The Damned | Book Review
Andy Ellis reviews The Damned by Nick Riddle.
I’ve just finished this excellent book on Hammer’s sci-fi gem (which was originally released in the UK on 20 May 1963) – highly recommended for fans of Hammer, Joseph Losey, British sci-fi, and quality film criticism. It’s the latest in the Constellations series published by Auteur, who also do the terrific Devil’s Advocates series. This one is up there with that series’ books on Frenzy and Witchfinder General (both by Ian Cooper), Suspiria (by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas), Texas Chain Saw Massacre (by James Rose) and Dead of Night (by Jez Connolly & David Owain Bates).
It covers the historical context of the film, its links to preceding and following genre works, and to other of Losey’s films, and themes of what the author describes as a ‘genre-hopping story that explores the links between youth culture, authority and nuclear terror’. Intelligent, but accessible writing – like a greatly extended version of those incisive paragraphs in one of Jonathan Rigby’s books on a key film [please do a book-length in-depth study of one film, Mr Rigby !]. Fascinating observations on aspects like the use of Elisabeth Frink’s sculpture, the musical score, the performances, and the camera work – I especially enjoyed his in-depth analysis of 2 or 3 key sequences.
Riddle is not afraid to discuss the films flaws, especially some plot points and Shirley Anne Field’s acting, although some of these contribute to the film’s overall impact. Like all the Auteur books, it suffers slightly from having very few illustrations, but the descriptions of scenes is very good. The book really makes me want to watch the film again – I learnt so much that I’d not spotted or thought about before. I’ve always liked The Damned, but I now rate it as one of Hammer’s greatest achievements. All together now, “Black leather, black leather, rock, rock, rock…”