TITLE: Village of the Damned
YEAR RELEASED: 1960
DIRECTOR: Wolf Rilla
CAST: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley and Martin Stephens
NIA JONES reviews one of her favourite films, Village of the Damned (1960)
Based on the wonderful novel The Midwich Cuckoos(1957) by John Wyndham,Village of the Damned is a very faithful adaptation of Wyndham’s original novel. The story is so-called because the cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds’ nests so the other bird will do the chick nurturing. Hollywood dropped the novel title and went with “Village of the Damned” , which isn’t too exciting and quite misplaced in my opinion.
The plot for the time was quite an advanced notion, the entire village mysteriously fall into slumber one day and when they awaken; the child bearing women are pregnant with babies that are clearly not of this earth. The children grow up rapidly and have alarmingly similar robotic features with blond hair and steely cold superhuman intelligence.They can force people to obey their every telepathic command; and communicate with each other through mind power.
Shot in black and white ,the scene is noir and serene, the hue eerie and disturbing, Wolf Rilla’s direction has a willingness to take things at a surprisingly relaxed pace with an impending sense of doom. His technique introduces the sci-fi element into an otherwise realistic world, with The Cold War period setting of the movie the narrative unfolds comfortably and assuredly to depict what is a frightening and creepy tale rooting its origins within human hosts, the paranoia this revelation inspires for the viewers is perfectly intentional.
Village of the Damned is a prime example of a solid and concise film narrative, intense enough to chill you to the bone. Simple methods were used to create the alien effects; the children’sg lowing-eyes were achieved by animating overlays of a bright white glowing iris over still frames of the children’s faces. Unlike John Carpenter’s 1995 unnecessary remake, there is no need to employ cheesy B movie tricks to gain special effects.
An unnerving and chilling performance by child actor Martin Stephens, who plays Professor Zellby’s‘ son David, is the perfect spokesman for the clandestine children. George Sanders is excellent as the professor and the rest of the cast provide the supporting roles to make a very British Middle-England horror classic.
A very enjoyable and compelling watch and the original lo-fi alien invasion film offering further evidence it’s the quiet ones we should be afraid of and that extraterrestrial intelligence can take a softly-softly ambush approach as well.
The Midwich Cuckoos is in my top 10 horror novels and I am happy to say Village of the Damned is in my top 10 favourite horror films of all time.
NIA JONES is a Spooky Isles Wales correspondent. She is a freelance writer who has written pieces for The Guardian Community Film Blog’s Clip Joint, Inside Media Track and Reader’s Panel. Follow her on Twitter @niaserenwib. Read her previous articles on Spooky Isles here.