Technicolor America on the RKO backlot, the first of Joseph Losey’s laboratory experiments: "I like long stories that are hard to believe," declares the psychiatrist (Robert Ryan) at the police station, certainly a more attentive audience than realist critics at the time. The boy (Dean Stockwell) is introduced as a bald runaway encircled by confounded adults, his head a smooth oval but for a pair of downcast, piercing eyes. His is the tale told to the camera, bounced from one relative to another until sheltered by the Irish vaudevillian (Pat O’Brien), the solitude and hostility of the war orphan. Then one morning his curly brown mop turns "the color of spring, of hope," as simple as that. Confusion yields to purpose, but the message ("The world doesn't have to be blown up") goes unheard by the townspeople who see only its bearer's hair color. Deleuze's enfant quelconque by way of Dore Schary, bracingly peculiar in its allegorical provocations: When the tiny messiah is sheared at the barbershop before the pained community, each verdant lock falls to the floor with the weight of betrayal. The tableaux of poster-youngsters that gives way to a mob of schoolmates wielding scissors, the ominous off-screen whoosh that unsettles a cozy composition, the oneiric musical number that leaves its mark on Dr. Seuss. (Ann Carter's telling cameo points up the kinship to Curse of the Cat People.) Losey's The Damned has children's cries echoing through an atomic haze, though the elucidating directorial link is really to Leo carrying meaning from side to side in The Go-Between, the perilous life of a symbol. With Barbara Hale, Richard Lyon, Walter Catlett, Samuel S. Hinds, and Regis Toomey.
--- Fernando F. Croce