“Village of the Damned” (1960)

“Village of the Damned” begins on what appears to be an idyllic afternoon, in the English countryside, in the village of Midwich. Gordan Zellaby, portrayed by Oscar winner George Sanders (All About Eve) is talking with his brother-in-law, Major Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn), when their communication is suddenly interrupted. Major Bernard didn’t like the way the phone call ended, and asks permission of his commanding officer, General Leighton (John Phillips), to investigate.

As Major Bernard will soon learn, every person in the town of Midwich has fallen into a state of unconsciousness at the exact same moment. The military springs into action, setting up a blockade, which prevents anyone from entering the village, however, a plane flies too low over the village, and the pilot passes out, causing his plane to crash. The cause of what is taking place in Midwich can’t be determined; however, it is apparently not a harmful gas or toxin, that was released into the atmosphere. Within the span of several hours, the villagers awaken, with no discernible damage to themselves, but also, no recollection of what happened. The full ramifications of their collective unconsciousness, won’t be fully realized until later.

In several months time, the twelve women of childbearing age, who reside in the village, are pregnant. If that didn’t cause enough turmoil, the women, will wind up all giving birth on the same day. Those females include Zellaby’s wife, Anthea (Barbara Shelley). As it turns out, she will give birth to David (Martin Stephens), who will become the leader of the children. The twelve children, six boys and six girls, grow at an alarming rate. Furthermore, they all share the same physical characteristics; pale complexions, platinum blonde hair, high foreheads, and thin fingernails. They shun the other village children, opting to stick only to themselves. In addition, during the runtime of the 77 minute film, the children will demonstrate that they have telepathic abilities. They’re able to communicate with one another, even when far apart, and when one child learns something new, the other children,  instantaneously acquire the same knowledge.

From the moment the children were born, the people of Midwich were seemingly against them, except for Zellaby and his wife. The fear that the children’s presence causes, sets up the second part of the film. The hostility from the villagers, in turn, causes the children to unleash their abilities. When the children use their powers, their eyes glow, and at the same time, a humming noise can be heard. The adults who show distrust and are scornful of the children, are compelled to do things against their will, which results in self-harm. The more the children are antagonized, the more they unleash their powers.

Gordan and Anthea appear to be the only people, in Midwich, who want to find out what the children’s agenda is? Are they on Earth to cause harm? Do they bring knowledge far superior to our own, that can be shared for our betterment? Will Zellaby succeed in finding out the answers, before fear overtakes and destroys Midwich? There are apparently children, like the ones in Midwich, in other parts of the world. How are they behaving? Have they let their intentions be known?  (As an aside: The way the filmmakers were able to make it appear as if the children’s eyes were glowing, was by matting a negative (reversed) image of the actors eyes over their pupils, when they were compelling one of the villagers to do something against their will). 

 

“Village of the Damned” was directed by Wolf Rilla (Strange Affection), who co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar winner Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night), and Ronald Kinnoch (The Ipcress File), who wrote under the pseudonym, George Barclay. The screenplay was based on the 1957 novel “The Midwich Cuckoos,” written by John Wyndham, and published by Michael Joseph. The film premiered in London on June 16, 1960. Director John Carpenter (Halloween) remade the film in 1995. Carpenter’s version was written for the screen by David Himmelstein (My Name is Sara), with additional contributions, although not credited, from Steven Siebert (Pulsebeat) and Larry Sulkis (Ghosts of Mars). The film stared BAFTA winner Christopher Reeve (Superman) and Golden Globe winner Kirstie Alley (Cheers).

The original 1960’s movie, for the most part, contains a captivating plot, and in general, is well paced. The horror, in the atmospheric film, is understated to be sure. There is nothing in the way of gore and blood. Instead, anything that can be perceived as horrific is insinuated. For those seeking horror that is implied as opposed to visceral, and are in the mood to watch a classic of the genre, this should hold your interest.

 

About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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2 Responses to “Village of the Damned” (1960)

  1. Fantastic review (I loved the info aside about the glowing eye effect, very interesting)! I’ve always enjoyed watching ‘Village of the Damned’ and it’s one of I always intended to review myself, eventually. It’s such an atmospheric and simply executed little gem and the children…so creepy!

    There was a sequel, ‘Children of the Damned’ which isn’t anywhere near as effective. I haven’t seen the remake although I believe it isn’t all that good. I should check out the original novel as it’s often cited as a must read.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you for your very kind comment; I appreciate it. I am sorry I didn’t reply back sooner. I thought I had already responded to your comment.

      I couldn’t agree more with your feelings regarding the film.

      I’ve never seen the sequel, but the original novel is something I would very much like to read.

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