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4.1 out of 5 stars7
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on October 23, 2013
Love this genre. A bunch of Nazis escaping to South America at the end of the war on a sub. A crew made up of Wehrmacht, collaborators, a concubine married to a sympathizer and an innocent kidnap. This is a well crafted film that I might have given 5 stars to except for the fact that the under appreciated director, Rene Clement, has created some of my favorite films. Though overlooked later in his career he was presented a Cesar Award for lifetime achievement. In the 30's he worked with Jacques Tati and made documentaries in Africa and the Middle East. Then he received a break working with Cocteau on "Beauty and the Beast". He then started his feature film career with "Battle of the Rails", thought to be one of the best resistance films of all time, "Forbidden Games" (just one of the best films ever! and his masterpiece), "Gervaise", "Purple Noon" and the "Is Paris Burning?" If like this genre -- you'll like this film and filmmaker.
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on August 26, 2013
Beautifully photographed in black and white. Not Bergman or Wells, but quite a pleasure. The story is very interesting and the acting is sufficient. If you like old black and white films by excellent directors, this may be for you. Also I happen to like films that explore Nazi thinking and the interplay between the fanatics and the people who just get dragged into the mess. So this one hit the spot, though there are others that I prefer.

The extra features were very interesting. The discussions about the director gave a take on French cinema and the director's problems with the New Wave enthusiasms were especially interesting and certainly for anyone interested in film history. The narration by film experts over the film itself was light, but much, much better than the average insulting c**p of stars and directors joking around and reminiscing.
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on August 26, 2013
The blu-ray presentation itself is excellent. The movie itself, however, is, one could say, "damned" plodding. The plot sounded great and I love WWII thrillers and submarine films, so I ordered the blu-ray sight unseen. Hard to to finish watching it. Journey into Fear (dir. Joseph Cotton) is a masterpiece by comparison. Even Michael Powell's highly uneven first film, The Spy in Black, released in the US as U-Boat 29, is far better. It's on Hulu, btw.
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on November 19, 2014
French film noir about a group of Nazis fleeing to South America on a submarine. Included are 2 women, as well as a local doctor who becomes an unwilling passenger & plans ways to escape. Tensions also flare among others on board, with some betrayals taking place. Good cast keeps things interesting; never a boring moment.
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on November 19, 2013
In 1945 Oslo, just before the fall of Berlin, a group of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers board a submarine headed for South America where they plan to continue to carry on the work of the Third Reich. But the voyage will not be as smooth as anticipated, indeed, to steal the title of another film (from 1976), this is a voyage of the damned. Rene Clement's post-war thriller has been compared to Wolfgang Petersen's DAS BOOT but I don't think it's a fair comparison. They're both films about Nazis in a submarine but that's about it. Clement's film isn't favorably disposed to the Nazis as its 1981 counterpart is ("they're just like you and me"). Clement captures the claustrophobia and the tension of disparate characters, who don't always see eye to eye, crammed into a confined space with no escape. Clement's film allows multi dimensional characters rather than stock stereotypes and some suggestive situations that would never have been allowed in an American film of that time. Technically, it's impressive especially a shot that follows Henri Vidal (as a kidnapped French doctor) the length of the submarine without a cut. it was shot by Henri Alekan (WINGS OF DESIRE) and the effective score is by Yves Baudrier. The cast is very good. In addition to Vidal; there's Marcel Dalio, Jo Dest, Michel Auclair, Fosco Giachetti, Anne Campion, Paul Bernard and Florence Marly.

The DVD from Cohen Media Group looks great and is presented in its proper 1.33 aspect ratio in French with English subtitles. It has an audio commentary and a documentary on Rene Clement as added features.
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on August 30, 2013
This film grows on you...or possibly more accurately, closes in on you. It is the intense claustrophobia in the quarters of a submarine - brilliantly filmed in black and white, that is unforgettable. So the more I think about it, the more I like the movie.

The movie is clearly influenced by the short masterpiece of Jean Paul Sartre's "No Exit" (French translation - Huis Clos) in which a group of people who can't stand each other are forced to live in close quarters with no exit. They are in Hell. This unsavory collection of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers boards the U-Boat in Olso to escape from the Allies as the war is just about to be lost. Some of the characters are a sadistic SS officer, his young homosexual lover and petty criminal, an Italian industrialist, a Swedish nuclear scientist (and his unwilling 17 year old daughter), a Nazi general, his mistress, and a French businessman. However, each individual has his or her own selfish agenda. When the submarine boat faces difficulties, these agendas manifest themselves and the individuals kill off each other or themselves, one by one. On the journey, the sailors and the crew learn that Hitler has died and the Germans have surrendered. The different reactions by various characters is fascinating. Some sailors are overjoyed that they can now go home...but others still want to pursue a neo-nazi future.

One of the themes of the director Rene Clement is to provide a microcosm of the evil personalities that conquered France during the War or were ready, willing, and able to assist the Nazis. In the midst of all, an innocent doctor is kidnapped and brought to the submarine to provide involuntary medical assistance to the General's mistress; he plays the role of a captive desperately searching for an opportunity to escape.

I give the director five stars because - no one before or since - has created a mood of claustrophobic panic better than he has within the dimensions of a submarine.
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Of all the recent releases on the DVD/Blu-ray market, I was particularly excited to catch the debut of "The Damned" by French filmmaker René Clément. Clément was one of the strongest post-WWII era directors to emerge from France with a resume that included such fantastic classics as "Forbidden Games" and "Purple Noon" (both of which I own). I had never heard of the "The Damned," but I was eager to experience the 1947 wartime thriller. Despite my enthusiasm, however, the movie never really connected with me. It is a serviceable entertainment, to be sure, but I found its shifting narrative perspective a bit awkward. Ostensibly the story is told from the vantage point of a French doctor co-opted onto an enemy sub. At times, he is the film's narrator which can provide a claustrophobic and harrowing effect as he tries to figure out what is going on. Many more times, though, the screenplay simply abandons this viewpoint whenever convenient for the story. More problematic (for me) is the lack of character development. I simply never felt close enough to the protagonist to really get caught up in his plight. It's a shame too, because the story itself is intriguing. It all just felt a little undercooked.

The movie kicks off in promising fashion. Near the end of the war, an assortment of characters associated in some way with the Reich (either specifically or as sympathizers) are boarding a submarine bound for South America. Sometimes they allude to a mission, most of the time it appears to be an evacuation. Whichever, it remains relatively vague throughout. Among the passengers are an Wehrmacht General, an Italian businessman with his wife (who also happens to be the General's mistress), a ruthless SS leader and his personal assistant (wink, wink), a French reporter, and a scientist and his daughter. When an accident incapacitates one of those fleeing, the sub makes an unscheduled stop at a French village to recruit a doctor. This new prisoner soon sets his sights on escape, but the submarine offers little hope of survival. Along the way, we see the environment take its toll on everyone as the trip loses its allure for several of the principle characters. Sometimes focused on the doctor, sometimes on the others, neither avenue is explored in much depth. When you put a cast of volatile and diverse characters into close quarters, you always have the makings for great drama. I never felt like "The Damned" took real advantage of this.

In the end, the movie does stage an over-the-top finale that wasn't particularly convincing. The potential for searing human drama was evident throughout, but I always remained emotionally distant from the proceedings. Still, if you are a fan of Clément, this might be worth a look. The movie is alright, but the Blu-ray release also has a couple of great bonus features. A feature length documentary from 2010 called "René Clément or The Cinema of Sketches" provides additional insight into the director's legacy and an audio commentary with film scholars Judith Mayne and John E. Davidson is interesting and informative. While, obviously, I wasn't in love with "The Damned," I still think it's great that the film was discovered and released for Clément enthusiasts. As one of his earlier works, it shows the promise of what was to come. Overall, though, the film is not something I would revisit with frequency (if at all) but am glad I had the opportunity to see it once. KGHarris, 8/13.
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