|Star:||George Sanders, Michael Gwynn, Barbara Shelley|
|Cert / Year:||Unrated / 1960|
Midwich is a lazy little village in the middle of the rural English countryside. Professor Zellaby (George Sanders) is on the phone to his brother in law in the military Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) when all of a sudden he passes out. In fact every one in the village becomes unconscious. Bernard races to the village but he finds out that as soon as anyone approaches they too become unconscious. He calls the military in and establish a perimeter however suddenly everyone wakes up. This incident is left as unexplainable in the coming weeks. However it becomes apparent that every woman in the village is now pregnant, and these babies are highly unusual.
There was a time when sci-fi didn't mean a huge budget and copious amounts of computer effects. Films relied on those most old fashioned traits of plot, acting, and direction. It was a time when Britain had a film industry and it made some of the best sci-fi thrillers in the world. It was a time when what you didn't see or could understand was more scary than what you could. Village of the Damned was a excellent example of all of this.
Tension and fear of the unknown drive this film. Along with the frightening prospect that we are not alone in the galaxy and others out there are much smarter than we are. This tension and fear are heightened even more because the people in this film are normal people and the setting is an everyday sleepy little village. These people really are like you and me, and it could really happen here. There aren't any aliens or spaceships to ruin this feeling and the unexplained events that befall the village remain unexplained until the end of the film. This is the most personal kind of invasion as our own children become our masters. It all leads to one of the most tense and unnerving sci-fi films ever made.
The enduring image from this film is the sight of the eire blonde haired children. The way that they interact with the adults is abnormally cold and scarily effective. Full credit must go the both the director and the child actors involved for developing this performance. Add to this an experienced and competent adult cast and you can see just how much of an effect these kids generate.
In many ways this film follows on from the groundwork laid down by the Quatermass films. The use of government and military to try to deal with the unexplained. The fact that the scientists are the only ones to recognise and deal with the threat. The fact that normal life on earth is threatened by the unknown, are all features of these earlier novels and films. Here they are given a new twist with the children and this is beautifully implemented. This all lead eventually to the Pertwee era of Doctor Who.
Village of the Damned is a tense well shot and directed film. Its clever script taps into some of our primal fears and exploits them leaving a lasting image of those scary children. It is short so it doesn't outstay its welcome, the running time ensures the pace is fast and the tension isn't allowed to drop. It is a very effective film of the sort Britain used to do best. Overall it is well worth looking for as it is a classic.
There was a sequel which was also pretty effective called the Children of the Damned. Furthermore the was a more modern remake directed by John Carpenter. However unnecessary changes turned this into an unmitigated mess, which wasn't a patch on the original.
Beware the stare that will paralyze the will of the world.