The Damned

Movie Information

The Damned, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Drama/War
Director: Luchnio Visconti
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Griem, Helmut Berger, Renaud Verley
Rated: R

Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969)—a curious hybrid of international casting, with the actors speaking to each other in different languages, only later to be dubbed into a single language—was one of the great scandalous films of the late 1960s. Originally rated X, the film was the last word in decadence—something proclaimed by the iconic image of Helmut Berger (the then-object of Visconti’s obsessions) in startling Marlene Dietrich drag. And while that aspect of this overheated and very operatic melodrama seems pretty tame today, the film’s nonstop parade of perversions—pedophilia, incest, rape—and crimes, duplicity, complicity, and even more, is still shocking.

The film represents Visconti at his most drama-queen excessive, and how you respond to that will probably determine how the film plays for you. The story follows the rise of Nazism as it impacts the already pretty decadent von Essenbeck family (a thinly disguised version of the Krupps). The tendency is to think of the film as either a masterpiece or cinematic tabloid trash, when the reality is that it’s probably a little bit of both. Like all Visconti, it’s gorgeous to look at. But it moves faster than most of his films, which can be a plus, though it occasionally makes The Damned feel a little on the overstuffed side. It’s certainly effective in depicting 1933-‘34 Germany as a suffocating nightmare of hell on earth. And one thing it never is—despite a 155-minute running time—is dull. Imperfect and excessive—and also essential.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.