H L Lawrence’s novel The Children of Light told of a secret government experiment to cultivate a group of cold-blooded radioactive children to inhabit a contaminated earth in the aftermath of a nuclear war. With the encouragement of Hammers Michael Carreras, who wanted the production company to diversify from it’s reliance on gothic horror, Joseph Losey was persuaded to make a film based on Lawrence’s novel. Added to the novel’s basic British science fiction premise was “teenage rebellion” including a teddy boy/rocker gang lead by King (Oliver Reed) whose sister Joan (the lovely Shirley Anne Field Arthur Seaton’s love interest in 1960’s Saturday Night-Sunday Morning) uses her obvious sexual charms to lure American tourist Simon Wells (Macdonald Carey) into a mugging where he is beaten and robbed by her evil brother and his gang. This attack leads to Joan and Simon having an affair which narratively speaking leads to the discovery of the secret experiments and the children who, like their counterparts in the recent Never Let Go (2010), are innocent victims of a self serving ruthless ruling class. Stanley Kubrick used the same premise in 1971’s A Clockwork Orange in as much as questionable activities by both an extreme youth movement and the even more dangerous “authorities”.
The movie, filmed on location in Weymouth and nearby Portland Bill, was originally made in 1961 but due to political considerations was not released until 1963 in the UK and 1965 in the USA where it went under the title of These Are The Damned. When viewing this film today it must be remembered that in the early 60’s many considered a nuclear war inevitable at a time when the Cuban missile crisis was at its height. Even the sculptures made by Freya Nielsen (Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors) were made to represent bodies of people and animals killed by a nuclear blast. (They were actually made by British sculptor Elisabeth Frink) Losey’s film, fascinating and menacing, captures the edgy nature of living with the threat of nuclear oblivion and is now can be regarded as one of the best of Hammers Films.
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