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It is probably the creepy understated quality of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED that has made these two 1960s British science fiction movies minor genre classics. But then again, it could be that films about evil children tend to have a mildly fascinating quality that usually appeals to a cult audience- I know I canít resist them. Certainly, these films had more shock value when they were released- back before the sexual revolution, where the notion of an unwed mother was something frightening in itself, and could be exploited in a sci-fi/horror movie. Anyway, its great that Warner Home Video has seen fit to release VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and its pseudo-sequel CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED as a double feature, in great looking widescreen presentations at a bargain basement price of $19.98 for both films.

Adapted from the John Wyndham novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED tells the story of a small English village where a strange phenomena renders the entire populace unconscious for a matter of hours. Although the villagers seem to awaken unharmed, in a few weeks time all the townswomen (including the virgins) discover to their shock and amazement that they are pregnant. All the children are born at roughly the same time and have a similar appearance denoted by strange eyes and platinum blonde hair. As they grow up, the children exhibit strange powers that ultimately turn them into uncontrollable murderous monsters that are obviously not of this Earth. The cast of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED features George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith and John Phillips.

CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED takes a decidedly different tact with the material, instead of a pocket of similar looking moppets from outer space, the movie focuses on an investigation involving super-intelligent, but seemingly normal looking children that have sprung up individually around the world. Of course, the United Nations sponsors a scientific study that brings together the six super children, who flee adult and government control and take refuge inside a deserted old London church. Eventually the children are tracked down, and when they exhibit decidedly lethal abilitiesÖ Well, you can guess what the military response is going to be. The cast of CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED includes Ian Hendry, Alan Badel, Barbara Ferris, Alfred Burke, Sheila Allen, Ralph Michael, Patrick Wymark and Martin Miller.

Warner Home Video has made VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED available on DVD in 1.78:1 wide screen presentations that have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Both black and white films look quite good and Warner must be credited with producing truly fine presentations for each. Each film appears crisply defined and produces a generally dimensional look. Black are always inky, whites are pure and both demonstrate excellent grayscale and contrast. Despite both films being over forty years of age, blemishes are minimal and very little appreciable grain is present in either. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

Both VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED feature perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a very respectable sonic quality. Certainly, there are limitations in fidelity, but neither film suffers from harsh or brittle sounding music or effects. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. A French language track has also encoded onto each film, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard movie/scene selection and set up features, as well as a few nice extra features. Both films include a running audio commentary, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED features author Steve Haberman, while screenwriter John Briley is on hand for CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED. Each filmís theatrical trailer closes out the extras.

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED are minor genre classics that remain quite enjoyable, even if they arenít quite as shocking as they used to be. Warner has done a great job with the DVD, offering terrific presentations, nice extras and a bargain basement price. If you are a genre fan, youíll definitely want to spend some time in the VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and with the CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED.



Village of the Damned / Children of the Damned (1960)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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