Luchino Visconti’s The Damned is a magnificent failure, an example of a great director working at the peak of his ability and somehow creating almost nothing at all. Surely no one else could have made this film; surely no one at all should have. It is one of the most impenetrable films ever made.
Roger Ebert, 5 February 1970
Luchino Visconti’s The Damned may be the chef d’oeuvre of the great Italian director – a spectacle of such greedy passion, such uncompromising sensation, and such obscene shock that it makes you realize how small and safe and ordinary most movies are. Experiencing it is like taking a whiff of ammonia—it’s not conventionally pleasant, but it makes you see the outlines of everything around you with just a little more clarity.
Vincent Canby, The New York Times, 19 December 1969
Visconti has always been a master of melodrama, often working with large, operatic gestures (his Senso, in fact begins with an opera), and The Damned, with its numerous early singspiels and cabaret performances (particularly the memorable drag number of actor Helmut Berger [as Martin Essenbeck] impersonating Marlene Dietrich) are often outrageously theatrical.
Douglas Messerli, World Cinema Review, 23 September 2013