These Are the Damned
Pale children, cold to the touch, are the deadly center of this mysterious science-fiction film of 1962. Radioactive and locked away in a seaside bunker, they are educated by television and meant to take over the world after the inevitable atomic war. In fact, they yearn for freedom and affection -- normal human desires that bring on catastrophe. The riots undertaken by college kids at Berkeley and the Sorbonne a few years later, as well as such genre classics as La Jetee and A Clockwork Orange, are anticipated by this harsh and intelligent work, directed by Joseph Losey at the cusp of the director's move out of his vigorous genre films of the 1950s and early '60s (The Prowler, Time Without Pity) into his brilliant, if often enervated, art films of his later career (The Servant, Accident, et al.). This work (known as just The Damned in Britain) has the virtues of both periods, its inventive narration audaciously bringing together the lonely, deadly kids with mixed groups of chanting black-leather-jacketed "teddy boys," guilty liberals, a soulless scientist, and a free-spirited sculptor (Viveca Lindfors). The apocalyptic finale culminates in one of the most heart-rending final scenes on record, children's cries echoing against the sea cliffs. These Are the Damned defines science-fiction film at its best -- as a genre of ideas and emotion rather than technology and effects.