Village of the Damned (1960)

Village of the Damned
Directed by Wolf Rilla
Written by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch from the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
1960/UK
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios
First viewing/Netflix rental

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

Before Rosemary’s Baby, we had Village of the Damned.

It is 11 AM in a typical small English village.  Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) is trying to reach his brother-in-law Major Alan Bernard, who is coming to visit the Zellaby manor for the weekend.  Suddenly Zellaby falls, motionless, to the floor.  Gradually we see others fallen.  Bernard goes to investigate the sudden interruption of the phone call and finds that people and animals have gone down in a 5-km radius around the town.

He goes for military reinforcements and it soon becomes clear that all is well outside a certain boundary but anyone who crosses the line will be stricken.  Before too long, all is abruptly back to “normal”.  No one can discover a reason for the temporary paralysis.

Two months later, every woman of child-bearing years in the village is pregnant.  This includes Zellaby’s much-younger wife Althea.  The fetuses are perfect and of an advanced stage of development for their term.  They are all unusually large newborns with dark eyes. Their mental development is ahead of normal by months and years as they grow.  All the  children, including Zellaby’s son David, are curiously emotionless and prefer to keep company only with each other.

Many believe these children must be destroyed.  Zellaby sees them as potentially a boon to mankind and talks the authorities into giving him a year to instruct them.  It will be a difficult year …

This film has a pretty brilliant premise and many effective scenes. Sanders is great in perhaps the least cynical role he ever played.  Martin Stephens (The Innocents) who plays David Zellaby is also really good.  The film is best at first when nothing is explained and goes slightly downhill thereafter but is still eerie and entertaining.  Recommended.

Trailer (spoilers)

15 thoughts on “Village of the Damned (1960)

  1. “novel by John Wyndham”, same bloke who wrote the classic Day of the Triffids. A number of people have tried to make a movie of this but noone can get the villians (so to speak) to be as scary as Wyndham writes them to be IMHO.

    • I’ll try to catch up with the novels one day. I’m looking forward to finally seeing Day of Triffids when I cover 1963. It may be one of the only films mentioned in Rocky Horror Picture Show’s “Science Fiction Double Feature” that I have left to see.

      “And I really got hot
      When I saw Janette Scott
      Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills…”

  2. One I think where the scope of the book makes it very difficult to adequately film. I’d be tempted to say read the book then see the film but it is a close call.

    • I might take your advice. The commentary to this film made the books sound very intriguing. I like the idea of setting mysterious/horrific events in ordinary settings.

  3. It just came to me that the book allowed/encouraged me to imagine the various scenarios presented myself. If you see the movie first then IMHO you will be swayed by the films’ ideas. It definitely brings me more down to the side of “read the book first”. This may be the reason why I thought the films a bit off the pace so to speak. Another thought is that modern well done CGI would greatly increase the chance of a successful adaptation much like (I consider it so anyway) Peter Jackson’s stellar job on the very difficult Lord of the Rings.

    Sorry to rabbit on so much.

  4. Oh dear, more – I was doing a bit of time wasting and I came across a reference to the otiginal books saying there was an American (& so thought of your location) and a British version. The US version has had roughly 12% (according to the article) removed and is said to be the poorer for it……..the article has clues on how to ID the versions both in book form & as an online purchase. I WILL shut up now LOL

    http://triffids.guidesite.co.uk/versions.php

    • Ok, you have sold me! I was about to buy the audiobook when I saw a review noting that the “unabridged” version was actually abridged. I suspect it may be the American version. I’ll need to read a hard copy.

    • It will require some research. I initially thought the audiobook would be ok since it had a British narrator but not so!

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