Children Of The Damned (1964) [31 Days of British Horror Review]

Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January, Jules is at it again in March, treating us to a chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.

Starring: Ian Hendry, Alan Badel
Director: Anton M.Leader

“He isn’t mine. I gave birth to him, but he isn’t mine..”

Long before the term “reimagining” became a common (and often dreaded) term in cinema, Children Of The Damned was just that.

Ostensibly a sequel to 1962’s Village Of The Damned, this one takes only the very basic premise from John Wyndham’s original novel – that of creepy children with a hive mind and telepathic powers – and goes off in a completely different direction.

Present day London. Psychologist Tom Lewellin (Ian Hendry) and geneticist David Neville (Alan Badel) are UNESCO researchers who come across Paul, a boy whose mother Diana (Sheila Allen) clearly despises him and insists she was never touched by a man after being hospitalised as a result of his influence.

Lewellin and Neville realise there are six children in all already across the world who seem to exhibit the same unusual abilities and intellect, all of whom also appear to have been born without a father.

They are brought together in London for a collective study, but quickly escape confinement in their respective embassies and congregate at a disused church.

The military are quick to decide that the children must be destroyed, but notice that they only fight back and indeed kill, when attacked, so Lewellin tries to buy them time to discover what they really are. One thing is for sure though, the threat to the human race is very real…

You have to wonder why anyone would think defanging Wyndham’s cuckoos was in any way a good idea. Sure, those obvious blonde wigs and overlaid glowing eyes looked fake, but that just added to the general feeling of otherworldliness that the children radiated and that’s exactly what’s missing here.

It starts off creepy enough, with the tortured mother living in fear of her disturbing, immaculately conceived, child, but save for a couple of other moments (the telepathic phone call is brilliant for example), these Children of the Damned just aren’t that scary.

It doesn’t help that they don’t seem to be alien, or have a plan for global domination, or even seem to be particularly evil. They’re probably the next stage in human evolution and they just want to be left alone. Worse, they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. That’s just not disturbing enough for my liking.

What is disturbing is how oppressive and alien director Anton M.Leader makes contemporary London look. Gone is the idyllic rural village of the first film, replaced by a bleak and intense urban hell, all buildings via brutalism and sharp angles. There’s also a nice line in religious allegory running through it too, from the virgin births to the church-as-sanctuary to the final, electrifying act of God, it’s suggested that higher powers than man might be involved here. Or maybe not.

The actual men in the film themselves are another high point, as both Ian Hendry and Alan Badel give a great showing as the pair of scientists fighting to who these strange children are. Colleagues, for sure, but are they more than that? It’s ambiguous, but it’s certainly hinted at and gives future Ghandi-scripter John Brierly’s story and extra bit of depth, especially as such a thing was still three years away from being legal.

Children Of The Damned is an interesting diversion, but ultimately a flawed one. The initial concept was so strong, to immediately discount it and do something different was always going to be a bold move, but to then end up with a much less frightening idea just feels pointless. If it was a film on its own it would be much more effective, but as a sequel to Village Of The Damned, it just serves to remind you of its failings.

Rating: 2.5/5.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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