Those who have a head for horror will be aware of the filming of The Damned in this area in 1961.

These stills from the '60s Hammer thriller film are from Portland and show buildings adjacent to a church tower above a clifftop stone quarry.

The bulk of the filming was done against a 'nondescript' background at Portland, where filming started on May 7 at Portland Bill and continued until May 28 1961.

The filming in Weymouth meanwhile only lasted a few days, but included filming around some of the town's famous landmarks such as St John's Church, the Jubilee Clock and at the King's Statue.

A 70-strong film unit took over Weymouth seafront for a short while and locals using the seafront at the time were surprised to see the hands of the Jubilee Clock changed from 10.30 to 6.15 to satisfy the film's continuity.

A spokesman from the unit said to an Echo reporter: "We have had a great deal of assistance from the Mayor (Mr Edgar Wallis) in getting permission for filming."

Heading the cast were Oliver Reed, Shirley Anne Field, MacDonald Carey, Alexander Knox and Viveca Lindfors. The plot of The Damned, based on an obscure novel by H L Lawrence called The Children of Light, revolves around a biker gang of teddy boys in a small English resort town. King (Reed), the leader of the gang, uses his sister Joan (Field) to woo men whom he and his gang then rob.

When they choose as their victim American tourist Simon Wells (Carey), Joan defects to him to escape the clutches of her brother's jealousy.

King swears to kill Wells and, fleeing him and his gang, the pair run on to the Edgecliff military establishment and fall over a cliff.

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There they are found by an isolated group of children, imprisoned by the military in a series of rooms at the bottom of the cliff, who have never seen other human beings.

Thinking Joan and Simon are their parents, the children take them into their midst and hide them from the monitoring cameras.

But what the adults do not know is that the children are mutants capable of surviving in a radioactive environment and that they spread radiation with their very touch.

The climax of the shooting around Weymouth arrived on Thursday, May 25, a few minutes after 4.30pm, at Ferrybridge when there was 'a deathly hush' according to a contemporary Echo report among the crowd of 600 who had gathered to watch stuntman Jack Cooper drive a Jaguar XK120 off the bridge.

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On his third attempt, the intrepid stuntman roared along the bridge, wrenched the driving wheel to the left, smashed through the plastic railings and was seen for a few seconds as he and the car plunged into the water. Two scuba divers swam to the spot where he was last seen.

He had a moment of panic when his seatbelt would not release, but managed to come up without their help and was then assisted by them into a motor boat. Then, dragged on to the jetty and covered with a couple of blankets, the stuntman recovered and was seen three minutes later on his feet, drinking a large brandy.

The crowd was delighted with their afternoon out, although a 10-year-old boy was heard to remark: 'I always thought they did it with models.' During the stunt, two red helicopters circled over the bridge filming; five cameras and sound recorders waited on the bridge; in the background by the Royal Victoria Hotel, an ambulance waited.

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The Jaguar which was driven off Ferrybridge

Ironically, the stunt contained an element of art imitating life. On Sunday, May 14, Jack Cooper had overturned his own car at Puddletown, skidding after crossing a bridge. His passenger, fellow stuntman Michael Eversfield, received shoulder injuries and was treated at Dorset County Hospital.

Later on in its life The Damned experienced a number of problems in post-production, hanging in limbo until May 1963 when, released via the ABC circuit, it made up the latter half of a bill with Hammer's own Maniac.

The bleak message of the film seemed to strike a discordant note with both audiences and critics at the time, although The Observer's Philip French noted it to be 'a disturbing work of real importance.' At 1964's International Science Fiction Festival, the film was awarded the Associazone Stampa Guiliana Trieste Premio delta Critica (top prize). The following year it received its long-overdue American release, where it was shorn of 10 minutes of footage and re-titled These Are the Damned.

Joseph Losey died in 1984 with pictures as varied as The Servant, Modesty Blaise and The Go-Between under his belt.

While The Damned is not universally recognised as a great film, it did prove highly influential. The gang, rote learning by screen, King's foppish umbrella and, more particularly, his assault on the sculptress Freya in the film are motifs all reprised in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

Losey's use of a helicopter to symbolise some dreadful faceless nemesis has also been imitated in everything from Apocalypse Now to The X Files.

Finally, the film gives those of us who were not there a tantalising glimpse of Weymouth and Portland in the early 1960s.