Retro Reviews: The Village of the Damned (1960)

Back a little further in time we find an entire cache of noteworthy horror movies. Village of the Damned (1960) was a favourite I watched several times. This classic British horror/thriller caused quite a stir in its day. 

Retro Review: The Village of the Damned (1960)

Village of The Damned (1960)

“Beware the stare that will paralyze the will of the world”, is the message on an old poster advertising the film back in 1960. Indeed, it is the glowing stares of those spooky village children that remain with you long after you have watched the film. The storyline is definitely an inspired one and with this as a strong point, along with the excellent acting and a serious tone, the viewer becomes transfixed.

Adapted from a novel by John Wyndham, called the Midwich Cuckoos, the setting of the movie is in the British town of Midwich. Even the name of the town has an eery feel to it. For no apparent reason every last resident in the town falls into a deep sleep, including anyone entering into its parameters. Soon the military cordon off the village and send someone in by plane to investigate. The second he goes below 5,000 feet, he also loses consciousness and the plane crashes.

Retro Reviews: The Village of the Damned This weird beginning is our formal introduction to all the strange incidents about to happen in the once sleepy town of Midwich. Soon we learn something strange, indeed occurred in those precious moments when everyone was unconscious. All women of child bearing age, within the “unconscious zone”, are found to be pregnant. You can imagine the issues that pop up with this news. 

Accusations of infidelity and general emotional upheaval is rampant. But it isn’t long before this strange phenomenon slips into the bizarre. All these women give birth early and every one of them-on the same day! The appearance of the children is highly unusual too. They all have staring and arresting eyes, platinum blond hair and as time goes on,  it is evident they all are telepathic. They can also communicate with each other from long distances and more disturbing, force people’s wills. All this is done with an authentic restrained British delivery through performances which are as realistic as they are chilling.

Retro Reviews: The Village of the Damned (1960)

Here’s Looking At You

Black and white photography as well as a dark ‘cold war’ atmosphere give the film a truly neat B Movie feel. But it turns out to be anything but that! I must say that the performances of the children are compelling. We feel their unspoken coldness which borders on loathing and their thinly masked condescension at  having to deal with  these inferior “ordinary” humans. Bad things start to happen in this little village and we get the first inkling of what these kids are capable of along with our first sense of horror. Soon we fully register the extent  of their cold intelligence, emotionless power and superiority.

It isn’t long  before we learn that Midwich is not the only town that has been infiltrated with these blonde horrors.This film builds to an edge-of-your-seat finish that makes it one of the best little horror films of its time. The wonderful  cast includes seasoned actor David Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn and Martin Stephens. It was directed and the screenplay was co-written by Wolf Rilla- a German-born, up-and-coming director of the time. 

Summing up, I must say it is the children and their cold personas that stayed with me over the years. It’s a testament to their fine acting and Rilla’s wonderful direction that this sci-fi/horror film ‘noir’ retained its standard- never becoming ‘corny’ or ridiculous when, considering the subject matter and the plot, it could have so easily. The sweat-breaking ending caps the film perfectly!

It’s a great watch and if you keep in mind the time in which it was made, you will find this film as compelling as those glowing eyes! 

I give it an 8.7 for the performances, the storyline, the direction and the wonderful adaptation into film.


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  1. andria
    • Lin Jenkinson

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