Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Radioactive Leather Jackets

Adults made the atom bombs and then wondered why the kids were poisonous and deranged. 1963's These are the Damned starts off feeling like a kitchen sink drama about disaffected youth in the mould of The Leather Boys but it's a Hammer film so government scientists and mutants are involved. The two sides of the film coalesce in fascinating ways and it's an effective science fiction parable on post-war cultural change.

Directed by black-listed American director Joseph Losey the film also stars an American actor, MacDonald Carey, as an American named Simon. But the film was shot entirely in England with the kitchen sink quality coming off in location shots in the streets of Weymouth.

Simon's not there long before he picks up a pretty, much younger girl named Joan (Shirley Anne Field) who leads him to an ambush by teddy boy muggers led by her brother, King (Oliver Reed).

King's name is significant, reflecting the impunity with which he and his gang assume equal or higher ground to traditional figures of authority, as when another member of the gang, later in the film, constantly replies to interrogations by a military officer with questions of his own--"I don't sit up nights questioning your people about their private affairs now, do I?"

They're insolent and destructive, beating Simon to unconsciousness and vandalising art. But to some extent it's hard to blame them for their assertion of liberty when Simon, the film's hero, casually asserts his right to pick up Joan on the grounds that she looks like "a tart."

This is still nothing compared to Bernard (Alexander Knox), a government man who's apparently keeping a group of children in isolation underground and experimenting on them. He and his men struggle to understand why the children don't trust implicitly that what they're doing is in their best interest and in a later explanation Bernard actually does have some pretty good reasons relating to the survival of the human race. His reason is still not enough to impress Freya, an artist living nearby, played by Viveca Lindfors in a brilliant performance that seems like it must have involved careful study.

When someone says all of her sculptures look "unfinished" she answers that one could say that about everything--that everything is always unfinished. It's no wonder she'd be suspicious of any human assertion of authority over another. Yet it's hard to decide who exactly is to blame when children are born radioactive.

Twitter Sonnet #1042

Impending drafts of ornaments delay.
Incisive spots in combing closed the hair.
Recumbent strands upheld a fixed relay.
The mustered helms could rest on just the stair.
In soot arose the foot of burning snow.
In ash the army closed in ranks of horse.
For infantry i'faith would fain to know.
And forward treads the host the sleeping course.
Insistent bands produced of trees'll call.
As time reveals in puddy clapped to ink.
In faded eyes the dollar passed recall.
The even goes in beaming gold and pink.
In cloudy purple nails it reached a thought.
Across a cooking port the fish's caught.

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