VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)

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VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960)

Postby Afa Dollah on March 23rd, 2007, 1:45 am

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

1960 78 min. B&W MGM

Dir. Wolf Rilla
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch (as George Barclay)
Based on the novel THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS by John Wyndham

CAST
George Sanders – Prof. Gordon Zellaby
Barbara Shelley – Anthea Zellaby
Martin Stephens – David Zellaby
Michael Gwynne – Maj. Alan Bernard
Laurence Naismith – Doctor Willars

DVD: Warner Bros. Horror Double Feature, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED; CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED. Warnervideo.com

I picked this DVD up awhile back at the local big box electronics store kind of on a whim. I remembered seeing VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, but had no recollection of CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED. I guess over the next couple of days I may discover the reason for that. Anyway, it caught my eye the other day while I was cleaning up, or at least moving clutter around, and I decided to give it another viewing on this rainy afternoon since business stinks on ice.

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED opens on a quiet rural English village called Midwich. A man is on a tractor, plowing a field. It is a lovely day. Professor Gordon Zellaby places a call to his brother in law, Major Alan Bernard. Suddenly, he passes out. Outside, the man on the tractor is unconscious, the tractor moving in circles until it runs over a tree. Gordon’s dog is out. Everyone in town has fainted. Water overflows a tub, an iron burns through some clothing, a gramophone slows and stops. The town clock chimes, showing 11:00 am.

Alan leaves the base for Midwich after talking with General Leighton. He meets a bobby on the road. No one has been able to get through to Midwich by phone, and the bus is late. They see the bus pulled into a ditch, and the bobby approaches. Suddenly he passes out. Alan backtracks and phones the general.

Roadblocks are set up on the roads to the village. There are cows and sheep passed out in the fields. It looks like homecoming at the University of Nebraska. There is a zone around the village where everything inside faints. Dr. Willars arrives. They have been using canaries to determine the edge of the zone, now they tie a rope on a soldier and in he goes. He faints and they drag him out. He is fine, just unconscious, then awakens and is very cold. They send a plane over the village and the pilot reports seeing people lying in the street. On orders from Alan, he descends in altitude until he feels faint. He descends too far and passes out. The plane crashes and explodes. Moments later, the cow wakes up. The people on the bus and the bobby come to. Everyone in the village wakes up.

Gordon wakes and his wife Anthea enters the room. The clock shows 3:00 pm. Alan arrives and tells them the village has been cut off for several hours. The army pulls in and they go over everything in the village with Geiger counters and so on. Gordon instructs them to collect soil, plant and water samples as well. No one in the village was injured other than small cuts and bruises. (Except the pilot.) With no signs of what caused the incident, the military in the guise of General Leighton decides to cover up the incident.

A couple of months pass. Anthea is buying jars of pickles and anchovies at the shop. She buys a LOT, if you know what I mean. Gordon is examining one of the plant samples, noting its accelerated growth. Anthea tells him she is pregnant, since he hasn’t noticed that she has been eating cheese, pickles and anchovies every day for lunch. It’s a happy moment for them, Gordon having married late in life.

Cut to Doc Willars office. A young girl is in tears; she is pregnant and single and will have a hard time of it in the village. She insists she is a virgin. Cut to another house, where a woman is pregnant whose husband has been to sea for a year. Gordon and Dr. Willars press the Vicar. The married woman has attempted suicide. Four other girls are pregnant who insist they are virgins. We learn every woman in the village capable of childbirth, 12 in all, are pregnant, dating from the incident a couple of months before.

All the embryos are perfect, but show 7 months development after 5 months. Anthea is worried and afraid of where the child came from. Gordon encourages her to be patient. The other men in the village are sullen and silent in the pub. One wishes none of the children will live. The women all give birth on the same night, the babies are all the same weight and have the same strange eyes. Gordon’s dog snarls at the newborn and retreats to a closet when scolded.

The Dr. and Gordon confer. The children have the same strange D-shaped hair, are all blondes, have small fingernails and the same odd eyes. They show 18 months development after 4 months. There is a scream from the nursery. The baby David’s bottle was too hot, he glared at Anthea and she scalded herself.

When the children are a year old, Gordon shows Alan an extremely difficult Chinese puzzle box. Placing a chocolate inside, he gives it to David, who opens it almost instantly and munches the sweet. They go to another child, who also opens the box instantly. Once one of the children learns something, they all know it. The normal brother of one takes the box, but the children glare at him. Their eyes sort of glow and he gives the box back in a kind of trance.

Some time later, the children look to be about 8 or 10 and are walking in a group. The village kids throw a ball and hit one of the girls but David stops her from doing anything and they go into the shop. We learn the children can read thoughts. For some reason they get 12 jars a week, it’s never explained, but sounds creepy.

Gordon attends a conference in London about the children. It is revealed that other unique children were born on the same day in several locations all over the planet. In Australia, all the children died within 10 hours for some reason. The Eskimos killed the blonde children. In Irkutz, or one of those countries you want when you’re playing RISK, the men killed the children and their wives. In NW Russia, the children had survived and were receiving advanced training from those Soviet bastards. They discuss the origin of the children. They are causing other children to injure or kill themselves for revenge. The military wants to imprison them, Gordon wants to teach them moral values – a group mind has been demonstrated. He asks for one year as a compromise, which the government agrees to.

Gordon is teaching the children, they will all be moving into the school and living there together. We learn that they can only see what is in the front of minds, not the workings. When asked about life on another planet, they are silent and look down, guilty like. You get the distinct impression that they know, but they ain’t saying. They used to be nervous of aircraft, but now have extended their control for some distance. David decides to move into the school to be with the other children.

Anthea is walking David to the school when they meet the other children. A car almost hits one of the girls; the man gets out to see if she is all right. The children gather and glare at him. Their eyes get that glow. He gets in his car and drives into a wall. The car explodes.

In court, Anthea has trouble remembering the incident but recites it haltingly. The verdict is death by accident. The dead man’s brother accuses the children. Outside, he tries to ambush the children but is stopped by Gordon but it is too late. The children know what he was up to. They glare, their eyes glow, and the man shoots himself in the head. Gordon, Anthea and Alan witness this but are held motionless in a trance.

Gordon and Alan are discussing the children when General Leighton phones. The Russians have nuked the village where their children were with a long distance shell. They had developed more quickly and had begun to take control, so the Rooskies nuked the area. Evacuating anyone would have alerted the colony of children, so no one was warned. There is to be a meeting that evening to determine the fate of the Midwich children.

The men in the pub, in true movie villager fashion, have drunk themselves into a state of courage and violence. Determined to take action, they march (or stagger) off to the school, pausing to gather brush to make torches, which they light once again in true movie villager fashion. David meets them at the door and gives them that look. His eyes glow. The leader of the mob drops the burning torch he is carrying at his feet and does not move as the flames consume him. The others are frozen in a trance, but slowly recover. Alan witnesses this and helps the mob smother the flames on the burning victim. It is obviously too late. Alan confronts David in the school. The children know about the Russian colony and are determined to survive, being the last. David gives Alan the look.

Cut to Alan in bed, being cared for by Dr. Willars. He is in severe shock and had been paralyzed, but was coming out of it. Gordon is determined that no one else be hurt. David arrives to speak to him. They were only warning Alan and everyone else, he says. The children are leaving in order to be safe. Soon they will be able to start colonies on their own. They want Gordon to help them find adoptive families, and the arrangements in two days.

Friday arrives. Gordon sends Anthea and Alan, who has almost recovered, to London. He says he has a solution to reach the children. If he is right, there will be no more trouble. The children trust him, for some reason. Anthea and Alan leave. Gordon has a huge bomb hidden in his desk. He sets the timer for 8:30 and puts it in his briefcase. He stares at the wall. He must keep the image of a brick wall in his mind. He pets the dog goodbye and goes to meet the children. Anthea realizes something is up and turns back toward Midwich.

Gordon meets the children and tries to stall them by giving them a lesson. They press him for the arrangements he was to have made. Knowing he is nervous, they try to read his mind. With only a few seconds left, we see the image of the brick wall slowly crumbling to reveal the timer on the bomb. The children turn to see the briefcase. Cut to an exterior shot of the school as it disintegrates in a huge, fiery explosion. Disembodied glowing eyes float through the smoke. The End.

This is a really fine movie of the paranoid sci-fi alien invasion variety. Great performances all around, but I especially enjoyed seeing George Sanders doing something beyond the smarmy Saint or Falcon type of character. I like those plenty, don’t get me wrong. Barbara Shelley is a hottie, and little Martin Stephens provides some chills as David. This has some very fine creepy moments and is well filmed. Anyway you stack it, this one’s a keeper. And even though this really isn’t a B-Movie, on the official Afa Dollah B-Movie Rating Scale, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED gets: TWO BIG THUMBS UP, BABY! Check this one out!
"Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
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Afa Dollah
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Postby Lunkenstein on March 23rd, 2007, 2:08 pm

Excellent review Afa. I bought the same Warner Bros double disk about a year ago and it's great. Both films are presented in wide-screen and feature beautiful prints. Got mine from DeepDiscountDVD for under $10. You just can't beat deals like that and I love these kinds of double feature disks.

The first time I saw VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, I was in either 8th or 9th grade. It was on the old CBS Late Night Movie I believe. I recall how scary those kids' eyes were and then discussing the movie with other friends at school. What a creepy film. Though we assume the children's power originates from somewhere other than earth, I like how it's not fully explained, nor what their destiny is. It makes for a more interesting story that lets your imagination take over. As you said, the cast is really good as well. The tension at the end is particularly intense.

I think you'll like CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED. Though not quite up to VILLAGE, it's a pretty good film on its own. It's a different kind of follow-up with some interesting ideas and moments.
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Postby Afa Dollah on March 26th, 2007, 11:18 am

Thanks Lunk. I checked out CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED over the weekend. It had some different ideas from the first one. The ending was confusing but I have read that a line was deleted which probably would have cleared things up to a certain extent. I'll be working on a write up and try to get it posted later after I read up on that.

The DVD set is of great quality, I was glad to see that in an inexpensive set like this.
"Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
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