The Damned 1969
Sex and swastikas! — that combo shows up in both trash cinema and high art. Luchino Visconti’s searing look at Nazi corruption sees an industrialist family torn apart by murderous greed and ambition worthy of the Borgias. The fiendish Countess Ingrid Thulin has raised a twisted son (Helmut Berger) to serve her deadly schemes; her path to power involves framing one heir for a killing while another rival is sacrificed in an SS massacre for the good of the Reich. The chilling treachery plays out at family dinner tables, in the offices of a steel mill, and in various bedrooms; Nazi fervor is equated with sex perversion.

The heightened performances and Visconti’s luridly expressionistic use of Technicolor conjure a garish world of decaying opulence in which one family’s downfall comes to stand for the moral rot of a nation.

Decadence and depravity abound in Luchino Visconti’s scathing The Damned, the first in the filmmaker’s so-called German Trilogy, followed by Death in Venice and Ludwig, each of which delineates a different era and style of German psychopathology.

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