VILLAGE OF THE
STARRING: George Sanders, Barbara
Shelley, Michael Gwynne, Laurence Naismith, John Phillips, Richard Vernon, Jenny
1960, 78 Minutes, Directed by: Wolf Rilla
Based on John Wyndham's 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos, and starring George
Sanders as the most skeptical of the "miracle" parents, Village gets off to a
rousing start when the isolated town of Midwich is cordoned off after some
invisible knockout gas descends from above. A few weeks later, every female of
childbearing age is pregnant. Much anger and consternation ensue, especially in
those families for which the blessed event isn't a blessing. Nine months later:
a town full of blue-eyed, golden-haired cherubs with telekinetic and telepathic
powers. The kids mature at an alarming rate and travel the streets in packs.
Anyone who looks at them sideways meets with a violent accident. Barbara
Shelley, Sanders's wife, is scolded by her child; a motorist who is deemed a
threat winds up driving into a wall.
Considered a sci-fi horror
classic today, Village of the Damned may not be particularly scary by
modern standards, but still warrants a viewing because of some eerily effective opening scenes and its atmospheric Black & White
cinematography. Besides, it has
a classic sci-fi premise, courtesy of John (Day of
the Triffids) Wyndham's 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos.
Like most effective horror
movies Village of the Damned actually preys on modern every-day fears and
insecurities. For instance, Silence of the Lambs isn’t really about
serial killers, but one’s feelings of social inadequacy. Note Hannibal Lector’s
snooty remarks to Clarice Starling about her cheap shoes and perfume in one
scene. Lector encapsulates one’s dread of socially awkward moments especially
when it comes to snobbish intellectuals / bourgeoisie types, which is why he is
such a popular movie villain.
Village of the Damned
plays on our dread of raising emotionally reticent and thankless children
(better known as teenagers). Or maybe that they should grow up to become Hitler
members with amazing superpowers like the kids here, who knows? But this version has a
particularly effective opening scene, some talky bits and an ending that is a
bit anticlimactic. Interesting to note is how slavishly John (The
Thing, Dark Star) Carpenter’s misjudged 1995
Village of the Damned remake followed this movie.
Even though the 1960 version has dated, it is still superior to the 1990s one
Being spoofed in a
Simpsons episode shows that Village of
the Damned has become part of our pop cultural collective consciousness.
However, while it is superior to many genre movies of its era, it simply ain’t that
scary anymore . . .
Followed by a tame sequel,
of the Damned in 1963.
(Incidentally, ain’t Wolf Rilla
just the coolest name for a director of a movie like this!)
Top 100 Sci-Fi
of all time