captors and they keep there mementos of people that they believe are their parents. The children host Joan, Simon and King in this "secret" room and smuggle food to them. Joan and Simon plan to rescue the children and they pressure King into helping them; the visitors soon feel unwell.

Bernard urges the children to give up their new friends, and reveals his knowledge of their secret place. The children refuse and destroy the surveillance cameras. Bernard sends men in radiation suits but King and Simon overpower them. Simon uses one of their Geiger counters and discovers that the children are radioactive. The intruders lead the children out of the caves but they are ambushed by more men in radiation suits and most of the children are taken back to the bunker.

King grabs one of the boys and escapes in a stolen car. He is overcome by radiation sickness and orders the boy out of the car. The boy is immediately recaptured. King is pursued by a helicopter, loses control of the car and is killed. Joan and Simon escape by boat, but they are also overcome by sickness. A helicopter hovers above as their boat drifts off course; the pilot has orders to destroy it once the occupants are confirmed dead.

Bernard confides in his mistress Freya that he regrets the children now know they are prisoners. They were born radioactive, the result of a nuclear accident. This enables them to be resistant to nuclear fallout and so they will survive the "inevitable" nuclear war to come, according to Bernard. When Freya rejects him and his plan, he kills her. The final scene depicts holiday-goers enjoying the beach, unable to hear the desperate cries of the imprisoned children nearby.


The children


American director Joseph Losey had moved to Britain after being blacklisted by Hollywood.[citation needed] The film was produced by Hammer, which had enjoyed great success with such horror films as Dracula, and The Curse of Frankenstein. A script was originally written by Ben Barzman which was reasonably faithful to the original novel. Losey then had this rewritten by Evan Jones two weeks prior to filming.[2] Oliver Reed recalled that Losey, “used to take the cast out to dinner and preach anti-Bomb stuff to them.”[5] Losey originally wanted Neilson the sculptor to be killed by one of the helicopters but the studio insisted that Bernard kill her. The studio also wished to tone down the incestuous references between King and Joan.[6][7]

The sculptures were all by British artist Elisabeth Frink.[8] Frink not only lent these but also was on location for their shooting and coached Lindfors on performing the sculptor's method of building up plaster, which was then ferociously worked and carved. The film was shot at Hammer's Bray Studios and on location around Weymouth, the Isle of Portland and nearby Chesil Beach.

The film went over budget by £25,000.[9]


The film was shot in May–June 1961, and was reviewed by the British censors on 20 December 1961, who gave it an X certificate without any cuts.[1] However, it wasn't released in the UK until 20 May 1963, when it was shown at the London Pavilion as the second half of a double bill of X-rated horror films.[10] In spite of the very discreet release, it was noticed by a film critic from The Times, who gave it a very positive review, stating that "Joseph Losey is one of the most intelligent, ambitious and constantly exciting film-makers now working in this country, if not indeed in the world—The Damned is very much a film to be seen, for at its best it hits with a certainty of aim which is as exciting as it is devastating, and hits perhaps in a place where it is important we should be hurt."[11]

When it was released in the United States in 1965, as These Are the Damned, it had been cut to 77 minutes.[12] It was originally shown as part of a double bill with Genghis Khan.[13] A complete print was released in US art house cinemas in 2007. Critic David McKee noted, "A few American reviewers realized These Are the Damned’s prescient nature but it remained mainly the province of Losey scholars and university film societies before being rediscovered through home video."

On 15 January 2010, it was released on DVD as part of the Icons of Suspense Collection from Hammer Films.[14] The Damned was called "the highpoint of the first wave of the British postwar Science Fiction films".[15]

Critical reception

The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "The Damned is a folie de grandeur which demonstrates ... that Losey is a brilliant and often inventive technician whose uncertain selective powers are just as likely to lead him to absurdity as art. If the film had been content to stay on its own level it might have been a very good science fiction thriller. As it is, it is blown up to try to make a grand philosophical and sociological comment on the various evils gnawing away at modern society. ...Nevertheless, there are moments throughout which compel attention: an inexplicable menace latent in a calm shot out to sea; Viveca Lindfors (who gives point and dignity to every scene in which she appears) crooning helplessly over the shattered remnants of one of her statues, wilfully smashed by King; the strangely ritual little scene in which the coldblooded children take turns to touch, solemnly and wonderingly, the warm-blooded strangers who have invaded their hideout."[16]

Critic Dave Kehr, writing in The New York Times called the film "a slippery, unsettling blend of social commentary and science-fiction".[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b The Damned (scope) classified 20/12/1961, BBFC Retrieved 10 October 2018
  2. ^ a b Bruce G. Hallenbeck, British Cult Cinema: Hammer Fantasy and Sci-Fi, Hemlock Books 2011 p. 115
  3. ^ Caute, David (1994). Joseph Losey. Oxford University Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-19-506410-0.
  4. ^ "The Damned". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  5. ^ Huckvale, David (2006). James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula: A Critical Biography. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-2302-6.
  6. ^ British Cinema and the Cold War by Tony Shaw, p.185, 2006 I.B. Tauris Publishers
  7. ^ "Sight and Sound". British Film Institute. 27 October 1961 – via Google Books.
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ Marcus Hearn & Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, Titan Books, 2007 p 67
  10. ^ The Times, classified Advertising, page 2, 20 May 1963: Picture Theatres, London Pavilion, "Maniac" (X) and "The Damned" (X) Retrieved 10 October 2018
  11. ^ "An Exciting Director: Joseph Losey's Latest Film." The Times, page 6, 20 May 1963 Retrieved 10 October 2018
  12. ^ Fantastic Cinema by Peter Nicholls
  13. ^ Fellner, Chris (31 July 2019). The Encyclopedia of Hammer Films. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-5381-2659-2.
  14. ^ "Hammer Films Icons of Suspense Coming to DVD". 22 January 2010.
  15. ^ Phil Hardy (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
  16. ^ "The Damned". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 30 (348): 59. 1 January 1963 – via ProQuest.
  17. ^ Kehr, Dave (2 April 2010). "Nefarious Doings in a World of Sunlit Decay". The New York Times.