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The Damned (1969 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Damned
The Damned Poster.jpg
American film poster
Italian: La caduta degli dei
German: Die Verdammten
Directed byLuchino Visconti
Written byNicola Badalucco
Enrico Medioli
Luchino Visconti
Produced byEver Haggiag
Alfred Levy
StarringDirk Bogarde
Ingrid Thulin
Helmut Griem
Helmut Berger
Renaud Verley
Umberto Orsini
Albrecht Schönhals
René Koldehoff
Florinda Bolkan
Charlotte Rampling
CinematographyPasqualino De Santis
Armando Nannuzzi
Edited byRuggero Mastroianni
Music byMaurice Jarre
Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico
Pegaso Cinematografica
Distributed byItal-Noleggio Cinematografico (Italy)
Warner Bros.-Seven Arts (International)
Release date
  • 14 October 1969 (1969-10-14) (Rome premiere)
  • 16 October 1969 (1969-10-16) (Italy)
  • 27 January 1970 (1970-01-27) (West Germany)
Running time
154 minutes[1]
West Germany
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office2,638,507 admissions (France)
$1.2 million (US/Canada rentals)[3]

The Damned[a] is a 1969 historical drama film directed by Luchino Visconti, co-written by Visconti with Nicola Badalucco and Enrico Medioli. The plot centers on the Essenbecks, a wealthy industrialist family who have begun doing business with the Nazi Party, a thinly-veiled reference to the Essen-based Krupp family of steel industrialists. Helmut Berger, in his breakthrough role, plays Martin von Essenbeck, the family's amoral and unstable heir who is embroiled in his family's machinations. The cast also stars Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Griem, Umberto Orsini, Charlotte Rampling, Florinda Bolkan, and Albrecht Schönhals in his final film. Filming took place in locations throughout Italy and West Germany, including Rome's Cinecittà Studios.

The film opened to widespread critical acclaim, but also faced controversy from ratings boards for its sexual content, including depictions of homosexuality, pedophilia, rape, and incest. In the United States, the film was given an X rating by the MPAA and was only lowered to a more-marketable R after twelve minutes of offending footage were cut.

Visconti won the Nastro d'Argento for Best Director, and was nominated for an Best Original Screenplay Oscar with co-writers Nicola Badalucco and Enrico Medioli. Helmut Berger received a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.


The Italian title is the conventional translation of the term Götterdämmerung (with its Wagnerian association), but for the German version, the title Die Verdammten ("The Damned") was chosen. All versions, however, use Götterdämmerung as a subtitle.


In 1930s Germany, the Essenbecks are a wealthy industrialist family who have begun doing business with the Nazi Party. On the night of the Reichstag fire, the family's conservative patriarch, Baron Joachim von Essenbeck, who represents the old aristocratic Germany and detests Hitler, is murdered. Herbert Thalmann, the family firm's vice president, who openly opposes the Nazis, is framed for the crime. He escapes the grasp of the Gestapo, but his wife Elizabeth and their children do not.

The family's empire passes to the control of an unscrupulous relative, the boorish SA officer Konstantin. Waiting in the wings are his son Günther, a sensitive and troubled student, and his nephew, Martin, an amoral, sexually-deviant playboy who is secretly molesting his young cousin as well as a poor Jewish girl. Martin is dominated by his possessive mother, Sophie, the widow of Baron Joachim's only son, a fallen World War I hero.

Friedrich Bruckmann, an employee of the family firm and Sophie's lover, ascends in power despite his lowly social status, thanks to Sophie's support and the SS officer and family relation Hauptsturmführer Aschenbach,[b] who pits family factions against each other to move their steel and munition works into state control. Friedrich kills Konstantin in the SS coup against the SA during its 1934 meeting to deal with its dissatisfaction with Hitler. Known as The Night of the Long Knives, the SA meeting and the subsequent executions of its leaders by the SS is portrayed as a homosexual orgy and bloody gangster-style massacre. Aschenbach then dismisses Friedrich, who now controls the family fortunes, as a weak social climber and not a loyal Nazi.

Herbert Thalmann then returns to the family table. He reveals that his wife and children were sent to Dachau concentration camp, where his wife died; he is handing himself over to the Gestapo in return for the freedom of his children. Aschenbach makes a deal with the discounted and ignored heir, Martin, to remove Friedrich and Sophie from control, so that Martin may get what is owed him. Martin, who is revealed to suffer from a morphine addiction, forces himself on his mother, who subsequently falls into a catatonic state. Now in the SS, Martin allows Friedrich, who by decree has inherited the name and title of von Essenbeck, to wed his mother, and then hands them cyanide to commit suicide.[c] He then hands over the family's steelworks to the Nazi government, which means that the way to war is more than secured.


Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin in The Damned.
Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin in The Damned.

"The German Trilogy"

The Damned has been regarded as the first of Visconti's films described as "The German Trilogy", followed by Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1973). Author Henry Bacon, in his book Visconti: Explorations of Beauty and Decay (1998), specifically categorizes these films together in a chapter "Visconti & Germany".

Visconti's earlier films had analyzed Italian society during the Risorgimento and postwar periods. Peter Bondanella's Italian Cinema (2002) depicts the trilogy as a move to take a broader view of European politics and culture. Stylistically, "They emphasize lavish sets and costumes, sensuous lighting, painstakingly slow camerawork, and a penchant for imagery reflecting subjective states or symbolic values", comments Bondanella.[4]


Unterach am Attersee, where the "Night of Long Knives" sequence was filmed.
Unterach am Attersee, where the "Night of Long Knives" sequence was filmed.

The film was shot on-location in West Germany, Austria, and Italy; and at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. Locations included Attersee Lake, Düsseldorf, Essen, Unterach am Attersee (doubling for Bad Wiessee), and the steelworks at Terni.

The Damned was the breakthrough role for Helmut Berger, who is given an "Introducing" credit (though he had already appeared in Visconti's segment of The Witches). At the time, Berger was in a romantic relationship with Visconti. Dirk Bogarde later expressed disappointment with Visconti for sacrificing his character's development in lieu of as greater focus on Berger's. In his memoirs, Bogarde specifically cites a long scene showing Frederick immediately after murdering Joachim, instantly becoming overwhelmed with guilt, which was filmed but cut.

Composer Maurice Jarre was hired by the producers without Visconti's knowledge, who originally wanted the film scored entirely with pre-existing classical music by Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner. He was reportedly dissatisfied with the composer's efforts, which he compared disparagingly to his work for Doctor Zhivago, but was forced to include his compositions due to contractual obligations.

The character "Aschenbach" was named for the protagonist of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, which Visconti later adapted into a 1971 film of the same name.


Reinhard Kolldehoff in the controversial "Night of the Long Knives" sequence, which was cut from the US release version.
Reinhard Kolldehoff in the controversial "Night of the Long Knives" sequence, which was cut from the US release version.

After the first screening of the film, 12 minutes were cut, including a scene where a young Jewish girl hangs herself after being molested.[2] The US version additionally cut much of the Bad Wiessee and subsequent Night of the Long Knives sequence. The footage was later restored on the 2004 DVD release, albeit in German.

The film was given an "X" rating by the MPAA due to a nude incest scene.[2] Warner Bros. submitted the film for re-classification for its DVD release of the film in 2004. The film's rating was changed from an "X" to an "R".

The film was heavily edited when shown on CBS television late at night, leading one executive to joke that the film should be retitled The Darned. This technically made it the first X-rated film to be shown on American network television.

In the English-language version, Umberto Orsini's voice is re-dubbed by an uncredited actor, due to his thick Italian accent.


The film opened to worldwide acclaim.[citation needed] It received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and was named Best Foreign Film by the National Board of Review. Among the international cast, Helmut Berger was singled out for his performance as Martin, a vicious sexual deviant who uses his amoral appetites to his own twisted ends. The film was the tenth-most popular movie at the French box office in 1970.[5]

The film has appeared on critics' lists such as the New York Times Best 1000 Movies Ever Made[6] and Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown.[7]

The film's entry in the Lexikon des Internationalen Films praises it for its presentation of the connection of "moral decadence, sexual neurosis, aestheticist death wish, narcissist self-centeredness and political opportunism", also saying that the effect is partially weakened by the film's "decorative circuitousness and artificial stylisation."[8]

Filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder's called The Damned his favorite movie. He called it "perhaps the greatest film, the film that I think means as much to the history of film as Shakespeare to the history of theater."[citation needed]

Home media

The Damned was released on DVD by Warner Home Video in 2004.[9] A 2K restoration of the film by the Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumière is set to be released on Blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection on 28 September 2021.[10]


  1. ^ "The Damned (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 19 September 1969. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Traumatic 'Leopard' Experience Made Visconti Skeptical, But Extols WB". Variety. 17 December 1969. p. 7.
  3. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970". Variety. 6 January 1971. p. 11.
  4. ^ Bonadella, Peter (12 October 2009). A History of Italian Cinema. p. 264. ISBN 9781441160690.
  5. ^ "1970 Box Office in France". Box Office Story.
  6. ^ Peter M. Nichols, A. O. Scott (February 2004). The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. ISBN 9780312326111.
  7. ^ Walker, Peter (2005). Halliwell's Top 1000. ISBN 9780007181650.
  8. ^ "Zweitausendeins. Filmlexikon FILME von A-Z - Die Verdammten (1968)".
  9. ^ Erickson, Glenn (13 February 2004). "DVD Savant Review: The Damned (Götterdämmerung)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  10. ^ "The Damned (1969)". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  1. ^
    • Italian: La caduta degli dei, lit.'The Fall of the Gods'
    • German: Die Verdammten, lit.'The Damned'
    • All versions of the film bill the title onscreen with the subtitle "Götterdämmerung".
  2. ^ The character's rank is anachronistic, as the "Hauptsturmführer" rank did not exist until late 1934, after the film's events, when it replaced the equivalent rank of Sturmhauptfuhrer.
  3. ^ The sequence is a historical allusion to the marriage-suicide of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 June 2021, at 01:09
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