Ian Hendry, Alan Badel and Alfred Burke – Children Of The Damned [1963] – Film Review

Picture above: Everything stops for tea (from l-r) – Ian Hendry, Alan Badel and Alfred Burke

This article includes a review of the film, Children Of The Damned [1963] followed by brief biographies on the actors, Alan Badel and Alfred Burke.

Children of the Damned is a 1963 British black-and-white science fiction film, a thematic sequel to 1960’s Village of the Damned, which concerns a group of children with similar psi-powers to those in the earlier film. It was released in 29th January 1964 in the US. The film enables a interpretation of the children as being a good and more pure form of human being than evil and alien. Children of the Damned was an MGM Production, directed by Anton M. Leader and featured actors Ian Hendry, Alan Badel, Barbara Ferris, Alfred Burke and Patrick Wymark.

Video: Original Trailer – Children of the Damned [1963]

This very thoughtful review below is from the the Patrick Wymark Boardroom Website, which celebrates the life and work of the actor.  Wymark also appeared with Ian Hendry in two other films, Repulsion directed by Roman Polanski [1965] and Doppleganger directed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson [1969]  – also know as Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun.



Children of The Damned – Film Review

By The Patrick Wymark Boardroom Website

Spoiler alert: If you plan on watching the film, this review contains some key plot details.

“During a United Nations study of child intelligence, London University psychologist Tom Llewellyn (Ian Hendry) is astounded by child genius Paul (Clive Powell). Senior lecturer in genetics Dr David Neville (Alan Badel) wants to find out more about Paul’s background but when his mother (Sheila Allen) tells him “I should have crushed you at birth”, the child compels her to attempt suicide.

As the United Nations identify five other children from around the world with intelligence equal to Paul, Colin Webster (Alfred Burke) of British Intelligence moves in to “protect our asset”. The children escape to an abandoned church in East London and violently resist all attempts to control them. As the army moves in to destroy the children, Tom Llewellyn makes a desperate attempt to protect them.

Picture: Ian Hendry and Alan Badel – Children of the Damned [1963]

This 1964 sequel to “Village of the Damned” (1960) is an original screenplay by John Briley, a former staff writer at MGM who went on win an Oscar for his screenplay for “Ghandi”.

The credits refer to the film as a sequel to “The Midwich Cuckoos”, perhaps mindful that John Wyndham had attempted an abortive sequel – “Midwich Main” – at MGM’s behest. However, Briley’s script makes no reference to “Village of the Damned” and can be viewed without any knowledge of the previous movie. While it’s possible to speculate that the UN study was purposely seeking further outbreaks of “cuckoos”, speculation within the movie suggests the origins of the children could be unrelated. Director Anton Leader (who as Tony Leader directed The Twilight Zone and Hawaii 5-0) drives the move forward forcefully but still leaves room for speculation as to where the story is heading. Early on, Ian Hendry asks the children why they’re here and they answer, “we don’t know.”

Towards the end of the movie – surrounded by soldiers armed with rifles and rocket launchers – a UN representative repeats “What is your purpose – why are you here?” This time, lining up in front of the soldiers, the children have an answer: “For the same reason you are. To be destroyed. You may choose your way. We have chosen ours “

Earlier on, Badel had warned Hendry, “Either we control them or they control us. It’s the law of nature, Tom. Ask any ape.” The implication is that the children – whatever they are – find freedom more precious than life. Earlier on, Badel’s character had questioned the Government’s ambition to exploit the children’s advanced scientific knowledge, “Suppose all they want to be is poets, or lovers, or even tramps.” But having seen them resist attacks with mind-control and a mysterious sonic weapon, Badel is swayed to the government’s side. “They could be controlling a bomber up there, ready to press the button!”

Picture: [from l-r] Alfred Burke, Alan Badel and Ian Hendry – Children of the Damned [1963]

In a similar vein Hendry asks Burke’s intelligence agent, “What the hell would you do if all the great powers suddenly smiled at each other; had a great love affair?” Burke deadpans, “I wouldn’t worry too much. You know how love affairs go.”

Patrick Wymark only appears in the last fifteen minutes of the movie as the General in charge of the army unit surrounding the children. The role marks a crossover – filmed before he assumed the role of John Wilder in “The Plane Makers but released in April 1964 after the series had made Wymark a star. He carries out the role with quiet authority, rather than the stereotypical psychopathic behaviour which military officers display in more recent science fiction movies. Wymark’s entrance comes at a crucial point after the children have wiped out most of the politicians who seek to control them. Leader devotes extensive footage to the procedures of the engineers as they rig explosives and test circuits. “I want plenty of distraction, “ Wymark tells his men, Keep those vehicles moving til we’re ready.”.

Even in its final moments, there is some ambiguity about “Children of the Damned”. A technician accidentally closes a circuit, triggering a final assault. On first viewing it seems as if the ending is just a terrible mistake. But is it actually a final piece of mind control by the children? Curiously, the film has as much in common with Briley’s 1978 adaptation of Peter Van Greenaway’s novel, “The Medusa Touch”. Both feature scenes in which a child uses telepathic powers to threaten his mother after she has criticised him. Both display a curious ambiguity – Richard Burton in “The Medusa Touch” questions why he has been given his powers which always seem to result in disaster, while the spokesperson for the “Children of the Damned” admits that they have no plan.

Picture: Angst ridden –  Ian hendry and Barbara Ferris – Children of the Damned [1963]

“Children of the Damned” might also seem like a precursor of “The Omen” – certainly the baleful glare of Harvey Stephens as Damien in “The Omen” echoes the furrowed brow of young Clive Powell – Paul in Children of the Damned. The helpless terror of the scene where Paul’s mother (played by Sheila Allen) seems to dream her suicidal walk into a road tunnel is very similar to the self-destructions in “The Omen”. Although Allen survives, she is hospitalised – bandaged and encased in plaster in a way that visually anticipates Lee Remick towards the end of the 1976 movie. Allen’s cries of, “He isn’t mine! I gave birth to him but I hadn’t been touched! He hasn’t got a father!” are also reminiscent of the speculation about Damien Thorne’s parentage.” Damien’s canine familiars also echo the faithful, snarling sheepdog which accompanies the children to their abandoned church.

If there are similarities between “The Omen” and “Children of the Damned” though, the main difference seems to be that Damien follows a scheduled rise to power, aided by a coven of supernatural groupies, while the Children of the Damned, are lost and bewildered, unsure of their purpose until the very end.”

Alan Badel – Biography

Alan Fernand Badel (11 September 1923 – 19 March 1982) was an English stage actor who also appeared frequently in the cinema, radio and television and was noted for his richly textured voice which was once described as “the sound of tears”. Badel was born in Rusholme, Manchester, and educated at Burnage High School. He fought in France and Germany during the Second World War, serving as a paratrooper on D-Day.

In his early career, he played leading parts, including Romeo and Hamlet, with the Old Vic and Stratford companies.

Picture: Alan Badel

Badel’s earliest film role was as John the Baptist in the Rita Hayworth version of Salome (1953), a version in which the story was altered to make Salome a Christian convert who dances for Herod in order to save John rather than have him condemned to death. He portrayed Richard Wagner in Magic Fire (1955), a biopic about the composer. He also played the role of Karl Denny, the impresario, in the film Bitter Harvest (1963). Around the same time, he played opposite Vivien Merchant in a television version of Harold Pinter’s play The Lover (also 1963) and as Edmond Dantès in a BBC television adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (1964).

Badel also played the villainous sunglasses-wearing Najim Beshraavi in Arabesque (1966) with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. He played the French Interior Minister in The Day of the Jackal (1973), a political thriller about the attempted assassination of President Charles de Gaulle; in the political television drama Bill Brand (1976) he played David Last, the government’s Employment Minister, a left-wing former backbench MP who had recently joined the front bench after 30 years in the House of Commons. One of his last roles was that of Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg in the Paramount film Nijinsky (1980). A television adaptation for the BBC of The Woman in White (1982) by Wilkie Collins, in which Badel played the role of Count Fosco, was shown posthumously.

Badel married the actress Yvonne Owen in 1942 and they remained married until his death from a heart attack in Chichester, aged 58. Their daughter Sarah Badel is an actress.

Alfred Burke – Biography

Alfred Burke (28 February 1918 – 16 February 2011)[1] was an English actor, best known for his portrayal of Frank Marker in the drama series Public Eye, which ran on television for ten years.

Picture: Alfred Burke

Born in London’s south-east district of Peckham, young Alfred was the son of Sarah Ann O’Leary and William Burke. He was educated at Leo Street Boys’ School and Waltham Central School. He started work aged 14, working in a railway repair firm in the City of London after leaving school. He became a club steward and also worked in a silk warehouse, joining a local amateur dramatics group before moving to Morley College and winning a scholarship to RADA in 1937. His acting career started two years later at the Barn Theatre in Shere, Surrey. His budding career was interrupted by the Second World War, when he registered as a conscientious objector, and was directed to work on the land.

In the late 1940s, he worked with the Young and Old Vic and other companies. His London debut was in 1950 at the Watergate Theatre, appearing in Pablo Picasso’s play Desire Caught by the Tail. He then spent three years with Birmingham Repertory Theatre (1950–53) and appeared in the 1954 West End hit Sailor Beware!.
Burke built a solid reputation across a wide range of character roles in films and on television. His acting career included: The Angry Silence, Touch and Go, Interpol, Yangtse Incident and Buccaneers, as well as such televised plays as The Tip and Treasure Island.

His most famous role was the enquiry agent Frank Marker in the ABC/Thames television series Public Eye, which ran from 1965 to 1975. His low-key, understated but always compelling portrayal of the down-at-heel private eye made the series one of the most popular and highly rated detective dramas on British television.

After Public Eye ended Burke appeared in a host of guises, from Long John Silver to Pope John Paul II’s father. In the television series Minder he appeared in the episode Come in T-64, Your Time Is Ticking Away as Kevin, partner to Arthur Daley in his latest scheme, a minicab service. He was also the formidable headmaster “Thrasher” Harris in Home To Roost. More recently he was seen as Armando Dippet in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

On stage Burke appeared in several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Roberto Zucco, The Tempest, Peer Gynt, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, Two Shakespearean Actors, All’s Well That Ends Well and Antony and Cleopatra. In 2008 he appeared at the National Theatre as the Shepherd in a new version of Sophocles’ Oedipus by Frank McGuinness.

Burke died from a chest infection on 16 February 2011, twelve days before his 93rd birthday, and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. He was survived by his wife, Barbara (née Bonelle) and their four children: Jacob and Harriet (twins), and Kelly and Louisa (twins).

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Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Tribute To Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read: ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

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