STARRING: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynne, Laurence Naismith, John Phillips, Richard Vernon, Jenny Laird

1960, 78 Minutes, Directed by: Wolf Rilla

Description: 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 Youth 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 though.

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, Children of the Damned in 1963.

(Incidentally, ain’t Wolf Rilla just the coolest name for a director of a movie like this!)


# 89
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time




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