When a film is a success, it is almost inevitable there will be a sequel to it. The classic 1960 sci-fi film Village Of The Damned is no exception to that rule, and 1964's Children Of the Damned would be that sequel. While any sequel to Village Of The Damned would have big shoes to feel, this film doesn't quite live up to the standards set by the original film. In fact, it is easy to say that Children Of The Damned is very much a sequel in name only, one that, contradictorily, requires knowledge of the original film for it to make sense as well as being a terribly dated Cold War parable.
The film certainly has a respectable cast. Ian Hendry and Alan Badel play Tom Llewellyn and David Neville, who both give believable performances as the two scientists who uncover the children and their powers. Barbara Ferris plays the aunt of one of the children who ends up becoming a spokesperson for the children while under their control. Alfred Burke gives perhaps the film's best performance as British government agent Colin Webster whose involvement only makes the situation worse as the film goes on. Together they are a cast that is more then a match for that in the original film.
One of the film's problems though is in its title characters: the children. Due to whatever reason, gone are the seemingly normal yet otherworldly and menacing children of the original. These children are the exact opposite. They are utterly normal children from five places around the world who lack any of the otherworldly feeling or menace of the original children. Even the special effect used on the eyes when the children are using their powers isn't really used and, when it is, it just doesn't stand up to the effect used in the original film. The result is that perhaps one, single essential element of the film that needed to work just doesn't work.
The production values of the film are excellent. In particular the stark black and white cinematography of Davis Boulton gives the film a strong sense of atmosphere and menace throughout, which helps the film immensely. The production design of Elliot Scott give the film the same feeling as the cinematography, especially in the form of the destitute church the children come to occupy for much of the story. One element that improves in this film is the score by composer Ron Goodwin that, after a rather mixed result in the original, is never out of place here and put to good use throughout. The success of the production values helps the film out immensely.
Along with the children, the script is another essential element that ends up having a rather mixed result. If anything, the script presents this film as a rather confused sequel to say the least. It seems to require that the viewer have seen the original film to understand all the events taking place, whilst also spending most of its time wanting to distance itself as far as possible from the original. The result is a confusing mix: the plot and events make little sense without having seen the original film, but the story might as well be anything but a sequel. It also doesn't help that the film, by the admission of screenwriter John Briley, was more or less meant to be a Cold War parable. The children can be viewed as scientists around the world who the major Cold War powers (represented by the government officials in the film) want to put to use, building ever more powerful weapons of mass destruction. While this would be a good idea to have explored somewhere else, this film doesn't really seem to be either the place to do it or even do it well. If anything the script seems to be drowning in good ideas (such as the revelations that come out in the films last few minutes) that are never put to good use. Also the Cold War parable gives this film something the original doesn't have: a terribly dated feel to it. The result is that the script is a rather mixed affair.
Children Of The Damned, even when viewed on its own and not as a sequel, is a rather mixed affair. Despite a fine main cast and excellent production values, the film's supporting cast (the children) and its script are both rather mixed in their results. When viewed as a sequel however, the film comes across as a rather confused, one that requires knowledge of the original film for it to make sense as well as being a terribly dated Cold War parable to the point of becoming a sequel in name only. All this means that, while a decent film, it never quite works either as a sequel or as an original film and is a bit of a letdown overall.
Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.