This 1958 Paramount production directed by Jack Arnold gets its DVD debut courtesy of Olive Films, who continue to release some interesting catalogue titles previously hidden away in Paramount's vaults. This seventy minute quickie follows Dave Brewster (Adam Williams) who has just taken a new job at the Eagle Point Missile Project being hosted on a military base. He takes his wife, Anne (Peggy Webber) and sons, Bud (Michel Ray) and Ken (Johnny Crawford), off to their new digs in hopes that they'll all adapt easily and live happily ever after.
Shaking up in a trailer, never ideal, they nevertheless seem to take an unusually quick shine to their new home, particularly Bud and Ken, who find themselves almost instantly popular with the other half a dozen or so kids who hang around the area. Every night the kids hang out at a cave not far from where all the other scientists and employees at the base live, and one night they see a white light blast out of the sky. They head to where it lands and are understandably surprised to discover that a giant glowing space brain has landed! That's not all, though - the giant space brain is able to control the minds of the kids in the area and it uses Bud as its right hand man. It seems the space brain knows all about the missile project that the kids' parents are all working on and it intends to stop them from following through with it. Eventually Dave finds out about the brain and tells his boss but by then it's grown to rather massive proportions and the behavior of the neighborhood children becomes increasingly more and more bizarre...
Arnold directs the movie with enough style and control that it turns out to be completely watchable, if far from any sort of classic. Performances are fine across the board with a fun cameo from Russell Johnson (instantly identifiable here from his stint on Gilligan's Island worth mention. Adam Williams makes for a pretty solid fatherly type here while both Michael Ray and Johnny Crawford are good as the two main kids. Peggy Miller isn't given as much to do but she's fine in her role, her matronly appearance working in her favor here.
The Space Children is an interesting product of its time, a movie ripe with cold war paranoia and a strong anti-nuke theme running throughout. Made when the threat of the atomic bomb was considerably stronger than it seems to be today despite recent political issues in Iran and North Korea, you can pretty easily see how and why the writers would want to tap into this part of the American subconscious for purposes of creeping out the audience. The intelligent side of the film more or less ends with that idea, however, as the bulk of the picture is a fairly standard low budget monster movie, the kind we've seen plenty times before and since.
That's not to say that The Space Children, which blends elements of Children Of The Damned with more traditional sci-fi movie trappings, isn't entertaining - it definitely is - but sometimes it's for the wrong reasons. The actual brain creature itself, as cool looking as it is in a retro sort of way, is quite obviously made out of rubber and foam and the rest of the effects don't fare a whole lot better. If they were passable by the standards of the day, time has not been all that kind to them, though they definitely do add to the movie's period charm. The film could have maybe moved at a slightly faster pace than it does, which is saying something when you consider that it runs less than seventy minutes, but all in all it's a fun time killer.
The Space Children looks pretty good here in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen. The black and white image shows some mild print damage here and there but is generally in pretty nice shape throughout and shows good contrast levels. Detail isn't bad, black levels are fairly strong and there are no issues with compression issues or edge enhancement to note.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is fine, offering up the movie with clean, clear dialogue and nicely balanced levels. A little bit of distortion creeps into the mix once or twice but if you're not listening for it you probably won't notice it. Overall, the movie sounds just fine even if it is understandably limited in rage by the original elements. There are no alternate language options or subtitles or any kind provided.
Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, this disc is completely barebones. There are no extra features.
The Space Children is no lost masterpiece of vintage science fiction cinema but it is entertaining enough and worth a watch for fans of the genre even if it is a little bit on the slow side. Olive's DVD debut of the movie is a welcome one, providing a nice transfer and decent audio, but couldn't they have at least included a trailer? Recommended for sci-fi enthusiasts, a fun rental for the masses.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.