In the small English village of Midwich everybody and everything falls into a deep, mysterious sleep for several hours in the middle of the day. Some months later every woman capable of child-bearing is pregnant and the children that are born out of these pregnancies seem to grow very fast and they all have the same blond hair and strange, penetrating eyes that make people do things they don't want to do.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
For close-ups, the child actors had their heads clamped to ensure that they were totally still. See more »
A soldier walks into the zone of unconsciousness wearing a gas mask and a tether rope, immediately passes out is dragged back out by his mates. But the supposedly unconscious soldier is clearly holding his head up off the ground as he is dragged along headfirst on his back. See more »
Prof. Gordon Zellaby:
Good morning. Uh, would you get me Major Bernard at his Whitehall number? Thank you.
See more »
In order to get an 'A' certificate in the UK no optical effects shots were used in the UK print and original footage or alternative shots used instead. Both the UK and the 'standard' version of the film run to the same length. At the end of the film no glowing eyes are seen rising from the flames in the UK version which also has a "Made at M.G.M British Studios, Borehamwood, England" credit. Because this change was requested at the scripting stage there is no reason to believe that the two version of the film were not edited in tandem. It is incorrectly stated that the British print has the burning man sequence cut. This was a cut requested by the Production Code office in the US and is the same for both versions of the film, where the victim is never engulfed by the flames in close-up, which contradicts the long-shot seen in the sequence. See more »
Low-key and very effective sci-fi horror, made with intelligence and restraint
The best way to watch this movie is ignorantly. Go to Netflix now, put the movie at the top of your queue and watch it when it arrives. Read about it later. If you enjoy sci-fi classics like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Them!"; if you love the Britishness of the Hammer horror pictures; if you prefer a well-told story, rich suspense, sympathetic characters and black-and-white photography to special effects, color and gore, you will want to see this film right away.
The movie begins in Midwich. We meet the scientist Gordon Zellaby having a telephone conversation. Mid-sentence he passes out. At the same moment, every single person and animal in town has passed out just as suddenly; some unknown force has put all the inhabitants of Midwich to sleep. When the army gets involved, we discover this force has precise boundaries. One soldier, after being lassoed around the waist, walks past the boundary, loses consciousness and immediately revives when his fellows pull him out of the infected area. A few hours later, this strange force disappears and everyone wakes up. The mystery remains unsolved for weeks, but it has a sequel. All Midwich women of childbearing age are unaccountably pregnant.
Watching this science-fiction movie paired with almost any modern one demonstrates how storytelling has devolved as special effects have advanced. It also demonstrates how one simple effect can be more memorable than a thousand complex ones. I happened to see this just before watching "The Forgotten" (2005), a stupid movie with expensive effects; but not of those expensive effects is as potent as this movie's signature device. When the blonde-haired Midwich children wreak psychic havoc, the picture freezes and their eyes glow. That inexpensive trick shot is worth the millions blown on "The Forgotten."
Another nice effect: George Sanders. He plays the hero, Gordon Zellaby, a scientist who becomes a dubious father to one of the Midwich freaks. Sanders plays rogues in almost every other movie, but here he is sweet-natured and convincingly so; he betrays not a shadow of his usual cynicism. Were this his only surviving film, one would think he was born to play kindly old men. The excellent cast has one other outstanding performance by Martin Stephens, who plays Sanders's cold-hearted "son." Would you be surprised to learn his voice was dubbed by a female actress specializing in children? I was surprised to learn it wasn't. That is the boy's own eerily precise diction.
Special praise must also go to the director and photographer, Wolf Rilla and Geoffrey Faithful, who give the movie the detached air of a documentary. The script, credited to Stirling Silliphant, George Barclay and Rilla, is an excellent adaptation of a fine book, "The Midwich Cuckoos" by John Beynon Harris. Fans of this movie will want to read it. The book has many enjoyable details that were necessarily and wisely cut from the adaptation. To note one difference, the children in the movie are psychically linked: what one knows they all know. But in the book, the boys are psychically linked with the boys, the girls with the girls; but there is little or no link between the two sexes. The reasons for this are fascinating.
I haven't seen the John Carpenter remake, and I don't want to. What would the ideal remake of this film look like? It would look like the original: black-and-white, set in the late fifties, cast with Brits and scripted with the same restraint. Maybe modern resources could add a piquant touch or two; it would be amusing to see all those sheep fall asleep in the opening scene. Oh, and that awful model shot of the school could be replaced. Otherwise, we have the film we want, so why remake it?
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