The Damned

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Frederick Bruckmann (Dirk Bogarde) wants to seize power in the steel company he works for, even if it means using underhanded tactics. The Reichstag fire has just burned and the steel firm’s head, Joachim von Essenbeck (Albert Schonhals) has just been murdered. His death opens his high position to a new man and of course, Bruckmann seeks to land the position. The murder was just one part of Bruckmann’s plan to take control however, so he and his lover Sophie von Essenbeck (Ingrid Thulin) have more steps to complete. Sophie is certain she can manipulate the family’s natural heir, who happens to be her son, Martin (Helmut Berger). Martin is a weak willed, twisted man with sexual desires of an unnatural order. In other words, he is an almost perfect pawn for the two schemers, a perverse man without much courage. Joachim’s murder is pinned on a family nephew, who goes into exile and at the same time, Martin is being set up by another nephew and that just further complicates an already complex situation. Sophie is able to persuade Martin to choose Frederick as the company’s new leader, but that isn’t the end of the line. Frederick might be in power within the steel firm, but outside forces are soon revealed. Who is behind the scenes of this vicious power battle and in the end, who will emerge in control?

This movie turned a lot of heads when released, enough to be branded with an X, though later revisited by the ratings board and given an R. The Damned has some perverse moments and content that could offend folks, but director Luchino Visconti never gets too graphic, so the sex and violence is never explicit. Even so, there is enough perverse stuff in The Damned to drive prudes to drink, so don’t expect a wholesome picture here. The scope of the film is focused in a small beam, but the events around the basic storyline are grand. So we watch as one part of a grander design unfolds, though there is no lack of perspective. The strongest elements in The Damned are the performances and the writing, both of which are excellent. Visconti’s direction is solid, but not up to his finest hour, but the other elements bolster his work. Helmut Berger (Beast with a Gun) is superb in a mad turn that goes close to the edge, but reigns itself back in when needed. Dirk Bogarde (Death in Venice) and Ingrid Thulin (Cries and Whispers) also provide terrific performances, but it is Helmut Griem (Cabaret) as the cold Aschenbach who owns this movie. I found The Damned to be well crafted in all aspects, with a sense of realism that adds a lot to the experience. Warner’s disc is a solid treatment, so this release is more than recommended.

Video: How does it look?

The Damned is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As with Visconti’s Death in Venice, Warner has served up an impressive visual presentation. The print is in great condition and shows minimal defects, which is a superb start. I’ve seen some battered prints of this movie, so I am pleased that such a clean source was utilized. I found no softness either, so the image is always sharp and provides ample detail level. The visuals have a natural tone, as it should be, so colors are somewhat reserved. The flesh tones look warm and normal, while contrast remains stark and in solid balance at all times. A few scenes have some inherent flaws, but aside from those minor worries, this is a great looking treatment.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is on the same level as the soundtrack of Warner’s Death in Venice, so I will port over my comments from that review. The audio here is presented via a mono option, but rest assured, this material doesn’t need much beyond the sheer basics. This is a slow, dialogue driven movie and the soundtrack follows that approach, its basic and little else. The music does add some life to the experience, but this is mono, so don’t expect miracles. I found dialogue to be clear and easy to understand, while the other elements seem in proper order as well. Not a dynamic soundtrack, but one which handles the material well and offers no reason to complain. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes an insightful original featurette on Visconti, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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