This seriously underrated sequel to “Village of the Damned,” written by future Oscar-winning screenwriter John Briley (“Gandhi”), was no doubt shot on a limited budget, but under the direction of Anton Leader, is arguably more atmospheric than the first “Damned” film.
Leader's career began in radio, and though he directed an enormous level of TV shows over a 20-year period, this rare feature outing certainly makes one wonder what other gems he could have created, had other genre offers come his way. Screenwriter Briley's audio commentary track sadly lacks insight into Leader's career, but he makes up for the rather limited scope by using his own writing career to evoke the waning days of studio contract writers.
Though an American, Briley's entry into film began via MGM's British extension, which at the time boasted the most advanced studio facilities in Europe. There are some excellent anecdotes of his early years, and learning his craft under the tutelage of Adrian Scott, a Blacklisted screenwriter living in England.
The film's excellent cast is also given some examination, including ex-“Avengers” cast-mate Ian Hendry, and Alan Badel (better-known for his roles as Father Dell'Aqua in TV's “Shogun,” and as President Rojo in the epic sleazefest, “The Adventurers). The onscreen relationship between Hendry and Badel is also examined, although even Briley still doesn't clarify whether the two are mere flatmates, or loving practitioners of the “Englishman's Disease.”
Briley also delves into the film's inherently ephemeral qualities that reflect Cold War fears of the day (the alien kids each come from disparate nations with distinct political establishments), and briefly notes the film's small influence on “The Omen” – a film series that actually owes a great deal to the “Damned” diptych. Leader's montages of slow-moving kids converging towards a gathering place certainly recalls the secretive assemblies and baby-slaughter denouement in “The Final Conflict,” and Ron Goodwin's creepy score gives the film a quirky malevolent elegance when placed against the film's frequently striking compositions.
A decent transfer, Warner Bros' inclusion of “Children Of The Damned” in this double-bill disc raises the profile of a notable genre sequel, that managed to realize some of the intelligent thoughts raised in Briley's script.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan