THE DAMNED is Luchino Visconti’s most polarizing film, an allegory about the rise of Nazism staged like a night at the opera. That it’s an intoxicating piece of filmmaking (The colors seem to be painted in oil) is beyond dispute; the argument has to do with the devotion of so much technical mastery to so distasteful a concept.
The dubbed version makes it seem like a cheap exploitation film. The non-dubbed version is not much better. I think Bogarde did a much better job in 'The Night Porter'. The true value is in the costumes, set design, and general campiness. It seeks to shock rather than inform.
Hold onto your boas! Visconti's epic, operatic, high-camp, fur-and-claws, opulent, Oedipal, Nazi melodrama; a glorious 2.5 hour voyeuristic descent into the very same lush hungry self-indulgence as the family on screen, so that I came out flushed & feral & wanting more. Fassbinder claimed to have seen the film 30 times, which I would've greedily joined him for. A lesson & a spectacle. Flawed, fierce & extraordinary.
I saw this film at my high school cine-club in the 70's between an Ingmar Bergman and a Luis Buñuel movie. Now, 40 years later, I must say that The Damned don't age very well. Cold, with improbable spotlights à la Bava, The Damned grow pale if one compares it with, let's say, Bob Fosse's Cabaret which deals with the same themes but with far more talent. A big disappointment. Already forgotten.
Much like the respect I have for Fellini's "8 1/2", I respect "The Damned" more than I personally enjoy it. It pioneered a lot of what we have seen expressed in the many other postwar works following it, though items like "Mephisto", "Salo" and even Fassbinder's BRD trilogy seem to supercede "The Damned" in my mind, though it is hard to say they would've been possible without "The Damned" laying the groundwork.
Everybody loves a posh and deranged family. Ingrid Thulin and Charlotte Rampling serving looks throughout the film gave me life, and Helmut Berger played such a bitch of a character. Plus: pedophilia, incest, gay orgies, nazis, drag numbers, murders... The film had everything you could wish for, but it felt too long and the plot/script wasn't very well articulated. Clothes and sets were fab, but the rest... meh.
A lumbering curiosity that skids between verbosity and camp. It has a bloated overall structure but is peppered with fine moments of human insight and tension. The addled, sickly feel (intended no doubt) permeates throughout.