Movie Reviews 89 – Village of the Damned (1960)

Village of the DamnedVillage of the Damned is not only one of my favorite movies, but also based on a great novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham.  Growing up reading horror mags, the pictures of the “Village” kids featuring a handful of Aryan blonde boys and girls with emotionless faces and those creepy glowing white eyes was always something that made me wonder what the movie was like.  More science fiction that horror, the story begins with the English town of Midwich mysteriously ‘going to sleep’ in mid stride one summer day. Those outside the town can easily delineate the invisible ‘line’ that, once passed, renders the person unconscious. They even go so far as to paint a line on the ground while the try to figure out what is going on. Then as suddenly as the event started a few hours earlier, everyone in the town revives and slowly realizes that they had been out.

While the mystery is questioned by everyone, after a few months of normal living, the event is soon forgotten. That is until yet another mystery arises. It seems every woman of childbearing age finds themselves pregnant. At first it seems a blessing to those who found themselves infertile before, a truly magnificent miracle in fact. But on the other hand there is a disturbing string of accusations of infidelity and claims of virgin pregnancies. Needless to say, quick calculations reveal that the pregnancies coincide with the mysterious day in which the town succumbed to the unconscious mystery.

But there is much more to the pregnancies. For one, they are accelerated and the kids are born prematurely but perfectly developed. Too perfect in retrospect. The children are all prodigies and highly developed compared to ‘normal’ children. Hanging around as a unit, silent but in evident communication with one another, the most troubling aspect is that they are not only telekinetic but can assert mind control over others as if under a spell. Shunned and castigated by most of the townsfolk, they are segregated into a schoolhouse as the town tries to determine what  they really are, be it the next stage of human evolution, aliens, or just evil.

Damned kids

One of the aspects that heighten the tension is that the mystery origin of the kids is largely left unexplained and left to the audience to decide upon. The fact that some of the townsfolk are more open minded and try to accept the children while others vilify them presents an interesting rift that depends on how the viewer themselves see the kids. Are they simply protecting themselves and abusing their powers innocently, only being children after all? Or are they really evil and intent on world domination? It’s that wide a brush that can be argued one way or the other. Malice intent or not, one thing is clear and that is you don’t want to get on their wrong side.

Aside from the creepy children themselves putting in an admirable performance, George Sanders as one of the parents and the eventual chosen tutor is the star and standout of the movie. The final scene determining the fate of the children is riveting.  So whether you are in for the Science Fiction or for the horror, you will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.

I’ve got the 1995 remake sitting on my shelves as well and will be watching that soon. But I really can’t see it doing any better than this.

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