TITLE: Children of the Damned
YEAR RELEASED: 1964
DIRECTOR: Anton M Leader
CAST:Ian Hendry, Alan Badel, Barbara Ferris, Alfred Burke, Sheila Allen
PLOT: Five super-intelligent, emotionless children have the power to control people’s minds. They’re all taken to London to be studied but they escape and barricade themselves in an old, abandoned church.
REVIEW BY NIA JONES
One would assume that this film is a sequel to the 1960 Village of the Damned, but on closer inspection, this film really isn’t a part two at all. Village of the Damned deals with women having extraterrestrial children artificially implanted into their wombs. While Children of the Damned have the children born with a mutation that causes them to be years ahead of ordinary humans in intellect, they look slightly different from the children featuring in the former film.
Two separate veins on the same basic genre certainly but there is no continuity between the two narratives, this preconception is what has damaged the film’s popularity. Not considered as much of a classic, paling in comparison to Village of the Damned in the eyes of many, the film falls under the misguided and proverbial “difficult second album.”
If we must report why the film doesn’t shine as brightly as its counterpart the movie just isn’t creepy and chilling enough, plus the narrative can be a little too cloudy and vague about how the children came to be and what ultimately motivates them to control and terrorize the population.
Judging the film on its own merits forgetting the first; Children of the Damned is a classy well-lit black-and-white horror 60s picture; capturing the early Sci-Fi paranoia regarding the threat of clandestine invasion in some undefined form. Of course, it includes elements that are fuelled by the political unrest rife in society during the cold war period of the era, much like Village of the Damned in that respect.
The script by John Briley (later winning an Oscar for his 1982 Gandhi screenplay) is enduringly intelligent and the musical score was created by the supremely talented Ron Goodwin (Where Eagles Dare, Battle of Britain)
All the performances from the adults and children are solid, brilliantly well-acted is the relationship between the characters Ian Hendry and Alan Badel portray, an interesting and thought-provoking foray. The film was made just before homosexuality was legalized in Britain; it is never clarified whether the two men are flatmates or partners, either way it brings home the notion that, their status doesn’t really matter.
Now widely available as a DVD double bill with Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned is certainly worth your time if you are a sci-fihorror fan, but make sure you erase Village of the Damned from your memory just for the duration of the film.
NIA JONES is a Spooky Isles Wales correspondent. She is a freelance writer who has written pieces for The Guardian Community Film Blog’s Clip Joint, Inside Media Track and Reader’s Panel. Follow her on Twitter @niaserenwib. Read her previous articles on Spooky Isles here.