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  1. #1
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    If you have ever wondered why Oliver Reed used to go on week long drinking binges and constantly wandered around television studios pissed out of his mind, wonder no more.

    I am about to explain.

    It is quite simple. He was just indulging in a vain effort to expunge from his mind any memory whatsoever that he had once taken part in the film which was shown last night on BBC2.

    The film was called "The Damned" and was made in 1963.

    Without doubt this British film made at Bray Studios by Hammerscope Productions, is the British contender for the title presently considered held by the American film named in the title of this post, namely, the worst film ever made. I would say that given a relatively larger budget, this truly awful film surpasses it for sheer jaw dropping disbelief as to how it could ever have got past the initial script editing stage let alone being produced.

    It really has to be seen to be believed. Get it out of the video library (if any copies still exist) because it's so bad it's good. (if you know what I mean).

    I have long held that just like the year 1913, the year 1963 was a British fin de siecle. It was the year in which the swinging sixties was in the stages of conception. Twiggy, Shrimpton and other anorexic waifs were taking over from real women and the pill and odd, hallucogenic substances were beginning to infiltrate the mainstream . "The Avengers" television series along with Cathy Gale leather catsuits was putting the word "kink" into the vocabulary and beginning to influence fashion also. For a short period, modern jazz scores were de rigeur as film music, and in general it was a period of great cultural change which the establishment of the time had trouble comprehending.

    All these transitional troubles were demonstrated in spades by this wonderfully weird film last evening.

    It was as convoluted a smorgasbord of terrible script, mish mash of tone, ridiculous plot, disjointed editing and continuity, stilted action scenes and rank bad acting as you are ever likely to see in one film. So bad it is hard to sum up.

    The opening sequences see an early "mugging" of a boat owner by a gang of leather clad tearaways on motor bikes, led by Oliver Reed using his sister, Shirley Ann Field as honey trap bait. The boat owner is played by veteran American B film star, Macdonald Carey. He must have been on holiday over here in between TV engagements which by 1963 he was mainly involved in, otherwise, other than a chance of getting him to do a quick shoot on the cheap while he was here, what could possibly have possessed him to take part in this debacle? The word "miscasting" comes to mind.

    In a scene which predates "A Clockwork Orange" by some eight years, the leatherclad lads do a kind of ritual dance up the street, away from their victim's prostrate body, all the while serenaded by a background chant offscreen of an inane and tuneless song called "Black Leather Rock". But this is put over in a way which would suggest this song was cutting edge trendy, when in fact it just sounds tired and ancient and sub Wee Willie Harris. It is after all seven years after numbers like this first surfaced. It wouldn't have seemed so out of place if in other places in the film most of the background music pays homage to Benjamin Britten. A weird contrast indeed.

    The there is the plot. What can I say about this?

    It borrows from just about everything under the sun.

    Think "The Leather Boys" meets "Jamaica Inn" meets "Five On A Treasure Island" meets "Brief Encounter" meets "Children of the Damned" meets "Inn Of The Sixth Happiness" meets "1984", meets " Doctor Strangelove" meets "The Prisoner" and you will have no idea what it's all about.

    Watching it will get you to roughly the same place.

    Throw in a few colonial military types, an eccentric but glamorous, foreign sculptress (surely loosely based on Barbara Hepworth), a mad scientist, a few kids with fantastically correct speaking voices which must have cost them years in an elocution school and which jar with everyone else's accents like crazy, especially their dotty Scottish tutor, and there it is really, apart from a risible final chase and shoot out and a remarkably pessimistic and down beat ending.

    The only person to come out of this with any credit at all is Shirley Ann Field who should have had a medal for keeping a straight face throughout and who does her best with a truly terrible script.

    Surprisingly, (because I am a fan), Oliver Reed's acting in this is nothing short of shocking. He certainly improved later. Perhaps he was going through a dry spell.

    All in all, a prime contender for the worst film ever made. As I say in my title. "Plan Nine From Outer Space" eat your heart out.

    Amazingly, this film was directed by Joseph Losey who made the excellent "The Servant" in the same year. Maybe he had started to partake in those new fangled, exotic substances which had novelty value at the time. What else can explain it?

    See this and die!

  2. #2
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    A great review!



    We recently were infected with a few newly-released '60s Italian attempts to do Americanized horror films, and those fill the front seats on the Worst Film bus.



    So many incredibly bad ones, and more are on DVD every few months.



    Gosh - if rightsholders want to bury 'art', why not THOSE films?!! Good grief - I'd trade about 15 Italian horror films for SNOW GOOSE any day!

  3. #3
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    I rather enjoyed it when I first saw it in 1963 at the bottom of a double bill with Maniac - it was made in 1961 but shelved because of its political message. It got some good reviews from the posh papers like the Observer and won a prize at the International Science Fiction Festival in 1964.



    Losey cast blacklisted Lindfors and Knox and I wonder if Carey was in a similar position?



    D.

  4. #4
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    What a shocking performance by Knox!

    Also, Carey came across as reptilian, and his relationship with Miss Field's character was nothing less than creepy.

    What a shambolic mess, a certain contender for worst British film!

  5. #5
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    Surely contender for worst Brit film is anything with JA* in it







    * I find it difficult to type the Agutter woman's name without feeling naseous

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
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    The Damned is indeed pretty awful. I remember the first time I saw it was at a university film club years ago and all the 'arty' types kept talking about the 'message' and 'relevance' of the film. I thought it was a load of old B-movie bollocks, which was just about good enough for a camp laugh at its expense. Is worse than 'Plan 9 ...'? Probably not. The sheer technical ineptitude makes IMHO the Wood effort one of the worst films ever made ... 'pull the string, pull the string' ...



    Bats.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: UK Moor Larkin's Avatar
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    The Damned is quite dated now, but the script is above average for this type of film and Losey�s direction shines as usual.

    Stephen Lang | Article



    :

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Aaland dremble wedge's Avatar
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    It's been a while since I've seen this but I remember enjoying it at the time.



    How could I not when Ollie Reed plays the leader of a gang of Weymouth toughs and revels in the opportunity to wear a tweed jacket and harbour incestuous thoughts for his sister?



    When narrating The World of Hammer in the early 90s Ollie posited the theory that The Brigand of Kandahar was his worst film. I'd like to see that but I find it hard to believe it was worse than A Touch of the Sun which he made in Zambia in the late 70s with the marvellous Peter Cushing and Wilfrid Hyde-White in support.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moor Larkin
    The Damned is quite dated now, but the script is above average for this type of film and Losey’s direction shines as usual.

    Stephen Lang | Article



    :
    I agree, it's nonsense but enjoyable all the same. Towards the end the story seriously unravels with the shooting of the sculptress and sub-machine guns aplenty.



  10. #10
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    Great music for the opening title credits, any idea who sings it?



    Shaun

  11. #11
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  12. #12
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    Thanks doojeen, just brewing up a cuppa, then I'll give it a proper eyeball.



    Well worth reading !

  13. #13
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    Thanks, Billy, I'm glad you found it interesting - you might also enjoy reading this article, on a link from the same site:






    I saw The Damned at a Sunday afternoon matinee when I was 13, with absolutely no awareness of the depths of resonance and meaning examined in the Sanjek piece, but was able to cast a hopefully much more finely honed critical eye on it when it was shown on BBC2 last year as part of the British movie season.




  14. #14
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    To clarify:



    The version screened by the Beeb was the uncut 96m version but it wasn't in the proper Scope ratio. It was under the American title These are the Damned but prints under this title are the only surviving ones of the full length version. I believe an American cable channel have shown it in the proper 2.35:1 ratio.



    The old UK VHS These are the Damned (which is available on Amazon) is the 87m theatrical version.



    Losey's directors cut is 96m. However, Hammer then cut the film to 87m for theatrical release and this is the version that played in UK cinemas. At the same time they changed the title to These are the Damned for US release and sent the 87m prints overseas together with copies of the 96m version which they thought might be suitable for TV prints (as 96m translated nicely into a 2 hour slot on US TV). For the US theatrical release it seems to have been cut further to 77m although prints of this version don't seem to exist.



    I don't think there is a print titled The Damned in the full 96m length. The one in the NFT archive is the 87m version.

  15. #15
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    Good news, Sony are putting it out in September on semi-exclusive with MovieMail:



    The Damned (Losey, 1963) DVD | British Film | Films by Movie Mail UK

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: England DocRobertPepper's Avatar
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    BBC2 Friday Night 02:05 - 03:40

  17. #17
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    Hi there...

    I've joined this forum whilst lookin for info on "The Damned." i noticed in the t.v. listings that it's on tonight, Fri Oct 16th...I haven't heard of it before, i like to look out for obscure film titles especially of the Sci-Fi and horror variety.....It's listed as an old sci-fi chiller from 1961 which peeked my interest...then i saw this forum thread...

    It is the 95 min version being broadcast tonight, i have a blank DVD at the ready...

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Is the opening pop music in the film (when we first see Ollie Reed and his gang at the clocktower) 'library music' by Tony Crombie ? - it is very much in his style of the period.....

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: Scotland Gerald Lovell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    Is the opening pop music in the film (when we first see Ollie Reed and his gang at the clocktower) 'library music' by Tony Crombie ? - it is very much in his style of the period.....
    Is it not "Black Leather Rock": lyrics by Evan Jones, music by James Bernard (arranged by Douglas Gamley)?

  20. #20
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    Rare gem with Ollie and Shirlie Anne. Have the video but never got round to transferring it. Thanks for the alert

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