Six impossibly intelligent children from all over the world with dangerous psychic powers hide in a church in England after the military tries to experiment on them. Besieged, they warn the military to back off before carnage ensues.
Scientists discovers that six children from six different places in the world each have superhuman intelligence to such extent that they've even developed psychic powers. The children are flown to London to be studied, but they each escape their embassy and barricade themselves in a church which the military besieges. Is there a way to resolve this stand off peacefully, and if not, what then?Written by
The inexplicable appearance of a group of children, advanced 1 million years beyond Mankind's genetic development, causes fear among the governments of the world. When the authorities try to contain them, the children respond with deadly telepathic force.
This is a rare instance of a sequel being better than the original. The 1960 adaptation of John Wyndham's Midwich Cuckoos, filmed as Village Of The Damned, was a highly memorable and influential movie in its own right. However, it was also a product of post-war British film making complete with cozy, somewhat gentrified attitudes to class, sex and an illusory rural idyll. This was exemplified by George Sanders' typically suave performance as the smoking-jacket clad, martini sipping hero. Children Of The Damned is a much tougher affair. This time the action takes place in the dark, grim, urban backstreets of early sixties London - not so much swinging as downright gothic.
Rather than the aliens invaders of the first film, the children here are a human super-species, socially and intellectually incompatible with the rest of humanity. They don't seem to mean any harm, but their eerily cold and quiet presence provokes the authorities into a fearful contemplation of what they might do. John Briley's adult and intelligent script takes an insightful look at how our inherently insecure systems of authority might hunt and destroy that which merely suggests a challenge to their control.
The cast is excellent. Ian Hendry and Alan Badel as the two conscientious scientists trying to fathom the children's secret, are terrific. They bounce Briley's sometimes caustically witty lines between them with a delightful, naturalistic touch. The rest of the cast play it for keeps too, imparting a sense of urgency and, as with Alfred Burke's government man, icy menace.
The children themselves are surprisingly well played. No brattish over-acting here. Instead, the group of young, multi-racial actors exude a perfect sense of other-worldly calm, and, when necessary, chilling ruthlessness.
The film's technical credits are excellent. Cinematographer Davis Boulton's vivid black and white images ensure that Children of the Damned is one of the best photographed British films of the era. The special effects are simple (glowing eyes) but startlingly effective. The late, great Ron Goodwin was a composer best known for comedies and war films, but here he provided a subtler kind of score which suggests both the child-like and the ethereal. It was one of his best.
The main plaudits must go to director Anton M. Leader. His handling of actors, the imaginative staging and his pictorial compositions, particularly towards the climax, are outstanding. For example, the scene depicting a group of gunmen trying, somewhat disastrously, to capture (or kill) the children in a derelict church is a tour de force of tension and horror. Yes, horror. This movie may have children in it, but it isn't a children's film.
In all, this is much more than a quick cash-in sequel. It deserves credit for making an early stab at confronting the ethics of genetics, and for being, along with the Quatermass movies, that rare thing; a thought provoking, grown-up science fiction film.
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