Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Village of the Damned (1960 film)

Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is the story of a British village where its women give birth to children who are mysterious and have powers. Directed by Wolf Rilla and screenplay by Rilla, Stirling Silliphant, and Ronald Kinnoch, the film is a look into a home that is unhinged by mysterious children who want to take over. Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, and Michael Gwynn. Village of the Damned is a mesmerizing and eerie film from Wolf Rilla.

Set in a small British village, the film revolves its villagers who suddenly fall asleep for hours and then wake up not knowing what had happened as some of the women in the village have become pregnant as the children they would give birth to are very mysterious. It’s a film that plays into a community that is baffled by this mysterious event as well as be disturbed by this group of white-haired children who are much smarter than normal children and can read minds. The film’s screenplay starts off with this typical normal day in the village of Midwich where everyone is just doing what they do until they all suddenly faint and fall asleep for some mysterious reason.

Leading the investigation is Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) who is a military officer that was talking to Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) when the event happened as he wonders what had happened and how his wife Anthea (Barbara Shelley) and the other women in the village became pregnant. A few years go by after the pregnancy and birth is where things become really strange as the kids grow up faster than the other children as well as exhibit certain powers and ask big questions.

Wolf Rilla’s direction is largely straightforward for much of the film in terms of the compositions and its approach to suspense by not delving into the horror and drama immediately in the film except in the opening sequence. There are a few moments of minor suspense early on but much of it is dramatic as Rilla’s compositions in the medium shots and close-up play into the characters coping with what happen and this new situation they’re in. By the film’s second half where the children have arrived and have these strange powers, it does become a more suspenseful feature where Zellaby tries to understand what is going on. There are some wide shots in the film as it relates to the number of children who have these powers in Rilla needing to get all of them in the shot.

There are also these scary moments where the power of these children where their eyes would lit up as it would play into something drastic as it harkens to the dangers of what happens with society if it’s under the control of people who bring fear as it harkens to the times of the Cold War in the 1960s. All of which would play into Zellaby needing to confront these children as well as what they’re planning to do with society. Overall, Rilla crafts a chilling yet haunting film about a group of children terrorizing a village.

Cinematographer Geoffrey Faithfull does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it help play into the film’s evocative look and tone for much of the daytime exteriors as well as some chilling scenes set at night. Editor Gordon Hales does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense and drama with some rhythmic cuts including a few stylish cuts for some of the intense moments of the film. Art director Ivan King does fantastic work with the film’s sets from the look of the homes where the characters live and work at to the look of the house where the children would go to in their attempt to start their own colony. Sound recordist Cyril Swern does terrific work with the sound in creating something that feels natural but also unsettling for some of the dramatic suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Ron Goodwin is superb for its low-key yet eerie orchestral score that play into the drama and suspense.

The casting by Irene Howard is amazing as it feature some notable small roles from Jenny Laird and Sarah Long in their respective roles as a mother-daughter duo who both become pregnant, Richard Warner as a man who is angry over his wife’s pregnancy as he returns home from the sea, John Phillips as General Leighton who wants to destroy the town believing it is dangerous because of the children, and Laurence Naismith as Dr. Williers who would examine the women and notice something odd about the children before and after they’re born. Michael Gwynn is superb as Alan Bernard as a military officer friend of Professor Zellaby who is trying to understand what is going on as he would have a confrontation with the children only to nearly be killed by them.

Martin Stephens is fantastic as Anthea’s son David as one of the children who has these strange powers as he is the leader of sorts of these kids who is very intelligent and cunning in his determination for power. Barbara Shelley is excellent as Anthea as the woman who would give birth to David as she copes with his powers as she becomes unsure of what she’s given birth to as well as the chaos he’s caused. Finally, there’s George Sanders in a brilliant performance as Professor Gordon Zellaby as a man trying to make sense of everything as well as engage in conversation with his son and the other children where he realizes that something about them isn’t right.

Village of the Damned is an incredible film from Wolf Rilla. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, and a gripping story on a community unraveled by evil and mysterious children. It’s a film that explore what happens when something mysterious and unexplained can lead to chaos and put the lives of a community at risk. In the end, Village of the Damned is a sensational film from Wolf Rilla.

Related: Village of the Damned (1995 film)

© thevoid99 2017


Brittani Burnham said...

I had the Christopher Reeves version on VHS when I was a kid, I watched that quiet a bit and didn't even know at the time it was a remake. I'd like to see this some day.

Dell said...

I've been meaning to see this ever since I was like 12. So sad for me.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-See this one. It's simpler, visually-entrancing, and scarier.

@Wendell-See it. It's worth watching.