Blu-ray Review: The Damned

The Essenbecks

There was an attempt to sanitise history following the end of World War II. If you read the history books then the only bad people are those wearing certain uniforms. The entire crimes of Germany have largely been pinned on the SS. With everyone else some form of victim. It’s obviously much more complicated than that but in order to ‘move on’ this was the unspoken ‘deal’ everyone made. The activities of one industrialist family are exposed in The Damned.

Set in 1930s Germany, the Essenbecks are a wealthy and powerful industrialist family who have started doing business with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Sophie (Ingrid Thulin), the daughter-in-law of the aristocratic patriarch (Albrecht Schoenhals), arranges, with the help of a relative (Helmut Griem) in the SS, for his murder. Her plan is for her to marry an ambitious employee, Friedrich (Dirk Bogarde), but her troubled son (Helmut Berger) has other ideas.

The Damned is a garish and dissolute drama which paints Nazi Germany as a pit of entitled debauchery. It is undoubtedly Luchino Visconti most acerbic and febrile vision. It’s a tawdry portrait of power and ambition which works so well thanks to a number of committed performances which border-on caricature. The Damned is an angry and subversive work of cinema which dabbles in melodrama to deliver a vision of tainted corruption.


  • New 2K digital restoration by the Cineteca di Bologna and Institut Lumière, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Alternate Italian-language soundtrack
  • Interview from 1970 with director Luchino Visconti about the file
  • Archival interviews with actors Helmut Berger, Ingrid Thulin, and Charlotte Rampling
  • Visconti: Man of Two Worlds, a 1969 behind-the-scenes documentary
  • New interview with scholar Stefano Albertini about the sexual politics of the film
  • New English subtitle translation and English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by scholar D. A. Miller

The Damned is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection on 25 October.

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