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
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios
First viewing/Netflix rental
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.