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Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned (DVD) (Multi-Title)
We have met the enemies and they are our children. Well, perhaps not OUR children, and that's the problem: they are the offspring of aliens who secretly impregnated human women. That's the riveting premise of Village of the Damned, a science-fiction classic rife with paranoia and set in England's Midwich. There, the glow-eyed humanoids develop at an alarming rate and use astonishing powers of mind to assert their supremacy. Woe to parents or anyone who defies them. Yet one intrepid soul (George Sanders) does. It's "yesterday Midwich, tomorrow the world" in the sequel Children of the Damned. Unusually gifted youngsters who might be a leap forward in human evolution are brought from around the globe to England for scientific study - and then the terror hits with full force. Children, behave!]]>
What's scarier than scary kids? Village of the Damned is the definitive scary-kid classic, a truly unsettling film drawn from John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The brilliant opening sequence depicts the sudden and temporary paralysis of a small English hamlet, which is followed by the town's women becoming mysteriously pregnant. The spawn of this occurrence are a dozen eerie, blond-headed children, who are either gifted, evil, or "the world's new people." A splendid outing, not least in the way it catches parental anxiety about this small new stranger in one's home. (It was remade by John Carpenter in 1995.)
Children of the Damned follows up with a story about six more creepy kids, brought from all over the globe to huddle in a old church in London. An excellent opening half-hour gets bogged down in the movie's global-political ambitions (it's very much a cold war offering), but it has its share of shivery moments--the sight of the six youngsters striding down a London street as though they controlled the world is a chiller. But where's the blond hair? The two films are different in tone; Village feels like a fifties sci-fi offering, with an old-school star (George Sanders) and classical style; Children is a film of the sixties, with hipper techniques, urban setting, and young actors Ian Hendry and Alan Badel. But both have those damned kids. --Robert Horton
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Top Customer Reviews
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED:
As with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) before it, 1960's VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is a cold-war allegory that uses extraterrestrial infiltration to represent Western fears of Communist invasion. Even so, this flick is still one of the best SF thrillers ever made, and it has become one of the SF cinema classics.
When a group of albino children born under mysterious circumstances begin to demonstrate superhuman mental prowess, they come to be viewed by their community and the military as a threat to the survival of mankind. Though faithful to the novel on which it is based--THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS by Brit SF author John Wyndham--the film is in many ways more frightening, mainly due to simple but effective special FX and outstanding performances from adult leads George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, and Michael Gwynn and from child actor Martin Stephens. Indeed, the unusually reserved and sympathetic performance from Sanders--well known in England at the time for his over-the-top portrayals of villains or cynical antiheroes--makes the film's climax extremely dramatic and affecting.
Caveat: Avoid John Carpenter's far inferior 1995 remake.
CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED:
1963's CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED was originally marketed and is still often regarded today as the sequel to the 1960 classic VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. However, the second film's script diverges so drastically from the characters and premise of the first that it is not, in actuality, a continuation of or branch-off from the same narrative--super-intelligent children are the only common story element. While cold-war issues are still addressed, sympathies are ultimately directed towards the children rather than the adults or society at large, reflecting the burgeoning shift from conservatism to liberalism that was then occurring in the West (and especially the United States).
A decent SF film in its own right, CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED just isn't as cinematically effective nor as dramatically memorable as its purported progenitor VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED. In truth, its greatest merit is the fact that it marks the first solo scriptwriting credit for John Briley, who would later go on to win an Oscar for scripting 1982's GANDHI.
The double-feature DVD from Warner Home Video is well worth the price of admission. Not only does it offer anamorphic widescreen versions of both films, each film also includes its respective trailer and a feature commentary (John Briley does the commentary for the film he scripted). Definitely a five-star disc.
Warner's DVD is outstanding. The image is remarkably clean, with a very solid and beautifully rendered gray scale, deep blacks and excellent contrast levels. Fine details are fully realized. There is a total lack of edge effects and other digital anomalies for an exceptionally smooth visual presentation. The audio is mono but with a considerable punch to it. For "Village of the Damned" there is a thoughtful and thorough audio commentary by author, Steve Haberman. On "Children of the Damned" we get a fairly thorough reading by the sequel's screenwriter, John Briley.
Overall, this is a very good movie. I gave it a four, but if I could, I would have given it four and a half. I really recommend you to see this movie. It is a classic. Maybe I should read the book and go see the sequel (`Children of the Damned') and John Carpenter's remake now...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
[UK-1960 / director: Wolf Rilla]
Disturbing (in both a thought-provoking and paranoid way) but...Read more