Children of the Damned (1964)


John Wyndham had his book, The Midwich Cuckoos, purchased for movie rights before it even hit the shelves.  The resulting movie, Village of the Damned, was expected by MGM to fail in theaters, but it instead became a sleeper hit and remains a classic bit of sci-fi horror to this day.  The subject of an alien invasion was handled in a subtle manner - in many ways due to an extremely low budget - as well as a realistic one, and the platinum-blonde children with glowing eyes were as unforgettable as the rest of the movie. 

Wyndham himself began work on a sequel but ultimately abandoned it after a few pages.  With no literary sequel to work with MGM eventually settled on a script by John Briley that, curiously, refers itself to a sequel to The Midwich Cuckoos in the opening titles rather than as a sequel to Village of the Damned, which it obviously took its title from.  For those looking forward to more of the subtle terror of the first movie it was a bit of a disappointment, as Children of the Damned in many ways played out in normal alien invasion fashion.  Still, despite the fact that the tone is quite different, as well as the explanations for the children, it still plays well despite some muddled plot points. 

Psychologist Dr. Tom Llewellyn (Ian Hendry) and geneticist Dr. David Neville (Alan Badel) are running an intelligence study on kids and find an extraordinary boy named Paul (Clive Powell) with intellect far above their other test subjects.  Curious about Paul they visit his mother, who turns out to be a working class woman of average intellect who refuses to provide any information on the boy's father.  It turns out that Paul is similar to a number of other children born across the world, all born on the same day and under similar circumstances.  

At the urging of the United Nations the children are all brought to London for study, but their respective governments soon become reluctant to share the children with others.  Paul himself is almost abducted by British intelligence agent Colin Webster (Alfred Burke), leading him to gather the other children in an abandoned church and force his aunt Susan (Barbara Farris) to speak for their collective mind.  As both the British government and the UN begin to see the children as a threat they try to find some way to destroy the kids without first incurring their wrath. 

The first major difference one will notice in the sequel is that the children aren't as alien looking.  Their behavior certainly is, and about an hour or so in they finally show off the glowing eye trick, but Paul is really the only one that looks similar to the children from Village of the Damned.  Part of that is because he is the only returning cast member from that movie - he played one of the children of Midwich - but it also makes sense story wise.  Although no reference is made to what happened in Midwich, which could pretty much be expected as the British government would have covered it up, their failure there and in the other parts of the world was largely due to a marked difference in appearance.  The new children blend in with their societies, right down to ethnicity.  

The other is that, while there were some hints at Cold War politics in the first, Children of the Damned does not shy away from making it clear the different powers' secretive attitude, despite their pledge to cooperate through the UN, is more dangerous than anything the kids can do.  Despite the fact that the children can communicate long distance and read minds, thus making their countries' possession of them useless, they still delude themselves into believing the children can be controlled and used for their own needs.  

With the higher budget comes a bit more action, particularly as the determination to do away with the children increases.  Thus, where Village of the Damned was a film that worked due to its atmosphere and sense of realism, Children of the Damned seems more determined to be more of a straight science fiction thriller instead.  It often plays out as a cross between a Hammer film and one of the creepier Doctor Who episodes of the time.  It does get a bit off track toward the end, and some of the bits at that point seem like Briley really didn't have any answers to the mysteries he brought up and was kind of stuck for what to do in the end.  Still, it is quite entertaining, as long as one doesn't expect it to be anything like the first film. 

Children of the Damned (1964)
Time: 89 minutes
Starring: Ian Hendry, Alan Badel, Barbara Farris, Alfred Burke, Clive Powell
Director: Anton Leader




 

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