Thursday, January 11, 2024

The Midwich Cuckoos Turned Into the "Village of the Damned Trilogy"


In 1957, British author John Wyndham's novel, "The Midwich Cuckoos", was released. Three-years later, the British branch of the American motion picture studio. "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer", released the first motion picture version of Wyndham's novel as "Village of the Damned". That feature would become the first part of an unplanned motion picture trilogy from the works of two authors, and a screenplay writer over a period of four-years. This is that story!

According to the "Merriam Webster Dictionary", a "Trilogy" is:

a series of three dramas or literary works or sometimes three musical compositions that are closely related and develop a single theme

First, however, I want to clarify where I am going with this article for my reader. I am not speaking to remakes of "The Village of the Damned", such as director John Carpenter's, 1995, version of        the 1957 novel and 1960 film. For those of my readers interested in original films and remakes, my article is "Two On Film From JOHN WYNDHAM: The Day of the Triffids and the Midwich Cuckoos (Village of the Damned)"

For this trilogy, I begin with the:

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED released in the United Kingdom, on December 7, 1960

Two posters for the same motion picture, but one view from the United States, above, has Wyndham's story as science fiction and the other, below, from the United Kingdom, plays it as a horror story.

The road to this production had its ups and mostly downs. The rights to John Wyndham's novel was actually obtained by "MGM" in June 1957, prior to the publication of "The Midwich Cuckoos", which was the planned title for the motion picture that was to be filmed at "MGM's", Culver City, California, studios. 

The planned leading character was to be played by actor John Lupton, who was co-starring with Michael Ansara, in the American television western, "Broken Arrow", 1956 - 1958. Lupton had been in Walt Disney's, 1956, "The Great Locomotive Chase", portraying United States Army Corporal William Pittinger, one of the first recipients of the "Congressional Medal of Honor", and the writer of the story of "Andrews Raiders", during the American civil war.

By December, John Lupton was out, and Russ Tamblyn was in. Tamblyn had just been seen in producer George Pal's, 1958, "Tom Thumb", for British "MGM", but he also became out for the role, and instead appeared as "Riff", the leader of "The Jet's", in 1961's, "West Side Story". 

More on the lead role in a moment, but the director started out as Robert Stevens, who was primarily a television director. At this time his main workload was televisions "Alfred Hitccock Presents", he would direct 44-episodes. However, Stevens would be replaced by Berlin born, "B" European drama director, Wolf Rilla, who had just directed another German language motion picture.

The original screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant, who was primarily an American television writer. He would create the 1960 - 1965, television series, "Route 66". Among his screenplays for producer - director Irwin Allen are 1972's, "The Poseidon Adventure", 1974's, "The Towering Inferno", and 1978's, "The Swarm".

Silliphant's screenplay was written specifically for the new leading man, Ronald Colman. Colman had last been seen in producer - director Irwin Allen's first all-star motion picture, the 1957 major flop, "The Story of Mankind", portraying "The Spirit of Man". Colman was defending mankind against "Mr. Scratch aka; The Devil", portrayed by Vincent Price, in a heavenly court. However, the actor passed away in 1958, and in November, the entire production was moved to England and changes again were made.

Michael Rennie claimed he was considered for the leading role. However, he didn't get it and made 1959's, "Third Man on the Mountain", for Walter Elias Disney. 

The leading role of "Gordon Zelby", went to George Sanders. Who had just been seen with third billing behind stars Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida, in 1959's, "Solomon and Sheba". Brynner got the role, only because actor Tyrone Power died with about a fourth of the movie shot. Sander's got his role, only because Ronald Colman had died, and this was just after George Sander's had married Benita Hume, Ronald Colman's widow.

American stage and motion picture actress Julia Meade had been originally signed to portray "Anthea Zellaby", "Gordon's" wife. However, with the move to England, Meade dropped herself from the production. The role would now go to one of the leading ladies from England's, "Hammer Film Productions", Barbara Shelley. Recently the actress was seen as 1957's, "The Cat Girl", and 1958's, "Blood of the Vampire". My article is "BARBARA SHELLEY: Hammer Pictures Horror Queen", at:

Next, Martin Stephens was cast as "David Zellaby".  Stephens would only work on-screen 18-times, and would become a major architect. However, besides this role, Martin Stephens is remembered for portraying "Miles", one of the two children possessed in actress Deborah Kerr's, movie version of author James Joyce's "The Turning of the Screw", the 1961 ghost horror feature, "The Innocents".

Another change took place with the moving of "Village of the Damned" from the United States to the United Kingdom. Ronald Kinnoch became both the movies producer, and another writer on the screenplay. He instructed Wolf Rilla to make specific changes to it and informed Rilla that he only had that weekend to have the revised screenplay ready for Monday's start of shooting. Kinnoch did assist on the changes he wanted to Stirling Silliphant's original screenplay.

Comparison of the Novel to the 1960 Screenplay With Spoilers:

The novel opens with an ambulance arriving at two different traffic accidents, at the same location, blocking the entrance to the English village of "Midwich". As the two ambulance drivers approach the double accidents, one just drops unconscious, the other contacts the authorities, that in turn contact the military. The military arrive suspecting some form of gas has been released. They discover that a caged canary becomes unconscious when approaching the accidents, but when removed, regains consciousness. Next, an airplane is sent over "Midwich" to take aerial photographs and it is discovered that the affected area is a 2-mile hemisphere and any living thing within it, is unconscious. Additionally, at the center of the hemisphere is a very bright silvery object.

The following day comes and every living thing within the hemisphere's area regains consciousness and the silvery object has vanished. Several months later it is discovered that all the child-bearing aged women of "Midwich" are pregnant. The military doctors believe this is some form of a xenogenesis process of introducing another type of gene into the human female.

The screenplay opens with physicist "Gordon Zellaby" speaking on the phone with his brother-in-law, "Alan Bernard", portrayed by Michael Gwynn, a army officer assigned to the "War Office". Suddenly, the call goes dead, but the line is obviously still open. 

Concerned, "Alan" leaves London for "Midwich" and on its outskirts observes a constable suddenly slump to the ground beside a bus with everyone on it also unconscious. 

Throughout "Midwich" the people will be found to also be unconscious.

"Alan Bernard" is worried about what might be going on and contacts his commanding officer and the military arrive. A soldier with a gas mask is sent into the affected area and still falls unconscious. A plane is sent to shoot photographs are the area, but the pilot becomes unconscious and the aircraft crashes killing him.

Meanwhile, the town physician, "Dr. Willers", portrayed by Laurence Naismith, arrives at the military blockade and with the others, observes the fallen townspeople awaking as if nothing ever happened. 

As it appears no one was seriously injured, the military classifies the incident as top secret, and will keep an eye on the village of "Midwich". Two-months later, "Anthea Zellaby" tells her husband "Gordon" the great news, she's pregnant. However, "Dr. Willers" confides with "Gordon" that every women of child-bearing age is also pregnant in "Midwich". 

This includes the telephone operator, spinster "Miss Ogle", portrayed by Rosamund Greenwood, and a virgin teenage girl. Additionally, the fetuses of all the pregnant women are in a very advanced stage of development and should be delivered very early. 

According to the novel in another few months the "Children" are born. There are 31-boys, and 30-girls, they appear normal like any other human child, except for their golden colored eyes, light blonde hair, and silvery, pale skin. 

The novel states that the "Children" have divided themselves into two telepathic groups, "The Boys", and "The Girl's", with two group-minds. Each individual has the ability to control the people of "Midwich", should they choose too. After nine-years, they appear to be sixteen-years-old as compared to the growth of normal children, but with higher intelligence. 

One young villager accidentally hits one of the girls in the hip with his car. Telepathically, the rest of the girls make him drive his car off a cliff with the young man inside. A bull that chased the "Children" is made to drown itself in a pond. A mob is formed and their goal is to burn down the building the "Children" live in and are being taught my an old man named "Gordon Zellaby". Instead, the "Children" make the mob turn on each other.

Military intelligence learns that at the exact same moment the event in "Midwich" occurred. In four other parts of the world, an Inuit settlement in the Canadian arctic, a small township in the  Australian Northern Territory, Mongolian village, and the town of Gizhinsk in Russia, a similar event took place.

The Inuit killed the new born babies, sensing these babies were not their own, the Mongolian's killed the babies and their mothers for having them, the Australian babies died within weeks, indicating something went wrong with the xenogenesis process. As for the Russian babies in the town Gizhinsk, the entire town and its population were "Accidentally" vaporized by a Russian Atomic Cannon fired from approximately sixty-miles away.

The "Children", in an interview with a military intelligence officer, tells him the only way out of the situation is to destroy them. The "Children" add that they are very aware of the danger from military aircraft flying over "Midwich" and why they are stopping any such flyovers. After the Russian incident, they know there exists the possibility that the "War Department" would drop a nuclear weapon on the village. However, that would mean the British government would sacrifice the villagers of "Midwich". 

The "Children" present the British government with an ultimatum. They will migrate to a secure location where they can live unharmed and demand that the military provide them with airplanes. 

The screenplay continues with "Gordon" having to convince "Anthea" that she will have a normal human baby. She's like the other villagers, fearing the birth of the babies, which occur within hours of each other. There are 12 divided evenly between boys and girls and have the same features as described in the novel except that their hair is specifically, platinum blonde. At four-months the twelve look like an eighteen-month human baby.

At three-years-old, "David"and the other children are able to solve a puzzle box that physicist, "Gordon Zellaby" is unable. 

"Gordon" challenges "Alan" to solve the same puzzle, which he fails at, gives it to "David" who solves it without any problems, and the two visit two other of the "Children" with the same results.

At what would be the age of human toddlers, the "Children" have the appearance of school age human children, with glowing golden eyes that frighten the villagers of "Midwich".

"Gordon" and "Alan" now meet with a military and government committee and learn of the four other incidents of "Midwich" style births. At this time, only the actions taken by the Inuit's, Chinese, and Australian's are known to the committee, Russia is silent.

At the meeting, there are scientists that have theories including that the Earth received impulses from aliens in outer space, or that the "Children" are future humans from a jump in evolution.

The military plan to imprison the "Children", but "Gordon" pleads for one year to teach and observe them. The "Children" move into a house on the outskirts of "Midwich". However, the villagers still observe the "Children" moving around the village in a military style formation with "David Zellaby" as their leader.

In their school/home, "Gordon" has asked his son and the others, if they know of life on other planets or generally in outer space. They refuse to answer him and he gets the same response about the utilization of their telepathic powers, other than their mind reading power is limited.

Incidents that might be attributed to the "Children" start to take place and accidentally a man hits one of the girls with his car. Although the girl is unhurt, the group mind causes the man to drive his car into a brick wall killing him. The man's brother believes the "Children" murdered his brother, but the "Children" sense this and cause the man to use his shotgun to kill himself. "Gordon", "Anthea", and "Alan" were witnesses of that event, but were under a trance and could not move to stop it.

Later that night as the three discuss what they have witnessed, a mob of villagers forms, and goes for the "Children". The phone rings at the "Zellaby's" household and "Gordon" is informed that the Russian army was sent into the village with the births and has annihilated everyone within it. At the same time, the "Children" put the mob into a trance and have its leader set himself on fire as the others, unmovable to help, can only watch.

As "Gordon", "Anthea", and "Alan" discuss what they witnessed the phone rings. The military commander informs "Gordon" that the Russian army enter the small village that the births took place and murdered every living person in it.

"Alan" goes over to the "Children's" school building and asks "David" why they killed the mob leader instead of just injuring him? The response was that the "Children" were aware of what happened in Russia, because they are all telepathically connected to each other. They have made a decision, the group will survive no matter what the cost. After giving "Alan" a small demonstration of their power, "David" tells him to leave. Back in the main house, "Gordon" asks "Anthea" to drive "Alan" back to London and after they leave. "Gordon", who has decided that the "Children" want to conquer the world, gets some dynamite, a timer, and makes a bomb.

"Gordon" counting on the problems the "Children" have with reading a person's mind, enters the school room with his briefcase, and puts it down beside his desk. However, they feel something is wrong, at the same time so does "Anthea", who turns the car around.

"David" attempts to read "Gordon's" mind without a result.

The group mind now turns on "Gordon" and sees a brick wall, and the wall starts to crack brick by brick.

The last brick falls away and the briefcase is revealed, as "Anthea" and "Alan's" car turns into the drive way, the briefcase falls away, the bomb is revealed, the "Children" turn toward it with the timer ticking down the last seconds, and it explodes killing everyone inside the house.

Most film reviewers and several science fiction film historians list 1964's, "Children of the Damned" as the only sequel to 1960's, "Village of the Damned". Which I admit was my thought, when I first saw the picture, at the "Criterion Movie Theater", in Santa Monica, California, the first weekend it was released in the United States, but we were all wrong. 

I present to my reader, a repeat of the "Merriam Webster Dictionary" definition of the word trilogy:

a series of three dramas or literary works or sometimes three musical compositions that are closely related and develop a single theme

Of course to have a "Village of the Damned Trilogy", there has to be three movies.  

There was a motion picture released from "Hammer Film Productions" within that "single theme" of the "Village of the Damned",  but it came out two-years earlier than the "Children of the Damned". Today, it is still either overlooked by reviewers and science fiction film historians, or mostly forgotten and unknown by science fiction fans.

THE DAMNED AKA: THESE ARE THE DAMNED released in Australia, on November 16, 1962


Above the original United Kingdom title and poster, below, the United States and Canada poster. 

The motion picture was filmed between May and June 1961, cleared by the British censors uncut that December, and given the "Adults Only X-Certificate". I could not locate the reason for the following, but the movie wasn't released until November 1962, and then only in Australia. It was first shown in the United Kingdom on May 19, 1963, and wasn't released in the United States until July 17, 1965.

The motion picture was directed by American Joseph Walton Losey III. Among his work was the excellent 1948, "The Boy with the Green Hair", starring Pat O'Brien, Robert Ryan, Barbara Hale, and a young Dean Stockwell. This was a parable about the plight of war orphans after the Second World War. In 1951, Losey directed another excellent motion picture which had been thought lost, the American version of German director "Fritz Lang's", 1931, "M", moved from Berlin to the streets of Los Angeles. 

Then, also in 1951, came the "House Committee on Un-American Activities". The committee called in the registered member of the United States Communist Party for questioning. Joseph Losey was charged with being a "Stalinist Agent" in 1945, the year before he joined the party. 

Next, the motion picture industry "Black Listed" the director. That move was headed by the new owner of "RKO Pictures", the studio that Joseph Losey was under contract too, Howard Hughes. Hughes wanted all "Leftists" out of his studio. Which brings me to a point of contention during the "McCarthy Era", it was the left-wing  leaning members of the industry, not those with right-wing political views that were mainly "Black Listed" by the studio owners.

Joseph Losey followed a long list of American movie actors, directors, and producers who were welcomed in the United Kingdom to cross the pond. However, to disguise himself in the United States, between 1952 and 1957, Losey was credited as either Joseph Walton, Andrea Forzano, and Victor Hanbury. During this period he had been hired by "Hammer Film Productions" to direct their 1956 science fiction feature, "X-the Unknown". Losey was using the name of Joseph Walton for the production, but one of the stories about why he left, stated that American actor Dean Jagger refused to be directed by a known Communist. Another says that Losey left the production over illness. 

Joseph Losey returned to using his real name with the 1957 motion picture, "Time Without Pity", starring Sir Michael Redgrave, Ann Todd, and Leo McKern. Now, Joseph Losey was back to directing for "Hammer Film Productions". 

The screenplay was based upon the 1960 novel "The Children of Light", by British author H. L. Lawrence, that has apparently been out of print for decadesI could not find any information about H. L. Lawrence, who the internet kept correcting me by bringing up British author D. H. Lawrence, until I found one lonely review of the novel that also mentions the motion picture. I owe this biographical sketch and my information on the novel's story to fellow blogger Murray Ewing, at:

Henry Lionel Lawrence was born in Lambeth, England, in 1908, and passed away in 1990, in Colchester. His parents were music hall entertainers and the family, there were apparently siblings, moved about throughout the United Kingdom, because of his parent's occupation. 

Henry started to write during the 1920's, but Murray in his February 2022 article, could only locate one short story, and that was in an anthology with other writers. There was an indication of a second novel, 1961's, "The Spartan Medal", but it also appears to be out of print. According to Murray Ewing, Henry Lionel Lawrence served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War as a photographer for a Bomber Command Pathfinder Unit. He also married and had a daughter by the time his first novel was published.


The screenplay was written by two writers, Jamaica born Evan Jones, director Joseph Losey's, 1966, "Modesty Blazise", and Michael Caine's, 1966, "Funeral in Berlin", which was based upon the Len Deighton's spy thriller. The other writer was Ben Barzman, a Canadian-American "Black Listed" writer. Whose name originally was not on this feature film, or 1961's "El Cid", and 1963's "55 Days at Peking", his black listing was lifted and he was credited again starting with 1964's, "The Fall of the Roman Empire".

Macdonald Carey portrayed "Simon Wells". The actor started on screen in 1942, co-starring with Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray in the comedy "Take a Letter, Darling". Starting in 1955, the "B" actor switched to television appearances. From 1965 through 1994, Carey would portray "Dr. Tom Horton", for 3026-episodes of the daytime soap opera, "Days of Our Lives". 

Shirley Anne Field portrayed "Joan". Field started out with mostly uncredited roles from 1955, and moved up to fourth-billing in the 1959 horror movie, "Horrors of the Black Museum" starring Michael Gough. In 1960, she was in the cast of Sir Laurence Olivier's, "The Entertainer", in 1962, Shirley Anne Field co-starred with Steve McQueen and Robert Wagner in "The War Lover", just prior to this motion picture. She would follow this feature film by co-starring with Yul Brynner and George Chakiris in 1963's, "Kings of the Sun".

Viveca Lindfors portrayed "Freya Neilson". The Swedish born actress started on-screen in 1940 in Swedish motion pictures. In 1948, she made her first English language motion picture, "To the Victor", co-starring with Dennis Morgan, and followed that motion picture with 1948's, "The Adventures of Don Juan", co-starring with Errol Flynn. Lindfors had just appeared in the both the biblical epic, 1962's, "King of Kings", and starred in the drama "No Exit". 

Alexander Knox portrayed "Bernard". In 1944, Knox starred as American President, "Woodrow Wilson", in director Henry King's, "Wilson". In 1958, the actor portrayed "Father Godwin" in "The  Vikings", starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Ernest Borgnine. Just before this motion picture, Alexander Knox portrayed British "Major General Bedell Smith" in 1962's, "The Longest Day".

Oliver Reed portrayed "King". Although he had been seen on-screen since 1955, and had a small role as a bouncer in "Hammer Film Productions", 1960's, "The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll", it wasn't until he co-starred as "Leon", the young man suffering from 1961's, "The Curse of the Werewolf", that Reed gained international recognition. Oliver Reed had just co-starred with Peter Cushing in a variation of British author Russell Thorndyke's character of "Dr. Syn", in 1962's, "Captain Clegg" aka: "Night Creatures". Reed followed this feature with "Hammer's" excellent psycho variation, 1963's, "Paranoiac".

Comparison of the Novel to the 1961 Screenplay With Spoilers:

This will not be as detailed as with the "The Midwich Cuckoos", but I'm able to give my readers some bare points of comparison. I was partly able to establish the story from the above mentioned review by Murray Ewing.

The main character of the novel is proper Englishman, "Simon Largwell". However, for the screenplay the character was turned into a divorced, American Insurance Executive, named "Simon Wells".

The novel opens with "Simon Wells" stabbing his wife, who lives long enough to inform the police. Later, it will be learned that "Simon" came home to discover his wife with another man and that it was she that attacked him with the knife. "Simon", in self-defense, accidentally stabs his wife and fled in panic. He borrowers a car from a friend and heads down the English coast line.

"Simon" comes upon a gang of psychotic young people led by a young man calling himself "Caesar". The other members of his gang have taken names from the works of William Shakespeare and the gang, itself, is called "The Borgia's". "The Borgia's" rob "Simon" of all his money, severally beat him up, and discover the police are looking for him for the murder of his wife. They realize that once captured, "Simon Largwell" will be tried, convicted of murder and hanged. However, they have never seen a hanging and decide to use "Simon" as a test subject. It is at this point, that "Caesar's" sister, "Joan", is able to rescue him and the two go on the run from her brother. Who is pursuing them, because "Joan" could reveal to the police everything she knows about "The Borgia's" and must be stopped at all cost. 

The screenplay opens with American "Simon Wells" sailing down the English coast line. He docks at Weymouth and on the boardwalk spots a 20-year-old young woman named "Joan".

Next, "Simon" sees "Joan" at a local pub and she lures him to a somewhat secluded spot, where he is attacked by a group of young bikers. They rob the American tourist and severely beat him up. 

"Simon Wells" is rescued by a scientist named "Bernard", one of his associates, and "Bernard's" friend and mistress, the sculptress, "Freya".

The next day, "Joan" appears at the dock and ask forgiveness from "Simon". She comes onboard his boat and reveals that the leader of the bikers is named "King", and is her half-brother.

"Simon" accepts "Joan's" apology and the two go out on the ocean. Where "Joan" continues to tell "Simon" how her half-brother abuses her. Next, "Simon" suggests that the two leave England together, but "Joan" wants to return to shore. They were spotted by one of the biker gang and when they return, "King" is waiting for them.          

"Joan" leaves the boat to protect "Simon", and goes with "King". Who threatens his half-sister over her apparent interest in the American tourist.


What is now implied is that there's an incestuous relationship between brother and half-sister. Which is a controlling factor for "King", but now "Simon" has entered the picture. "King" pushes "Joan" too far and she goes to "Simon". The two are now being pursued by "Joan's" half-brother, obsessed by the sexual relationship he has had with her and has lost. "Simon" and "Joan" meet "Freya" and are able to hide-out in "Freya's" studio. 

In the novel "Caesar" does not go in pursuit of "Joan" and "Simon", but hires a local reporter named "Johnny Parks" to locate the murderer and his sister. "Caesar" awaits a report from "Parks", before he acts.

It is at this point that "The Children of Light" are introduced.

In the novel, there is no character named "Freya", "Simon" and "Joan" are on the run through the English countryside and come upon a War Department enclosure with signs clearly marking it as a mine field, but the two enter the enclosure anyway believing they're safer from any pursuit by "Caesar".

Next, walking in an area that clearly is not mined and seems to be just English countryside, the two fall into a deep manmade pit, and "Simon" breaks his arm. The 14 "Children" appear in the pit, their home, and are all 10-years-old with platinum blond hair. Quoting Murray Ewing, who after seven-and-a-half-years of searching found a used copy of the novel:
It's The Midwich Cuckoos again, only through radioactive disaster, rather than alien invasion.
One of the "Children", who is already a qualified doctor, administers an advance healing drug to "Simon" that will bond his bones in weeks, rather than the normal months. 

In the screenplay in a near-by oceanside cave live 9, eleven-years-old"Children, not platinum blonde's being cared for by men wearing protective radiation suits and being taught by automated teachers. However, on a television screen is seen "Bernard", who is in charge of this project. The "Children" are otherwise cut off from the outside world, the cave is their world and they believe it is part of a giant space ship traveling to a new planet to save mankind.

Meanwhile "King' is searching for his sister and comes to "Freya's" studio looking for information, but finds that "Joan" and "Simon" are no longer there.

Forcing information from "Freya", "King" now locates the "Joan" and "Simon" at a cliff-side house. The two have just had sex, which leads to an almost violent confrontation between the three. "King" decides to leave, but has his gang surround the house and keep watch on the two inside.

However, "King's" bikers are not that good at keeping his sister and her lover from escaping the cliff-side house and "King" now has to go back to pursuing them. The two enter a restricted military base and at a steep cliff start to descend to the beach below and perceived safety. While the trailing "King" reaches them and a fight insures. All three now fall down the cliff onto the beach and "King" is stunned by it. "Simon" and "Joan" realized they are in front of a cave entrance and enter, attempting to escape and hide from her half-brother. "King", who is getting up from the fall, saw them enter the cave. Inside the large cave opening, is a network of smaller caves, and the two arrive at a military bunker, as "King" catches up. 

The three stare in disbelief at nine "Children" in what appears to be a high-tech school room with video surveillance cameras.  However, the "Children" have one secret room without a camera, that they believe "Bernard" and his team are unaware of, and it is there that they take their three visitors. 

The "Children" smuggle food to their guests and it is made clear they know nothing of the outside world.They have never been in the outer tunnels, or left the bunker through the cave entrance.

The "Children" show their visitors mementos of what they believe are things that belonged to their unknown parents. These include photos cut out by "Bernard's" team from magazines of their supposed parents. 

Having met the "Children", and witnessing the extreme indoctrination measures being taken by "Bernard" for some bizarre experiment. "Simon" and "Joan" agree to rescue the "Children" and take them to the world they've never known. After much pushing, "King" agrees to help them, and the three plan their escape from this military compound. 

The reason the "Children" exist is different between the novel and the screenplay.

According to the screenplay the British government plans on surviving a nuclear war. Before the nine "Children" were born, their mothers were exposed to high levels of radiation without their knowledge and may have also died later. Their nine baby's are Britain's insurance policy for the survival of the British way of life, because the "Children" can now survive the high levels of radiation from a nuclear war. "Bernard's" teachings are indoctrinating the "Children" in what the British government wants that future society to be.

According to the novel the idea of a nuclear war is put aside and nuclear testing takes center stage. With all the tests of nuclear devices going back to the development of the first atomic bomb. Each test has released radiation into the atmosphere and the amount of radiation keeps increasing in size and power, not dissipating. The people living in the high mountain areas are slowly becoming sterile and the sterilization of the human race is slowing moving down from the highest mountain peaks. In the novel, the twelve "Children" were created as the hope for the future and the survival of the British way of life, or what the British government wants to be that way of life. The existence of the "Children" has been kept secret to avoid other nations from interfering with Britain's plan for survival.

In the novel, reporter "Johnny Parks" learns the truth about the creation of the "Children". They are, "The Race", who, among other points, will remember the past, but be free for the first time in man's history to form a healthy, society of intelligent Beings, who knows every science, and isn't tied to religious superstitions, and racial pride.  

"Johnny Parks" further finds out that only the boys have been given surnames, the girls are for breeding and will marry and get their last name. However, one of the boy's names stands out to "Parks", he is GEORGE ORWELL.

The Climax:

In the novel according to Murray Ewing:

"Bernard" is a government official whose only role is to oversee "Project Mannikin", protecting the "Children" the government has created. He is driven by his hope for the future United Kingdom the government wants from them. "Bernard" refers to himself and those who work for him as "The Custodians of Human Heritage".

In the screenplay:

"Bernard" appears to have some human touches that are related to his loving mistress"Freya", but this disappears at the climax. When he unemotionally kills her, because she's a liability,.

In the novel the remains of a man and woman are found blown apart from a mine on War Department land. The man is identified by a silver cigarette lighter belonging to "Simon Largwell", case closed for the police in their murder investigation. However, "Caesar" knows this cannot be true, because he stole the lighter earlier. He smells a government cover-up, but needs to find out if "Joan" is still alive and can tell the police about his crimes. "Caesar" is eventually killed, but I could not locate the specifics of that death.

Meanwhile, "Johnny Parks" enters the War Department enclosure and finds "Simon", and "Joan", who are being held in there by "Bernard". "Johnny" had planned to help "Simon" and "Joan" escape from "Bernard" and his government soldier guards. He wants them to help sell his story about the "Children" to a major London newspaper, but one of the "Children", "Sylvia", who wants to see the outside world, joins the three adults. Having not read the novel, according to Murray Ewing, the last quarter of the novel is the escape back to London and how each of the four are silenced by "Bernard".

In the screenplay "Simon", "Joan", and "King" are showing signs of being sick, but from what? "Bernard" reveals to the "Children" that he has always known about their secret place. In rage, the "Children" destroy all the video cameras and related television equipment, "Bernard" reacts by sending men wearing radiation protective suits into the bunker to stop the "Children" and the three adults.

"Simon" and "King" over power the men who have a geiger counter, and with it, "Simon" discovers that the "Children" are radioactive and the source of the three adult's being sick. As the "Children" are being lead out of the cave by them, more soldiers in radiation suits appear, along with "Bernard" and his assistant. In the confusion, "Joan" takes a young girl, who wanted to see the outside world, to the cliffs to view the sea, but both are recaptured.

Also in the confusion, "King" takes one of the boys and is able to escape in a car. His radiation sickness will take over the one time gang leader and the car will crash killing him, but the boy will be recaptured. 

In the end, "Simon" and "Joan" escape into the Atlantic Ocean with his boat. "Bernard" lets them go, knowing they will be dead soon from the radiation poisoning. With all the "Children" accounted for and back in the bunker, "Bernard" orders the cave dynamited and the "Children" left inside without a source of fresh air to eventually die. The British government project is officially closed for the moment.

I now return to what is considered the only sequel to 1960's, "Village of the Damned".

CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED released in the United States, on January 10, 1964

Above the original United States poster, and below the original United Kingdom poster.

I want to bring my reader's attention to the "Tag Lines" on both posters. They show that the two "MGM" publicity departments had taken the same positions on this feature as the 1960 film. In the United States the movie was science fiction, but in the United Kingdom the movie was horror.

The United States tag line is:

An obvious variation on the their tag line for the"Village of the Damned", that read:


The United Kingdom tag line is:

THEY CAME TO CONQUER THE WORLD...too young, to innocent, so utterly dangerous.

 The British tag line is somewhat a variation of the one for "Village of the Damned", that read:

HORROR IS BORN...when their children become things of unspeakable evil!

As to the writing of the screenplay:

"Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" gave John Wyndham credit for the screenplay.

The actual screenplay was written by British television and "B movie writer, John Briley. When he was given the assignment, Briley had only co-written two-comedy movies and one television program. In all he would co-write nineteen screenplays, but they would include 1982's, "Gandhi", and British author James Clavell's, 1986's, "Tai-Pan". 

If an actual sequel was planned, or hoped for by some "MGM" executives after four-years, it wasn't how Briley saw things. Several reviewers state he decided to reimagine "The Midwich Cuckoos", not as an alien invasion film, but a political thriller and go after the politics of the 1960's within a science fiction theme. 

As far as Wyndham's novel went, there were similar versions of the "Children's" birth and Telepathy. However, John Briley depended more on the original screenplay written for 1960's, "Village of the Damned" by Stirling Silliphant, and an idea about those "Children" floated by a scientist that is disregarded by everyone else at a major meeting in it.

The director was Anton Leader, who had been directing strictly television programs since 1955. This was Leader's first and only motion picture in a television directing career that lasted into 1976.

Ian Hendry portrayed "Dr. Tom Lewellyn". American fans of British televisions "The Avengers", may not know that Ian Hendry portrayed "Dr. David Keel", the original main character with Patrick Macnee's, "John Steed", the second lead until Hendry left. He had just starred in the 1963 crime mystery, "The Model Murder Case". He followed this motion picture with 1964's, crime film, "This Is My Street".  

Alan Badel portrayed "Dr. David Neville". Basel started on-screen acting in 1951, and portrayed "John the Baptist", in 1953's, "Salome", starring Rita Hayworth and Stewart Granger. Alan Badel followed this motion picture with the 12-part, 1964, BBC mini-series version of French author Alexander Dumas', "The Count of Monte Cristo", portraying "Edmund Dantes".

Above left, Alan Badel, with Ian Hendry on his right.

Barbara Ferris portrayed "Susan Eliot. She had just been seen in the Janet Munro and Alan Badel, 1963, "Bitter Harvest", and followed this feature film co-starring with Oliver Reed in 1964's, "The System" aka: "The Go-Getters".

Directly standing behind Barbara Ferris is Clive Powell, portraying "Paul", the leader of the "Children". Clive Powell had only one other role, he portrayed the character of "David Zellaby" as a "Toddler", in 1960's "Village of the Damned".


Above, Clive Powell portraying "Paul", below as "David Zellaby". What became of Powell, I could not locate.

A Basic Overview of the Screenplay:

The story opens with an investigation into childhood development by a team of scientists from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), led by doctor "Tom Lewellyn", a psychologist, and geneticist, doctor "David Neville". Their research team's investigation finds six, four boys and two girls, extremely intelligent "Children", that were able to solve an extremely hard brick puzzle in the exact same time to the second

What further piques the interest of "Lewellyn" and "Neville", is that all six children are the same age, born on the same date, but are located in six different country's, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, China, India, and Nigeria. 

The two scientists go to see "Paul", who is located in Great Britain. However, they also meet his mother, "Diana Looran", portray by Sheila Allen. She has been accused by her family, neighbors, and others as having low morals that got her pregnant. Since his birth, she has hated "Paul", and insists to the two investigators that she was never touched by a man. 

Further investigation determines that the other five mothers claim the same thing. After negotiating with the other five countries, all "Six Children" are brought together in London at their country's embassy's.

Meanwhile, two things become apparent to "Neville" and "Lewellyn", first, all the "Children" are telepathic and have been communicating with each other for years. The second, is that "Paul" seems to be able to control his aunt, "Susan Elliot".

Above left to right, Alan Baden, Ian Henry, Martin Miller portraying "Professor Gruber", Barbara Ferris, and Clive Powell, running genetic tests with "Paul's" co-operation.

However, before a complete study of the "Children" can be done, they all escape their embassy's, where they have been guarded, as each country wants to use their apparent powers, and go to a deserted church in Southwark, London, with "Paul" their appointed leader.

"Paul" telepathically has his aunt come to the church and she becomes the protector and intermediary for the "Children". Getting them blankets and arranging for food to be left in front of the church doors.

Meanwhile, the military and the British intelligence service are debating the powers of the six children and if they should be destroyed. While, "Lewellyn" and "Neville" are looking at the same six "Children" from the opposite view and continue to study their development and are concerned about "Susan's" safety and the control "Paul" has on her. However, an incident takes place and one of the six is accidentally killed by a soldier and this changes the dynamics for "Paul" and the other remaining "Children".

They now create a very complex sonic wave machine for their own protection and start standing guard on the roof of the church and at the front and back entrances.

Other incidents take place and their governments attempt to take each child back for experimentation and some people are killed by the children. However, the military realizes that the "Children" only kill with their sonic weapon when they are attacked and their own lives are in danger.

"Tom Lewellyn" makes a passionate plea for the "Children" to return to their own embassies and they seem to follow his request. However, they've sensed he was being misled by their respective countries. Yet, they do return to their embassies, but telepathically they make certain officials and scientists wanting to experiment on them, kill themselves. After which, the "Children" return to the church.

The Too Short Ending:

"Lewellyn" pleads with the British government to treat the "Children" fairly, but his own scientific team makes the discovery that the cells in the "Children's" blood are not human and the "Children" pose a direct threat to the world. The government and military make the hasty decision that the "Children" must be destroyed! "Lewellyn" and "Neville" argue over the decision.

"David Neville" goes into the church and gets "Susan Eliot" out as a bomb is being planted by the military. 

As "David" and "Susan" stand in the rain opposite the church, while army colonel, doctor "Tom Lewellyn" and the military commander, portrayed by Patrick Wymark, look down at the front door of the church from the second story of the building across the street.

The heavy door opens and the "Children" start coming out, one, two, three, four, five, and six? The supposed dead boy isn't dead as the scientists, government officials, and the military believed. Death to the "Children" is different and the believed dead, was only healing with the appearance of death upon him.

The military start to move in on the "Children", suddenly word is received, there has been a mistake!
The military commander and "Lewellyn" are informed that the "Children are Human"! Advanced from 1964 humans by one-million-years. 

Knowing what the two are reading, "Paul" tells those within hearing of his voice that the "Children" had already reached a decision. Their living with the primitive humans around them is incompatible, therefore, they will lower their defenses and sacrifice themselves. 

However, the military commander orders the attack aborted, but fate, or something else takes place. A screwdriver left near the bomb falls on it and the church blows up killing the "Six Children".

There was an interesting premise here, but never really developed with an unsatisfying ending in my opinion.

Whether my reader buys into my "Village of the Damned Trilogy", or considers these three motion pictures just separate entries, I have done my job of expressing the possibility.

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