© 1964 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios

Children of the Damned (1964)

Director: Anton Leader
Starring: Ian Hendry
Barbara Ferris
Year: 1964

Sequels are rarely even a fraction as good as the movies they follow, and it is hard to think of even a two or three cases in which the sequel is actually better than the original. Children of the Damned, a sequel to Village of the Damned from the year before, is one of those cases. It was made for the same reason that all sequels are made—to cash in on a huge and unexpected success, but it is not a carbon copy of the first film, or even a logical extension of the story, and that is probably why it is able to work on its own, and has to present interesting allegories that were not present in the earlier film.

The first film was a fairly faithful adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, but there were was no follow up novel to provide the source for a second fill, so an original screenplay was commissioned. Children of the Damned became the first screen writing credit John Briley, who would later go on to write Gandhi. The basic theme of a group of eerie children who are able to read the minds of adults and control their actions through telepathy is carried over from the first film, everything else is different.  Children of the Damned has more in common with another film from the same year, Dr. Strangelove. Although it is not played for laughs like Kubrick’s film, of course. But Children is much more than a thriller—parallels to the Cold War run throughout.

An alternate title of the film could be Children of the Damned go to the UN! The film opens with a pair of scientists conducting a complex intelligence test to a group school children in the British segment of  the first international standardized intelligence test. They are pleased to find the one of the students, Paul (Clive Powell) has astonishingly good scores, and bewildered to discover that five other students from around the world achieved identical scores, completed in identical times. The children are brought to their respective embassies in London, but soon run off and convene in a disused 10th century church, forcing adults out with mind control. They fashion a powerful weapon in the church. Unsurprisingly, all of the countries involved want to claim the weapon for themselves, but the children won’t have any of it. The film was made at a time when the Russians were still ahead of the US in the space race, and the major military powers of the world wanted to monopolize the best minds of their countries in order to create between weapons, and better defense against the weapons the other side had. It is decided to destroy the children. British troops surround the church and are instructed to open fire and detonate the church. In a Dr. Strangelove touch, a screwdriver falls on a radio, falsely sending the open fire signal, which propels them past a point of no return.

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