Village of the Damned

Village of the Damned is an excellent vintage flick for all those who have a penchant for movies about creepy children, and appreciate nuanced and unobtrusive directing with some deft acting thrown in for good measure.

Review by SAndman
June 19, 2010

Village of the Damned Movie

Director: Wolf Rilla

novel: John Wyndham
screenplay: Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch

George Sanders as Gordon Zellaby
Barbara Shelley as Anthea Zellaby
Martin Stephens as David Zellaby
Richard Warner as Harrington
Jenny Laird as Mrs. Harrington
Michael Gwynn as Alan Bernard

Released: 1960

David Zellaby: You have to be taught to leave us alone.

Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by the British author John Wyndham, the plot of Village of the Damned is set in the peaceful English village of Midwich where a series of strange events starting with a mysterious loss of consciousness, which lasted for several hours affecting the people and animals alike, turns the lives of the townsfolk upside down.

In the same instant everybody in Midwich starts to wake up. They all seem to be generally healthy except for a slight bewilderment. In the following days they manage to come to terms with the "time-out", as they call the strange phenomenon. But still more surprises are coming their way. To their astonishment the townsfolk learn that all the women in Midwich who are capable of child-bearing are pregnant and seem to have conceived during the hours of the time-out.

Amidst general consternation the babies are born. Since the day one the freaky-looking infants demonstrate extraordinary abilities: they grow up at a faster rate than normal babies, they all look remarkably alike with blond hair and haunting eyes, and all showcase preternaturally high intelligence.

The only man who seem unafraid of the weird progeny is Professor Zellaby, a figure of benevolent and idealistic scientist. The government too becomes interested in the fate of the children and we learn that other cases similar to the Midwich time-out have recently happened around the world.

Army officials advise extraordinary measure, to which Professor Zellaby counters proposing a scientific approach. He explains that he would like to study the children and teach them espousing the view that upbringing is essential to forming human character and accordingly the moral considerations can be imparted just as any other kind of knowledge.

However, it soon becomes obvious that Professor's plan can not work since the infants' precocious development does not appear to be matched by anything resembling a moral sense. For all their intellect, they seem utterly self-absorbed, insensitive to human suffering and intent on self-preservation.

Things get even more complicated once it becomes evident that the children possess some more sinister abilities - they seem to be capable of reading and controlling human minds and also seem to possess something akin to hive consciousness, what one of them experiences or learns all the others share in itt.

Professor Zellaby is faced with a grim choice: he will either have to destroy the discovery of a century or sacrifice his humanity to his scientific zeal. But still grimmer question poses itself - how do you destroy something seemingly unstoppable?

George Sanders excels as Professor Zellaby exuding poise and charm. Barbara Shelly as Anthea Zellaby and Martin Stephens as their precocious son do a decent job with their respective performances.

Though the special effects in Village of the Damned may at times seem quaint and dated, the director Wolf Rilla menages to create a sense of foreboding, which thickens with every scene as evidence of the infants' strangeness mounts.

We are never sure as to the origin of the children. They may be a next step in human evolution, or as one character in the movie puts, " Once in a great many years, an abrupt jump may take animal or in vegetable life. A new variation suddenly occurs for no apparent reason." - if this may sound like something out of the X-Men it just goes to show prescience typical of Village of the Damned.

Another explanation of the infants' amazing abilities put forward in the movie is that they may be of extra-terrestrial origin. And a few instances in the movie seem to support this view. Whichever explanation seems more tempting the lack of straightforward answer only adds to the mystery surrounding the children.

Finally when the effective climax rolls around Village of the Damned comes across as a poignant tale of the limitations of human nature, its inability to cope with a radically different kind of intelligence, though it too may be of human provenance. Furthermore, its utterly pessimistic conclusion leaves no doubt as to the possibility of contact between alien forms of life.

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