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A surprisingly effective science fiction thriller for its time, Village of the Damned (1960) was notable for its eerie feel and spooky atmosphere. The sequel, Children of the Damned (1963), is equally memorable, but for different reasons, and is a complete departure from John Wyndham's original story. In fact, the two films share no similarities in the storyline, cast or crew other than the composer and three assorted sound people from the first film.
In Children of the Damned, six children are born (at different locations around the world) with unusually high intelligence and special powers (the film's ads warned "Beware the eyes that paralyze!"). United Nations scientists move the youngsters to London for closer investigation. While the researchers argue among themselves about the children'fate, the military tries to figure out a way to harness the youngsters' special powers. Meanwhile, the six children decide to take matters into their own hands.
Some critics noticed an unusual subtext in the film concerning the two male protagonists played by Ian Hendry and Alan Badel. In Science Fiction in the Cinema by John Baxter, the author wrote "the two men live together in what seems a loose homosexual relationship, and when the less dominant of them becomes involved with a woman, the other, played with malicious authority by Alan Badel, throws himself actively into destroying the children....the allegory is plain but on the way to its presentation director Anton Leader has given us one of the finest pieces of SF cinema to come out of England, or for that matter any other country."
As a variation on the theme of potentially destructive children, Children of the Damned is certainly an intriguing film and was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation in the Hugos, the science fiction world's equivalent of the Academy Awards. The film was written by John Briley who would later win a Best Screenplay Oscar for Gandhi (1982). Not only was Children of the Damned filmed in England but most of the crew was British. One exception was director Anton Leader, probably best known for his television work, including episodes of Star Trek, Gilligan's Island and Lost in Space. This is only one of two feature films he directed. Appearing in a small role is Bessie Love, who had been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar decades earlier for The Broadway Melody (1929).
Producer: Ben Arbeid
Director: Anton Leader
Screenplay: John Briley
Cinematography: Davis Boulton
Film Editing: Ernest Walter
Original Music: Ron Goodwin
Principal Cast: Ian Hendry (Col. Tom Lewellin), Alan Badel (Dr. David Neville), Barbara Ferris (Susan Eliot), Alfred Burke (Colin Webster), Patrick Wymark (Commander), Martin Miller (Professor Gruber), Sheila Allen (Diana Looran).
BW-90m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Lang Thompson