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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beware Those Eyes --- They Paralyze!


That Damned Title Nearly Made Me Miss It

Out come footie pajamas as I relate desperation to go and see Children Of The Damned in '64 despite a title guaranteeing parental ban. What responsible elder would surrender his/her child to children being damned? I contrived a speech and time alone to reason my mother toward acquiescence, which remarkably came ten or so minutes into presentation. Should I have expected different? --- she after all took me to see Brides Of Dracula and Pit and The Pendulum, these perhaps goodwill residue of her own first-run exposure to Mystery Of The Wax Museum and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde years before (I never argued with parents knocking my generation's popular culture in favor of their own --- right is right after all). Children Of The Damned was finessed by TV spots to look like a scariest show yet made, the must-see test of a nine-year-old's courage. Nice to find, forty-nine sessions later, a thoughtful and at times droll-witted Brit thriller that was sold for sensation, but plays adult from start to sobering finish. US-distributing MGM put winter push on "Eyes That Paralyze" and promised stark horror for cerebral sci-fi they'd actually deliver. That didn't bother me --- just getting inside the Liberty was triumph enough. For a very modest $432K spent, Metro brought back $1.2 million worldwide ($923K in US rentals --- how many UK genre pics accomplished that?). Warners has a first-rate combo DVD, with Village Of The Damned as warm-up.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer explains how come he missed "Children Of The Damned" in 1964:


The television commercials for "Children of the Damned" played upon the "Eyes that Paralyze" theme, the children taking control of others, especially adults, with that wide-eyed, unblinking stare, but also upon the unearthly beauty of the children themselves. Together, there was ineffable sense of weirdness about it, probably intertwined with a burgeoning, nascent sexuality. Certainly I had to see it and indeed, for a day or so, it seemed that I would. My friend Andy and I were very definitely going to attend the matinee that Saturday at the Fox Theatre, where it was going to be shown. I lived for it. On the very morning of the show, however, my mother took a telephone call. There was a brief conversation, but evidently it was not good news. Certainly not for me. She hung up and told me that she'd spoken with Andy's mother and they agreed that this was not a movie the two of us should see. I protested, but to no avail. Two queens always beats two jacks in any hand. No doubt our mothers were right, however. I really wanted to see it for all the reasons they didn't think it would be good for me. And to this day, for chance or circumstance, I have not. But perhaps I've at last matured enough to enjoy it on some other, better level. Perhaps. At any rate, I've the discretion now, if rarely the time.

Daniel

4:33 PM  
Blogger opticalguy said...

As I have commented elsewhere (CHFB boards) I saw CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED on its initial theatrical release (and quite often on TV)and although it entertained well enough was definitely a minor effort.

Seeing it recently on TCM I was surprised at how little of it I retained and buy the overall look of the film. Decay, poverty, dirt, and despair were the unavoidable elements in the film. I know the UK was only beginning to recover from WW2 but the film screams "England has had it!" The two male leads live together (some people saw a gay relationship but I saw poverty) even though they are supposedly getting better than average wages. The mother of the English "child of the damned" hates her son apparently because she gave birth to him out of wedlock and couldn't hope to marry out of the grinding poverty in which they live. The children hole up in a ruined church that is empty of worshipers and purpose … one assumes that it's Church of England. One of the characters says (upon visiting the church), "They really should do something about religion in this country." What? Declare it dead?

Even the blankets and other supplies the kids steal so they can live in the church aren't English … they're US Navy surplus. Apparently this English film (directed by an American) posits that England is totally over.

They ditch "the kids are fathered by aliens" storyline (a reaction to foreigners like Americans fathering children with English women during the war?)in favor of the kids being "an evolutionary advancement of the human race" and that is regarded as a very bad thing. Hopelessness and failure pervades everything.

Man I'm glad I missed most of that when I was a kid.

9:27 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Very good points, Spencer. I hadn't looked at COTD that way before, but certainly will from now on.

9:45 AM  

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