The Damned


Facts and Figures

Run time: 156 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 18th December 1969

Production compaines: Plan F Productions, Lamppost Productions

Reviews 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Chimalle, Christina Woods as Rhonda

The Damned Review

Think of it as The Magnificent Nazi Ambersons. Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice) weaves a fictionalized account of 1933-34 Germany as the Nazis rise to power. He follows one family in particular, a wealthy upper-crust bunch of industrialists who throw their lot in with the Nazis, despite some clear abuses in the horizon. These are the titular damned -- having sold their souls pretty much literally in the pursuit of even more wealth.

Along the way Visconti tosses a litany of decadence at us. As if Nazism wasn't enough, we get incest in the family, a little pedophilia, and some cross-dressing and homosexual hijinks. It all culminates in a bloodbath -- the historical "Night of the Long Knives," a one-night, bloody purge of dissidents in Hitler's old private army, the SA (predecessor to the SS), brought on by fears of a coup against his budding rule. Hitler's rule would be solidified after this history-making event.

But The Damned is not a film about Hitler. He doesn't even appear in it. You might wish, though, that he did, for all the zooming shots of disturbed, lounging frauleins and goose-stepping Nazi officers. Visconti has never been a master of the camera, constantly drawing attention to himself with his long zooming shots and penchant for, say, hiding behind a plant and shooting through the foliage. Here he's undone by an overlong story (at 2 1/2 hours), some truly mediocre performances, and a script that feels written by a graduate student doing a research paper on Mein Kampf. The dubbing is atrocious; Visconti was Italian, and his cast hails from just about every country in Europe.

There are moments of great sadness and depth in The Damned, but these are crushed under the film's weight of self-importance. You can imagine Fassbinder making this film with far more aplomb and a better sense of political history, though the scenes of naked and frolicking Germen men would have undoubtedly taken on an even weirder significance. As an Italian, Visconti surely understood what he was getting into with this deconstruction of the involvement of the rich in Nazi Germany, but by confusing the film's length with its depth, he flubs the attempt here, missing by a mile.

Aka La Caduta degli dei.