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Film / The Damned (1947)

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Imagine how it smelled!

The Damned (Les maudits) is a 1947 French film directed by Rene Clement, set in the spring of 1945 during the final collapse of Nazi Germany. A U-boat leaves a port in German-occupied Norway, carrying an assortment of refugees: a German general; Hilde, his blonde mistress; her husband Garosi, an Italian businessman; Forster, a Nazi Party functionary; Willi, Forster's aide and apparent lover; and Coutorier, a French collaborator.

The idea is to sail for South America, where they will set up some kind of continued resistance. The submarine survives an encounter with enemy surface ships, but Hilde is injured. To treat her injuries, the sub makes a clandestine landing on the coast of France, and some of the passengers kidnap a French doctor named Guilbert. Dr. Guilbert tends to Hilde but then has to worry about his own skin as the boat heads south. Meanwhile, tensions rise on the crowded vessel.

Not to be confused with a 1969 film of the same title or the British punk rock band. Look for a scene where a murder victim pulls a curtain off its rack—Alfred Hitchcock was familiar with this film and swiped that shot for use in Psycho.


  • Ambiguously Gay: Forster's relationship with his boy toy Willi isn't quite stated but is very strongly hinted at.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: At least, the voyagers on the ship believe this. When they finally reach their destination, they find that the welcome mat is not out.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Couturier, who remembers 1940 with nostalgia and is upset to hear that there is a warrant for his arrest back in liberated France.
  • Dive! Dive! Dive!: Apparently on a U-boat it's "Prepare to descend."
  • Driven to Suicide: After Hilde pretty decisively rejects him in favor of the General, Garosi throws himself overboard.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The camera retreating before Dr. Guilbert as he walks down a pretty long corridor to Hilde's cabin. Pretty impressive, given the close quarters of the set and the fact that the Steadicam wouldn't be invented for another 30 years.
  • How We Got Here: The film starts with Dr. Guilbert finally making his way back home, as part of a group of refugees. The whole rest of the story is told in flashback.
  • Hypocrite: Forster is a Nazi, but is hinted to be Ambiguously Gay with Willi, in spite of the system's persecution of homosexuals.
  • In the Back: How Forster meets his end, as an enraged Willi sticks a knife between his shoulder blades.
  • Leave No Witnesses: This is why Forster and the captain start machine-gunning the survivors of the cargo ship after they sink it.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: The radio operator, who is anti-Nazi and helps Dr. Guilbert.
  • The Mutiny: After Forster and the captain refuse to surrender, and instead torpedo the German cargo ship that is obeying the order to do so, some of the crew revolt. Forster and the captain are killed and the survivors (except for Dr. Guilbert) strike out for land in a lifeboat.
  • Narrator: Dr. Guilbert, although several scenes, like the beginning of the voyage, are outside of his POV and do not feature narration.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Dr. Guilbert doesn't actually do a whole lot to affect the story, at least after he sees Hilde.
  • The Remnant: Most everybody on the sub understands that the Germans are finished, and that they are running for their lives. Forster, however, seems to genuinely believe that they can start a new front of resistance in South America. When an encounter with a German cargo ship results in the people on the sub finding out that the war is over and the whole Kriegsmarine has been ordered into port, an enraged Forster has the sub captain torpedo the ship.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: See Leave No Witnesses above.
  • Stock Footage: Used for scenes of naval combat.
  • Sub Story: With the close quarters aboard the sub exacerbating the stress and tension among the passengers.
  • Title Drop: The last line of the film, as Dr. Guilbert decides on a title for his book.