THE SPACE CHILDREN (1958)
Article #241 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 11-12-2001
Posting date: 3-28-2002
A brain from outer space lands on the earth and takes control(?) of children living on a nearby military base.
This Jack Arnold SF movie has always felt pretty dull to me; I never really get attached to or interested in any of the characters (and Peggy Webber’s perpetually worried mother is a major annoyance), and the message is fairly obvious. However, there are a few familiar faces here; Jackie Coogan, Russell Johnson, Johnny Crawford, and the little girl from THEM! are all on hand. As a whole, the movie is like a cross between THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, and VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED .
Recently, a bit of an issue came up about whether the children are acting under the control of the space brain (and though there is some question on this matter, I do consider the space creature a brain) or whether they are acting under their own free will. It’s actually hard to say; the movie really doesn’t allow us to intimately share the feelings and thoughts of the children during the sequences in question. I suspect the writers themselves never really thought much about the question; what concerned them is that the brain should seem scary and evil until the end of the movie, when it should be viewed as wise and benevolent. In other words, I think it’s a flaw in the movie itself. It’s not the first movie I’ve seen with this flaw, nor the worst (THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER, anyone?); it just tries to have it both ways.
P.S. Of all the reviews I’ve written, this is the one for which I’ve received the most email over the years, mostly from people who feel it is clear that the children are acting under their own volition. It hasn’t changed my mind on the matter (though if I do change my mind upon rewatching the movie, I’ll note it here), but I do wish to make at least one extra comment. If you watch this movie when you’re a certain age, the movie has the potential of being a very powerful experience, and I acknowledge that power. I didn’t see it until I was well into adulthood myself.