Village Of The Damned / Children Of The Damned

Village Of The Damned / Children Of The Damned (1960)
Warner Home Video
Cast: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Ian Hendry, Alan Badel
Extras: Commentary Tracks

It is a classic by all standards. It is a sinister science-fiction/horror story that plays with our inner fears that one day mankind will be superseded by a superior species. With all that the film "Village Of The Damned" is as powerful today as it was 44 years ago. Warner Home Video is now presenting this chilling film as a double-feature DVD, also including the sequel "Children Of The Damned" on a single double-sided DVD.

After a strange few hours during which everyone in the town of Midwich is falling unconscious things seem to go back to normal in this rural English small town. But soon after the event, all the fertile women in the town are pregnant with babies. And whet hey are born, it quickly becomes obvious that they are different from everyone else. Developing at four times the speed of regular infants, all these children also have a hive mind. Whatever one of them learns, they all learn at the same time. It strikes fear in the hearts of the common towners and soon these powerful children become a real thread to them. To all of mankind, in fact.

In "Children Of The Damned" a study conducted by the United Nations finds that in different parts of the world there are six children of remarkable intelligence. None of them has a father and their mothers are extremely intimidated by their own children. While everyone is trying to figure out the roots of their intelligence, the children group together in an abandoned church and once again they become a thread to everyone who stands in their way.

Both movies are presented in glorious back and white on this DVD in transfers that are very clean and clear. No speckles or mars are evident. Occasionally splices are damaged during crossfades but that’s about it. Blacks are solid and deep in both films and balanced by good highlights, creating a black and white image with a wide gradient of grays and extremely good detail delineation. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression of the films is also without flaws, creating for almost pristine presentations of these classic fan favorites.

Both films come with their original mono audio tracks. The tracks have been cleaned up and are absolutely free of hiss, noise or other problems. No distortion is evident either and even though the frequency responses are limited, the presentations always sound authentic and clear without distractors. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

As extras, Warner Home Video has added <$commentary,commentary track>s for both movies. "Village Of The Damned" features an insightful track by historian Steve Haberman who reveals a lot of informative and entertaining bits about the movie’s production and its influences. It’s a bit scholarly in tone but nonetheless a great addition that let’s you learn more about the social events of the 60s that produced this film.
"Children Of The Damned" comes with a <$commentary,commentary track> by writer John Briley as he talks more about how the film came about and how he approached the subject matter for this sequel. It is also an exciting <$commentary,commentary track>, though it does not cover the entire spectrum of the movie the way Haberman’s comments do.

There can be no question that these are cult films in the best sense of the word. They are 60s science fiction at its best with a tangible premise, real social commentary and a story that is intelligent and well-crafted. They come form a time when science fiction was not synonymous with mindless, overblown special effect spectacles but related to a genre in which writers and filmmakers tried to extrapolate current events and mentalities into "what could happen in the future?" These films also influenced many other genre films in one way or another, most notably, of course "The Omen" series and movies such as "Willard."

Also, on a different sidenote, I think the original "Village Of The Damned" is more powerful than John Carpenter’s 1995 remake despite the fact that I do like Carpenter’s movie quite a bit. It is very compact, extremely to-the-point and without unnecessary bells and whistles, making it even more sinister.

For less then $20 you are getting a wonderful presentation of two classic science fiction films that stand the test of time without any problems. Check out this double-feature for a good chill.