A look back at this day in film history
November 25
The Damned October 14, 1969
The Damned released

Luchino Visconti’s 1969 Nazi drama The Damned was undoubtedly his most controversial work when it opened in Italy in 1969. With operatic flair and flamboyance, the film chronicles the complex sexual politics of the German Essenbecks family as they slowly cede power to the Nazis and destroy themselves in the process. (The Essenbecks were loosely based on the Krupp family, whose metal works helped arm the Nazis). The Damned was rooted in real events (the famed “Night of Long Knives”), and its tone and themes came from opera––the Italian title La caduta degli dei (The Fall of the Gods) is a nod to Wagner’s The Twilight of the Gods––and Macbeth. For many observers, the lurid, erotic feel was a far cry from the neorealistic works, like Ossessione and La terra trema, that put Visconti on the map. But in some ways, the film was quite close to Visconti personally. As an opera director, he had a sense for the grandiose. As a gay man (involved with a German, the film’s star, Helmut Berger) and a leftist from a wealthy aristocratic family, the storylines were quite familiar. When questioned why he focused on German Nazism rather than Italian Fascism, Visconti responded, “Of course, Fascism was a tragedy in many, many cases… but Nazism seems to me to reveal more about a historical reversal of values.” In the end, the film succeeded both because (and in spite) of its controversy. In Italy, it proved to be a box office smash, and, in America, even though it was slapped with an X-rating, it garnered Visconti his one Oscar nomination, for Best Screenplay. Rainer Werner Fassbinder later exclaimed that The Damned is "perhaps the greatest film, the film that I think means as much to the history of film as Shakespeare to the history of theater."

More Flashbacks
The Crying Game November 25, 1992
The Crying Game released

“Yo, the chick’s a dude!” –– those words, shouted outside a movie theater on November 25, 1992, would most likely have earned you a punch in the nose from a ticket buyer standing in line to see Neil Jordan’s sly psychosexual drama The Crying Game.

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November 25, 2005
Pat Morita dies

On this day in 2005, the man best known as The Karate Kid’s sage sensei Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita, died.

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November 25, 1973
Laurence Harvey Dies

By the time Laurence Harvey died of stomach cancer on November, 25 1973, his actual life proved easily as strange and quirky as the characters he played. Born in 1928 Zvi Mosheh (Hirsh) Skikne to a Jewish family in Lithuania, Harvey quickly reinvented himself at the age of five when his family moved to South Africa, where he took the name Harry. After working as an entertainer in the South African army, Harvey moved to London, changing his first name to Laurence and swapping out his family name for Harvey (supposedly taken from the sherry “Harvey’s Bristol Cream”). Harvey quickly rose up through the British film world, playing a range of side characters, then moving to Hollywood and Broadway where he gained a reputation for creating quirky, nervous eccentric, often emotionally cold men (often who were never quite what they seemed). His most famous role was as the brainwashed soldier in John Frankenheimer’s 1962 The Manchurian Candidate. While known to be privately gay, Harvey went through a number of high-profile marriages, often with women considerably older than himself. In 1968, for example, he married his second wife, Joan Perry Cohn, the widow of Columbia Picture’s master Harry Cohn. In 1969, his affair with Paulene Stone led to his one daughter, a divorce from Cohn, and, in 1972, a marriage to Stone. His daughter Domino Harvey went on to fame all her own as the bounty hunter whose life was dramatized by Keira Knightley in the 2005 thriller Domino. By the time he died in 1973, his career was in decline and his health had deteriorated by years of heavy drinking, and yet he was still trying on new identities. His last film, Welcome to Arrow Beach, which came out after his death, marked his third venture as a director as well as star.

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