Village of the Damned (1960) – Wolf Rilla

 

The Sci-Fi Chronicles plunges me into B-movie horror filled with creepy blonde-haired children in this classic that is still a little unnerving. Based on the novel, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham this one still has the power to make the viewer uneasy.

Strange things are afoot in the English village of Midwich when the entire town collapses for several hours, and then nine months later, all the women, capable of it, are pregnant, and end up giving birth to children with uncanny powers.

Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn), a military officer is trying to investigate the strange collapse of the people of the village, while Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) who lives there finds himself surrounded by terror as his wife, Anthea (Barbara Shelley) and the other bear the fruits of some insidious plan.

Of course, some of the women are rather troubled by the fact that they are pregnant, there are virgins, hidden affairs… but as the village realizes that every woman became pregant on the same day, fear and dread begin to worm their way across the screen as everyone begins to wonder what they will give birth to. Both the pregnancies and the children’s growth are accelerated, and very quickly they begin exhibiting strange abilities.

They are smarter than the average child, even the average adult, very quickly, and telepathic as well, able to enforce their will on others, and they seem to have a malicious streak, being kind only to Zellaby.

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In typical English, and scientific, fashion they debate about what can and should be done, and decide to give Zellaby a year to study them and ascertain who and what they are, while walking the fine line of threat and menace that they present.

It’s a rather dark, and unnerving film, especially when the children begin to take over the village, and know about their brethern around the planet as their powers grow.

It’s slower paced than one would expect, but it’s short runtime still means that it passes by fairly quickly. It’s rather troubling how disturbing this film is some 55 years on and not to mention the rather dire ending of the film.

I found this one pretty engaging and definitely a lot of fun, even if the glowing eyes of the children is done by superimposing flickering eyes atop a still photograph. It’s easy to see why this one is creepy, and why it was given an updated treatment in the 90s, the version I’m familiar with, by John Carpenter.

The truth of where the children come from is never discovered. It’s hinted at, and that is more troubling, because it leaves it all to the imagination. I think though, that this one could have been drawn out a little more and turned just as much into a psychological horror as it is a B-movie science fiction film.

There are some truly frightening ideas at the heart of this film, and perhaps that is why it still scares people today.

village-of-the-damned-Stephens-and-Sanders

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