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The Damned (1969)
"La caduta degli dei (Götterdämmerung)" (original title)

R  |   |  Drama  |  18 December 1969 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,035 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 42 critic

The dramatic collapse of a wealthy, industrialist/Junker family during the reign of the Third Reich.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Friedrich Bruckmann
Helmut Griem ...
Renaud Verley ...
Günther Von Essenbeck
Umberto Orsini ...
Herbert Thallman
Reinhard Kolldehoff ...
Baron Konstantin Von Essenbeck (as René Koldehoff)
Albrecht Schoenhals ...
Baron Joachim Von Essenbeck (as Albrecht Schönhals)
Nora Ricci ...
Elisabeth Thallman
Irina Wanka ...
Lisa Keller
Karin Mittendorf ...
Thilde Thallman
Valentina Ricci ...
Erika Thalman
Wolfgang Hillinger ...


The power and fortune of the Von Essenbeck family remained intact even when Germany lost the great war and during the depression that followed. Now it's 1934 and the baron has summoned his family to a dinner that also brings a cousin rising in the Nazi party to the great house accompanied by a rising manager at the baron's company. Two little girls recite poetry in the parlor and then play hide-and-seek with their cousin Martin. Suddenly there is a scream. The baron has been shot with their father's gun and the father flees the country. Written by Dale O'Connor <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He was to become the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, nudity and aberrant sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

18 December 1969 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Luchino Visconti's The Damned  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was the first X-rated film to be shown on American network television, although heavily edited and in a late-night time slot. See more »


The film opens on the night of the Reichstag Fire (27 February 1933). However, later that night (or early the next morning) the police inspector investigating the murder of Joachim, in dictating a report to a secretary, gives the date as 18 February 1933. See more »


Sophie Von Essenbeck: Don't fool yourself, however, Elizabeth. Don't dream of coming back one day to find a Germany which was so dear to your heart. It's finished, that Germany, forever. There will be no other Germany but this one, and you will not be able to escape it for it will spread before you know it all over Europe and everywhere!
See more »


Referenced in Salon Kitty (1976) See more »


Nachts ging das Telefon
Performed by Zarah Leander
Written by Walter Kollo
See more »

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User Reviews

Rigorous classicism.
1 April 2004 | by (San Diego) – See all my reviews

Pauline Kael famously called this movie "hysterical" (she was contrasting it to Bertolucci's *The Conformist*, which was supposed to be more "lyrical".) Well, a movie about decadent Nazis is bound to be a little hysterical -- what, were you expecting something tasteful? Hysteria is probably the best mode with which to treat the Third Reich. What's astounding is that director Luchino Visconti forced his sweaty, hysterical visuals into a rigid classical structure. The set-up is pure clockwork: one betrayal leading to another; one devastation opening up an even deeper abyss for another perpetrator.

Basically, Visconti is taking on *Macbeth*, here. Dirk Bogarde plays the Macbeth figure, an up-and-coming industrialist who's sleeping with an evil Grande Dame of Nazi finance, Sophie von Essenbeck (Ingrid Thulin, having an absolute ball), heiress to a munitions conglomerate. (The von Essenbecks are loosely based on the Krupps, but don't take this as any sort of literal historiography.) Thulin eggs on her lover Bogarde to commit a few politic murders and a frame-up or two so that he can take over the family business, with herself as the power behind the throne. But she doesn't count on the pathology of her grown son from a previous marriage, the hideous little monster Martin (Helmut Berger, acting terribly but it sort of fits in an Udo Kier-sort of way). Martin is your typical Nazi: a closet pedophile, a drug addict, a transvestite, a momma's-boy, a you-name-it. The scenes involving his seduction of a 9- or 10-year-old girl who lives in a shabby apartment complex are some of the most disturbing that you'll ever see in cinema . . . and along those lines, I seriously wonder about the state of mind of some of the commentators here who find this movie to be high camp, to be watched with drinking buddies. If you think molestation is funny, you'd better see a shrink, pal.

Anyway. The plot is so Byzantine that it finally defeats a brief summary. Let it suffice to say that Visconti manages to cram his complicated story neatly within the historical context of the period between the Reichstag Fire and the Night of the Long Knives, thereby maintaining a nutty observance of Classical Unities. All the while, he films the thing in Hammer-horror Pop color, with intense contrast between shadow and light. The first scene, by the way, is a shot of the blasting furnaces of the munitions factory -- a fitting intro to the horrendous vision of depravity which soon follows. Everyone's sweating in this movie: drops of perspiration trickle down temples, and beads of sweat glisten on upper lips throughout, as if the flames of Hell are licking up at the soles of their collective feet. *The Damned* is a feverish masterpiece. You'll never forget it. Highest recommendation.

(A tip for viewing of the DVD: I recommend that you watch the movie with the English subtitles ON. While everyone speaks English in the film, only Bogarde is clearly intelligible. Owing to the complicated plot, you'll need to know what's going on in order to fully appreciate Visconti's thematic design.)

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