2015 Blind Spot Series: “Village of the Damned” (1960)

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Creepy kids are often an automatic score when it comes to horror films. 1960’s “Village of the Damned” is an early example of that theory in action. This unique piece of British sci-fi horror anchors its suspense in its largely unexplained phenomena. But that’s just fine because watching its straightforward story play out is a lot of fun.

“Village” was initially intended as an American picture but MGM moved it to their British studio and brought in German director Wolf Rilla to head the project. The story was based on John Wyndham’s 1957 novel “The Midwich Cuckoos”. The film faced several criticisms from censors over different bits of content most of which still found its way into the final version.

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The film opens in the small British village of Midwich. Suddenly and mysteriously everyone in the village falls unconscious including a prominent professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders). Gordon’s brother-in-law Alan (Michael Gwynn) grows suspicious after failing to reach anyone in the village over the phone. The unexplained phenomenon soon wears off and the community seems to be unaffected. That is until a short time later when every able woman in the town turns up pregnant including Gordon’s wife (played by the “First Lady of British Horror” Barbara Shelley).

The film presents the confusion, anger, and distrust that would naturally follow such and event. But Midwich then suspects something else is taking place as the babies mature and are born at an accelerated rate. Once born they continue to grow faster than normal, each with bright blonde hair, a heightened intellect, and “arresting” eyes. A series of unexplained events follows leaving the village and outsiders wondering what these children represent and what their motivations may be.

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Wolf Rilla doesn’t let his film devolve into an endless parade of cheap scares or contrived creepiness. Instead the movie focuses on the mystery and the evolving threat itself. Questions aren’t always answered. The movie doesn’t serve everything to the audience on a platter. Instead it leaves many things up in the air and we are just as lost and confused as most of the characters. It’s a smart approach that keeps the film from being corny or routine.

It is also helped by a solid cast of characters each of whom are truly invested in the predicaments of their characters. In fact I was a bit surprised at just how well presented the characters are both from the script and the performances. Actually the entire movie functions this way. The well presented script and performances solidify the film’s aim to be a mysterious and creepy science fiction, horror, thriller. The true grip of “Village of the Damned” is rooted in its unsettling mystery and the filmmakers know how to keep their project within those bounds. The film definitely benefits from that.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

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23 thoughts on “2015 Blind Spot Series: “Village of the Damned” (1960)

  1. Great review! I never saw this version of it, but I saw the American remake with Christopher Reeves and I really like that one. I’ll have to check this out eventually.

  2. As I was reading your review, I thought the movie (the plot anyway) sounded like the exact opposite of Children of Men. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this movie, but I really like George Sanders. He has such a wonderfully creepy voice. Nice review!

    • Thanks. This one was a lot of fun. I failed to mention that it is only 77 minutes. Not a lot of excess junk. A very straightfoward and often creepy picture. Definitely look this one up.

  3. I initially thought this film might be a bit dated, but it was actually quite chilling and the kids sure are creepy! To me, it was like a long version of a twilight zone episode, and I mean that as praise. Agree the story was good and didn’t everything to the audience on a platter.

    • I love the Twilight Zone comparison and I get exactly what you mean. It does have that feel to it (as you said, in a good way). Really happy I finally caught up with it.

  4. There’s no way I could watch this, Keith. Hits a big nerve–those eyes of the kids looking like dolls. One of my earliest memories was getting a lifestyle doll for Christmas (who looked a lot like the creepy girl in the film). I’d sit on my bed and she’d stand in the corner looking at me. I put her in the closet and shut the door. Turns out there was a bat in there and heard the thumping and thought she had come alive. It really got me. I enjoyed reading your review about the film, however. πŸ˜‰

  5. Great review, Keith! I hold this film in very high regard and your write up is on the money bro! Awesome work. Will definitely share this one, man! Thanks!

  6. Pingback: 2015 Blind Spot Lineup | Keith & the Movies

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