The Space Children

The sci-fi / horror movies of the 50’s used just about every kind of alien baddie you can think of.  There were giant insects, monster plants, you name it.  But 1958’s “The Space Children” has, perhaps, some of the strangest villains in B-movie history.  Are you ready for a glowing pulsing jelly bean that controls the minds of a small army of children?

The story takes place on a southern California military base that sits right on the Pacific coast.  Numerous families of scientists and researchers live in trailers just off the beach.  This brain trust has been gathered to work on a rocket called the “Thunderer” which will orbit the earth carrying a weapon with the ability to wipe out an entire city.  A new arrival to the base is the Brewster family, including their two young sons Bud (Michael Ray) and Ken (Johnny Crawford).  Things get weird for the family shortly before they arrive on the base, as the boys spot a strange light from the sky shining down on the beach.  This strange light also seems to have the ability to shut down the electrical system of the family car.

As the family settles in, Mom Anne (Peggy Webber) and Dad Dave (Adam Williams) get to know the neighbors.  Among them is the family of Dave’s co-worker Hank Johnson (Jackie Coogan…yep Uncle Fester) and another family with a violent, drunk stepfather (Russell Johnson…yep The Professor from “Gilligan’s Island”).  And, of course, there are lots of kids.  One night while Bud and Ken play with the other kids in a cave down by the beach, they spot a strange object.  As I said before, it looks like a jelly bean, but about 100 times bigger and growing.  The kids even get dad to bring it back to the trailer for a short time…well wouldn’t you?

Mom doesn’t care much for having slimy glowing thing in her house…er, trailer…so it’s taken back to the cave.  But by this time, strange things have started happening.  The Professor ends up dead after an encounter with the thing, a fuel truck loses control down near the beach, and when Dave tries to tell his superiors about the weird glowing booger, he ends up collapsing in a heap.  Soon they figure out that all these strange events happen in the presence of the children, who seem to be using some sort of telepathy.  So now, the powers that be start to worry that the ultimate goal may be to cause problems with the upcoming launch.

When I think about creepy kids in the movies, my mind goes right to “Village of the Damned.”  This movie actually came first, but it’s creepy kids aren’t all that creepy.  They just kind of stand and stare at things.  But I guess you can’t be all that creepy when you’re mind is being controlled by one of the dullest monsters of the 50’s.  This pulsing glob just glows and gets bigger.  I admit that the alien’s MO is kind of interesting.  I mean (spoiler alert) it ultimately is using violence to bring about its desire for peace.  It’s a hippie terrorist, which could’ve made for and interesting character.  But this alien isn’t a character, it’s a prop…and a poor one at that.

Though the kids are kind of blah, there are some fun moments from the adults…especially the two TV icons from “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Addams Family.”  Jackie Coogan’s encounter with the glowing space phlegm is fun in a goofy sort of way and seeing The Professor as a nasty drunk is a novelty in itself.

With a better alien, “The Space Chiildren” may have been a better film in the end.  As it is, fans of 50’s B-movie sci-fi will find things to enjoy, but most viewers may find it a bit boring.

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