Village of the Damned (1960) Poster

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Gafke5 June 2004
On a perfectly normal, lovely afternoon in the English countryside, a small town is suddenly taken over by an unseen presence. Everyone within the town - man, woman and child - suddenly passes out cold for no apparent reason whatsoever. Anyone who attempts to enter the town from the outside is also stricken down, yet revive instantaneously when removed from the danger zone. No one, not police or military, can pass the invisible barrier, but within a few hours the strange presence is gone. Everyone seems to be alright...until a few weeks later, when all of the women in town who are of childbearing age discover themselves to be pregnant. Nine months later, a dozen identical children are born to these somewhat suspicious mothers, children with white- blond hair and scary eyes that glow. The children are oddly emotionless and only associate with each other, acting as a single entity. Worst of all, they can make anyone do whatever they want them to do, which often has fatal results. Can kindly schoolteacher (the wonderful George Sanders), whose beloved wife has borne one of these creatures, help the alien children embrace their human half? Or will he have to destroy them all?

This is an absolute masterpiece of paranoia, sci-fi style. The acting is superb, especially by the late and under-appreciated Mr. Sanders, whose compassion and intellect sets the tone for this quiet and somewhat sad little tale. The lovely Barbara Shelley as Sanders loving wife is sweet and totally believable. Indeed, the townsfolk are all very realistic and approachable, kind and simple folk who don't really deserve the wrath of the spooky children who have invaded their small town. Young Martin Stephens, who also turned in a creepy performance in the ghostly masterpiece "The Innocents" is every bit as creepy here as George and Barbara's "son."

Filmed in moody black and white, this movie creeps along with all the menacing stealth of a thick London pea souper. This is an intelligent horror film which deserves better attention. It probably won't be appreciated by people who consider expletives and explosions to be main characters, but for people who prefer horror with brains (and not brains ripped out of skulls) this is the film for them. Fans of George Sanders shouldn't miss this; it's quite a switch from his usual smarmy roles, and a nice switch at that.

Highly recommended!
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Brick wall, brick wall
Bucs19603 October 2004
This classic low budget, black and white film is right up there with the best of the sci-fi/horror movies of the time. It appears that it was shot on a very low budget ($300,000), thus no special effects beyond the superimposed glowing eyes of the children and the burning house at the end (not much of an effect). But it became a real moneymaker and a cult developed around it. They went on to make a sequel which doesn't live up to the original.

The cast, though limited, is quite good. The ever sophisticated, urbane, George Sanders as the scientist; Barbara Shelley from Hammer films as his wife; and little Martin Stephens as David, putative offspring of Shelley and Sanders. This kid is evil personified and does a bang-up job for such a youngster.

The story involves the village of Midwich and the birth of 12 children fathered in a very strange way that is never totally explained, who are intellectual giants with one purpose.....take over the world. Should they be destroyed or studied?....that's the problem facing Sanders and the government. Sanders comes to the inevitable conclusion and because they can read his thoughts, he must think of a brick wall in order to mask his intent. The ending, although not surprising is still effective.

This film is a keeper and is recommended to all those who like their films straight to the point without all the special effects and computer generated action. It's minimal with maximum punch.
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Aaaaaaaaaaargh!! Those EYES!!
Coventry21 May 2004
Village of the Damned is a strongly compelling Science-Fiction highlight and easily of the eeriest movies I ever saw. Although it's a very modest and simply made production, the scary-effect of this film is a lot more effective than some of its big-budgeted colleagues. On a random day, the entire English village of Midwich falls into a trance-like sleep. Completely inexplicably, they awake again seemly normal but two months later it appears that every fertile woman in town got pregnant on the day of the blackout. The newborns show a strange resemblance in looks and – what is even more bizarre – they're telekinetic! Due to their amazing intelligence and emotionless behavior, they form a huge threat and freak out the entire little town. `Village of the Damned' is loyally adapted from John Wyndham's novel `The Midwich Cuckoos'. Throughout the whole film, you don't get much explanation and, as a viewer, you're forced to guess at the mystery's origin. Although highly unlikely, the events in Midwich really are alarming and make you feel uncomfortable. This effect is reached through solid tension and macabre atmosphere much more than through special effects. The eerily lit eyes of the ‘children' are the only real effects but they cause a lot more fear than gallons of blood ever could! Village of the Damned also owes a lot of its power to a terrific casting job. Essentially to achieve the obtained scary effect were the children. Well, they did a good job! The offspring looks alienated almost naturally and their appearance literally chills your blood. The concerned adult in Village of the Damned is excellently played by George Sanders. Sanders was a terrific and shamefully overlooked English class actor who committed suicide in the early 70's. He has a got a few other delightful horror movies on his repertoire like `Psychomania' and `Doomwatch' (both are some of his last films). Village of the Damned is a highly recommended picture that'll certainly keep you close to the screen till the end-credits role. Equally recommended is the (unofficial) sequel called `Children of the Damned'. There's a bit more background in that film, as well as some more explicit horror sequences. The 1995 remake by John Carpenter, however, is rather unexciting and one of the most redundant films ever made. Stick to the original and be scared!
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Low-key and very effective sci-fi horror, made with intelligence and restraint
J. Spurlin7 December 2006
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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Eerie little thriller
preppy-31 November 1999
I originally saw this when I was in junior high on late night TV. Those glowing eyes gave me nightmares for weeks! Seeing it now MANY years later, it still scares me. It's very quiet but very spooky. No real on-screen violence, no special effects (with the exception of the eyes) and all talk but never dull. The film is intelligent, doesn't talk down to the audience and handles the subject matter in a very realistic manner. Most people in horror films act like idiots--not in this one! Also some superb acting by George Sanders, Barbara Shelley (as his wife) and those creepy little kids (especially Martin Stephens) helps a lot. Proves a quiet little, goreless film can scare you silly. AT ALL COSTS, AVOID THE 1995 REMAKE!!!!!!! Carpenter's a great director, but you can't remake a great film. See this one!!
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The Brick Wall
Claudio Carvalho21 September 2014
In London, the military Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) is talking to his brother-in-law Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) in Midwich by telephone when there is a communication breakdown with the village. Alan heads to the British village and finds that all the inhabitants have fallen unconscious at the same time and who else crosses the borderline faints. Out of the blue, the inhabitants awake at the same time. Two months later Anthea Zellaby (Barbara Shelley) tells her husband Gordon that she is pregnant. But soon, the local Dr. Willers (Laurence Naismith) and Gordon realizes that every woman in the village of childbearing age is pregnant.

Anthea and the other women deliver perfect children and soon Dr. Willers note that all the children have strange eyes, short fingernails and different blond hair. Gordon also finds that his son David (Martin Stephens) is a leader of the children that have no feelings and what one learns, the others also learn. Further they are capable to read and control minds and are a menace to the inhabitants of Midwich. Will Gordon be capable to keep the children under control?

"Village of the Damned" is a mysterious and scary horror movie, with an original story in the style of "The Twilight Zone". The plot is intriguing and has not aged. The performances are excellent and the simple special effect of the eyes of the children associated to their performances is frightening. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil):"A Aldeia dos Amaldiçoados" ("The Village of the Damned")
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a fantastic and minimalistic thriller
MartinHafer5 June 2005
I am giving this film a 10 based on the "bang for the buck" it provides. Despite having a small budget, few special effects and an unknown cast (aside from George Sanders), it is an engrossing and terrifying sci-fi adventure.

The movie begins with a VERY STRANGE occurrence--a small village just STOPS. All people life within the village stops--machinery, animals and people. And, when the military tries to enter the town, the soldiers just STOP as well--falling into comas. Then, just as suddenly, everyone awakens--none the worse for wear. Or so it would seem, for later, many women in this small hamlet are found to be pregnant! Once these little bundles of joy are born, the fun begins as these brilliant but disturbingly freaky kids slowly scare the crap out of everyone--especially as they walk, talk and look alike and speak as one (sort of like an evil version of Huey, Dewey and Louie)! And, it turns out, they are apparently unstoppable and up to some sort of evil (though exactly what they intend is uncertain--but it MUST be bad considering their evil proclivities)!

NOTE: Do NOT see the supposed sequel, "Children of the Damned". It's terrible. Instead of the kids harassing people (such as making them crash their cars into walls or blow their heads off), the kids are misunderstood and only want to live in peace!! What crap--I want murder and global domination!

Another NOTE: Do NOT see the recent remake of Village of the Damned. It lacks the subtlety of the original and just does NOTHING to improve an already great film.
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Them Their Eyes
BaronBl00d11 January 2002
A small countryside village in England experiences a time period of several hours where all living things lie lifeless and helpless. Anything living that connects within this sphere of lifelessness gets the like treatment. Everyone soon awakens from whatever happened, and soon the women of child-bearing years all get pregnant and are all due on the same day. Village of the Damned is one of those discerning, intelligent science fiction films of yesteryear that tends to leave much to your imagination in terms of gore and violence as well as make you think and ponder important questions about the limits with which humanity should go to procure knowledge. The children are decidedly very creepy as their eyes glow when they are angered. Martin Stephens as George Sanders' boy is particularly good as he looks and speaks with such class and distinction yet has the conscience of a cold-blooded, calculated killer. Sanders is also very good in his role as a man torn between bridging the field of knowledge with the unknown and protecting mankind from foreign/alien harm. His wife, played with credibility, is Hammer beauty Barbara Shelley. A great British science fiction film and certainly one of the more thought-provoking ones around.
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A great classic thriller, unfortunately overshadowed by the spectacular psychological thriller released the same year - Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
Michael DeZubiria9 September 2000
Village of the Damned is a very well-made thriller that seems to have been overlooked because of the sheer magnitude of its competition - Psycho. Both of these films are testaments to the idea that low budgets are very capable of producing great films. It is not the size of the budget that matters, it is the skill of the filmmakers and the actors. Village of the Damned makes use of a variety of very easily done but also very effective special effects, such as the boundary across which all people and animals lose consciousness, the creepy eyes on those kids, and their hypnotic powers.

The discussion of the exact same phenomenon happening to a few remote towns all over the world does a lot to show what these kids can do, and it increases the dramatic tension of the film as a whole. Cheaply made, but also very well made because a lot of thought was obviously put into it, Village of the Damned is a timeless thriller, even in black and white. When you watch a movie like this, if you are the kind of person who is so superficial about your movies that you refuse to watch black and white films, keep in mind that black and white photography REQUIRES good acting, to put it in the immortal words of Orson Welles. You can't have black and white photography and bad acting, the film would never work. Village of the Damned takes black and white photography and fills it with excellent acting, a fascinating story, and good direction that makes me wonder why this was the only film that Wolf Rilla ever directed.
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Classic British Sci-Fi about some Midwich women who are mysteriously pregnant by strange forces
ma-cortes4 February 2012
Some women give birth various strange children with supernatural power and extraordinary intelligence . An suspenseful and interesting premise dealing about several strangely emotionless children all born at the same time in a small village in Midwich . The scene is a village called Midwich in which a rare event overcomes the idyllic location . 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. Everybody falls into a deep, mysterious sleep for several hours in the middle of the day. When the army gets involved, they find this force has precise boundaries. A few hours later, this strange force disappears and everyone wakes up. The mystery remains unsolved for weeks, but it has a sequel. Later on , every woman (Barbara Shelley married to George Sanders) capable of child-bearing is pregnant . All Midwich women of childbearing age are unaccountably pregnant . Nine months later, the babies are born, and they all look normal, but it doesn't take the "parents" long to realise that the kids are not human or humane .And the glowing-eyed children (Martin Stephens , among others) they have will prove to be worse than what they could have feared. 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 , all of them have telephatic powers , the stare will paralyze the will of the villagers . They result to be mind-controlling demons or aliens . Meanwhile a government officer (good performance by George Sanders) along with the doctor (Laurence Naismith) attempt to stop their plans of conquest .

This classic Sci-Fi thriller contains chills , suspense , intrigue and creepy events about some precocious deadly children and their quest of power . MGM shelved the project, because it was deemed potentially inflammatory and controversial, specifically due to its sinister depiction of virgin birth . Eerie and strange plot very well developed by the screen-written Sterling Silliphant based on John Wyndham novel titled "The Midwich Cuckoos" that focuses a British village visited by some unknown life form which leaves the women of the village pregnant. Performance is frankly good as main cast as Barbara Shelley and Ronald Colman was originally supposed to star in this film but he passed away in 1958 and was replaced by an excellent George Sanders who married Colman's widow Benita Hume . Exceptional support cast formed by prestigious Brit actors as Michael G. Wynne , Laurence Naismith and very secondary Peter Vaughan as Policeman . Special mention to Martin Stephens as an unsettling little boy , his creepy effect of the glowing eyes was made by matting a negative image of their eyes over the pupils . Intriguing and atmospheric musical score by Ron Goodwin . Furthermore , it packs appropriate cinematography in black and white by Geoffrey Faithful who photographs splendidly the scenarios from the village . This suspenseful and thrilling film is well directed by Wolf Rilla . Rating : Very good , providing pleasant screams for the viewer . Essential and indispensable seeing for Barbara Shelley and George Sanders followers .

Other renditions based on John Wyndham novel titled ¨The Midwich cuckoos¨ and well adapted by Stirling Silliphant are the following : A nice sequel titled ¨Children of the damned (64)¨ by Anton Leader with Ian Hendry , Alan Badel and Barbara Ferris . It's subsequently made an acceptable remake (1995) titled ¨John Carpenter's Village of the damned¨ with the same premise still interesting enough to watch it and starred by Kirstie Alley , Christopher Reeve and Mark Hamill ; however, it suffers from unimaginative account because being a copy from original film with more violent and explicit scenes and fails to provide the intelligent atmosphere from previous story .
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Excellent Stuff...
Space_Mafune30 October 2002
at least if you're a science fiction and horror fan. There's a great build-up here and a very satisfying climax. This has a wonderful eerie feel reminiscent of the feeling one gets watching "the original Outer Limits". The story feels a little bit more like "the Twilight Zone" however with the questions of morality, right and wrong it raises. This film might not appeal as widely to non-genre fans but it's classic great stuff for the fan. Best scenes involve the eyes--it's a very effective nightmare when it's your own children who are the evil ones(or are they?).
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George Sanders Made this a Classic Film!
whpratt14 October 2004
This is a great Classic film mainly because of the great movie star George Sanders(Gordon Zellaby),"Hangover Square",'45, who unfortunately took his own life. In this film Sanders plays a professor and has the great pleasure of raising a child with Barbara Shelley(Antnea Zellaby), who turns out to become a child with glaring eyes and a very bad temper! It seems the children in this film seem to grow at a very rapid pace and have great hidden abilities to do just about everything they want in controlling the minds of all ADULTS! In 1960, this was a great Horror film and captivated the movie goers. This is truly a great Classic Film to enjoy!
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This is what happens when you don't beat them enough.
Robert J. Maxwell19 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A cheap, well executed British SciFi film about a cohort of superintelligent, mind-reading children growing up in a small English village.

The original title of the story, I think, was "The Midwitch Cuckoos," a less exploitative but far more appropriate title than "Village of the Damned." We may think of cuckoos as a cute wooden thing that comes out of a gingerbread clock and makes funny noises to announce the time, but that's because we are not birds. Real cuckoos are brood parasites. They lay eggs in the nests of other species of birds. The other birds fecklessly hatch them. And, man, are the cuckoo hatchlings ugly -- gray, featherless, sinewy things that immediately go about the business of rolling the other eggs out of the nest to get rid of the competition. They are born evil.

In this movie the cuckoos are children. Their mothers were impregnated by -- well, by some kind of extraterrestrial infrared hypermolecular cosmological incubus. Anyway, all the women of Midwich become pregnant during a blackout period that encompasses the entire village for a few hours. It's chilling from the outset to see others try to enter the village and flop down as soon as they cross an invisible boundary.

These kids aren't ugly though. They all have blond hair and magnetic eyes. And what one of them learns, the others know immediately. But handsome or not, they can immediately solve one of those Chinese-box puzzles in which you have to slide panels around, up and down, until you expose the inner drawer. It always takes me ten times as long as it take them.

This is an intelligent science fiction thriller. Here are these dozen or so kids, who have powers beyond the natural and need no one except each other. Like autists they don't show any affection for anyone or indeed any emotion at all, unless determination is an emotion. Their biological mothers mean nothing to them, the supposed "fathers" even less. What they need is a good dose of what Rousseau called "amour propre," love of self based on the opinions of others. It won't make them happy but they'll be less destructive.

What they seem to want as they grow into preadolescents is to be left alone except for what tutoring George Sanders as the requisite professor can give them in earthly knowledge. They're mortal enough. An independent community of them has been destroyed in the USSR. And they're dangerous too. In three instances -- one accidental, two deliberate -- a villager almost kills some of them, and he dies the way he intended them to die.

Why are they here on earth? Nobody knows. If the kids know, they're not telling. National leaders sit around in conferences wondering what to do with them. It's not easy to put a bunch of 10-year-olds in prison, let alone destroy them. It's not just morally difficult, it's practically difficult too because, after all, these kids can read the "front part" of everybody's mind. (They're working on the back rooms too.) Sanders proposes that the government give him a year to teach them in the local school and to study them, and the wish is granted.

But eventually Sanders comes to realize that when they are grown the children will have all the power and knowledge they need to take over the entire world, and maybe that IS their goal. They show nothing in the way of humane impulses. If they only kill when they are threatened, well that can change as soon as they pick up some of the values of the world they're now living in. Yes -- ruthless fascist dictators seem about the right slots for them. I can't readily visualize them as Gestalt psychotherapists.

Sanders decides that they have to go, but it's a problem because, although he's about the only person in the village they feel any trust for, they can also read his intentions. And naturally if he succeeds in ridding the world of these kids, he must go with them because, really, how can you murder these beautiful intelligent children and go on living with yourself. In order to accomplish his goal, he must think of nothing but a brick wall, so they can't read his mind. But they are suspicious and their collective power begins to cause the brick wall to crumble -- too late.

I said this was a low-budget flick and it is. There are hardly any special effects to speak of. The production couldn't even afford to pay a stunt man for a full body burn. The performances are fine, but the direction is no more than efficient, and the art direction and photography project a chilly and grimy atmosphere which seems to have occurred naturally.

I also said it was intelligent and it is. It's not exactly a horror flick because it has no monsters or murderers and it's not exactly science fiction in the usual sense because it takes place in the present and there isn't a robot in sight. What it does is use improbable events to pose a series of important moral questions. Nobody would argue that these kids are likable. And maybe their Daddies were nothing more than a shower of golden coins or a stream of photons. But they look human and in many ways act it. They don't want to die -- they know about mortality.

They certainly DO seem dangerous but they haven't done anything irredeemably evil yet. Sanders decides that there's nothing wrong with them that a darn good blowing up wouldn't cure and we applaud when he manages to carry out his plan. But he's making an awful lot of questionable assumptions. Do they deserve to be killed en masse? Would YOU kill them all?
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Like the scariest unreleased episode of The Twilight Zone
Kristine17 November 2008
I grew up watching The Simpsons, one of the episodes that is a classic favorite of mine has a little parody of Village of the Damned they called The Bloodening, lol. I always thought it was supposed to be a parody of Children of the Corn, but then I was watching 100 Scariest Movie Moments on Bravo and Village of the Damned came on and then the light bulb went on that this was the story the Simpsons made fun of. But I was so memorized by what scenes they were showing that I had to find this movie and watch it, I finally found it online last night and I absolutely loved this movie. This is one of the creepiest horror movies I have ever seen, so many people who always told me that creepy kids scare them, I never understood why until I saw this film last night, it gave me nightmares. Granted, I know that it's cheesy and you can easily MST3K your way through it, but watching this in the dark with those creepy glowing eyes is an image I will never get out of my head.

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.

Village of the Damned is a very memorable film and just scared the living day lights out of me. I would highly recommend this for any one who truly appreciates film, because it is cheesy in some aspects, I think it takes a certain person to really understand this film and in the time it was made. The way these kids looked was just beyond disturbing, they looked alike, sounded alike, and acted alike. Those voices were so light, care free, it just got into your head that these kids had no boundaries and that's what's scary, you know that if a child has those powers, there would be no adults in this world. Village of the Damned is a terrific horror film, I highly recommend it, watch it in the dark, it's a lot of fun.

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The Midwich Brick Wall.
Spikeopath8 May 2010
Village of the Damned is directed by Wolf Rilla and is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. It stars George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens & Michael Gwynn. It was originally meant to be an American produced picture starring Ronald Colman but MGM got itchy feet on account of what they deemed as some sinister issues. A couple of years down the line the film was relocated to England and shot on location at Letchmore Heath, with Sanders stepping in for the recently passed away Colman.

The peaceful English village of Midwich falls victim to a strange occurrence that sees the inhabitants fall asleep for several hours. With no clue to exactly what happened or what caused such an event, the villagers are further baffled to find all the women of Midwich have suddenly fell pregnant. Come the births of the children it's apparent that all is not well here in this once sleepy little village.

The 1950s was a great decade for the sci-fi movie fan, with the paranoia of potential atomic war and communist fervour taking hold, a ream of B movie schlockers tapped into this feverish air of mistrust. With the sight of giant creepy crawlies and atomic monsters rampaging across America creating much fun, it's arguably with the alien invasion that 50s cinema garnered its real terror. Enter English sci-fi writer John Wyndham (The Day Of the Triffids), who wrote The Midwich Cuckoos in 1957. Wyndham came up with an original idea to take the alien invasion premise to another level, use children. Horrible, creepy, blonde haired, blank staring, children.

The film in truth is too short to fully do justice to Wyndham's frightening novel, while other issues such as the barely believable coupling of Sanders and Shelley ensures the film has a lot of creakiness within. But it's still a potent bit of sci-fi horror that, come the latter stages, cranks up the creep factor as the children are born and the piece becomes a conventional monster movie. It's here where Rilla does a terrific job of building the dread. Armed with a small budget of under $300 thousand (it was a monster box office smash), the stop frame effects work is surprisingly effective, as are the child actors. Led by the impressive Martin Stephens who a year later would continue the creepy vein as Miles in The Innocents. A more than decent sequel would follow three years later {Children Of the Damned} and a poor remake by John Carpenter would surface in 1995. But it's this one that stands the test of time as a genre classic. Spooky atmosphere coupled with a genuinely intelligent and sinister story makes for an eerie 70 odd minutes of cinema. 8/10
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An Excellent Film Five Decades On
Matthew Kresal15 August 2010
At a time when science fiction films were being made mostly with bad scripts, bad actors and even worse production values, there were a handful of science fiction films that were the exact opposite. One of these was 1960's Village Of The Damned. Based on John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos, this tale of a mysterious blacking out of an English village and the more mysterious children born in its wake has becoming something of a genre classic in five decades since it was released. The reasons for this are not hard to see at all thanks to a fine combination of cast, direction, cinematography and script.

In some respects a film is only as good as its cast and this film is certainly no exception. George Sanders gives a very believable performance as Professor Gordon Zellaby, the man who finds himself caught more and more in the heart of mysterious events. Barbara Shelly plays his wife Anthea, herself a mother of one of the mysterious children and who finds herself increasingly isolated from that child. Martin Stephens plays Barbara's brother Alan, a military man who stumbles across the mysterious events and becomes linked to it from that point on. Then there's members of the village such as Laurence Naismith as Doctor Willers, Bernard Archard as the local Vicar and others who find themselves baffled and increasingly alarmed by the events around them. Together these actors help to anchor this film with a sense of reality often lost in films of this genre, both then and now.

No review of this film would be complete without mentioning the mysterious children of course. Led by child actor Martin Stephens as David, this group of children are amongst the most menacing and odd "monsters" to ever appear in a science fiction film. Notice I use monsters in quotation marks would you? Yes they are children, but at a time when bug eyed monsters were all the rage, Wyndham's novel and the filmmakers took what should have been innocent and made it into a monster of sorts, driven by logic and the need to survive at all costs. With simple looks, coupled with a special effect that looks impressive even fifty years later, they become utterly believable as creatures of menace. The result makes the film all the better not just then, but now as well.

Two more ingredients in the film's success are the direction and cinematography. Perhaps taking a cue from Val Guest's direction of the first two Quatermass films, Wolf Rilla choose to direct the film in a very low key way that avoids any of the showier techniques of the time except when its really needed as in the climax of the film. This is coupled with the cinematography of Geoffrey Faithful who shoots the film in a low key, almost pseudo-documentary style that is also very much akin to that seen in the first two Quatermass films. The result is a film that feels realistic even in light of its science fiction events.

Which brings us to the script written by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and George Barclay. Adapted from John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos the script is a fine example of construction and dialogue being put together brilliantly. From the moment the entire population of the village of Midwich blacks out to the army's investigations of it, there's a mystery in place for the characters (and the viewer) to solve. It is only when the women of Midwich fall pregnant, their children are born and begin towards their appointed destiny that the mystery begins to unravel. As that happens, the film methodically builds in tensions right to the end. All the while though the script reminds us that these are ordinary people caught in the midst of increasingly mysterious events around them thanks both to character moments and the dialogue present throughout. While I can speak to how faithful or unfaithful it is to the original novel, I can say that in either case it is a fine script nevertheless.

The only really mixed element found in the film is its score by Ron Goodwin. Goodwin's score is very effective in places, especially in sequences where it is wonderfully timed to the special effect of the "looks" the children give. There are just as many other moments though where the music is utterly out of place, no more so then the heroic march played over the closing credit sequence for example. Consequently, the score ranges continuously between being highly effective or out of place to the point of clashing.

Village Of The Damned has become a classic of the science fiction genre all thanks to a fine combination of a great cast, Wolf Rilla's direction, Geoffrey Faithful's cinematography and a fine script. By choosing to be the exact opposite of everything bad science fiction films of the time were, this film still has the power to be every bit as tense and mysterious as it ever has been. That's proved to be even more true some fifty years after its initial release.
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A Wyndham Adaptation That Sticks To The Book
Theo Robertson11 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing the BBC travesty that claims to be based on John Wyndham's DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS I decided to catch the film version of The Midwich Cuckoos given the more melodramatic title of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED and wasn't disappointed . It's a very faithful adaptation of the author's work showing the strength and weakness of Wyndham's writing

Like most of Wyndham's work the theme of mankind trying to survive the presence on Earth of an alien life form is well realised . The aliens in question - a new breed of children - are portrayed as being amoral rather than cruel and belligerent . The problem with this is that people nowadays are far more used to " talking monsters " where they come to Earth and explain their plans and motives to the human characters and The Midwich Cukoos is probably the closest Wyndham came to these type of aliens . Certainly if you read The Kraken Wakes you might be surprised that humanity is incapable of making any kind of communication to the aliens

If there's a downside to this type of writing it's that much of the drama revolves around scientists , military men and government bureaucrats sitting around tables discussing the matters in hand and how to deal with the threat . Much of the film is dialogue driven and for an audience brought up on DOCTOR WHO they might find this slightly boring . It's not helped by an old fashioned feel where the likes of the local vicar being a centre for the community and a scene where a character visits the doctor's surgery only to see the doctor pull out out a cigarette and light up

Perhaps the most effective scene is the opening where the village inhabitants fall asleep and anyone approaching the village also falls unconscious . This gives a very eerie opening installment along with the revelation that several of the female inhabitants have become pregnant . It's a great premise though to be honest once you know where the plot is going it's not as exciting as you expect . The film also has a rather short running time which means there's not much plotting involved . That said at least it keeps to Wyndham's book and is much better than the 1995 remake by John Carpenter
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A superbly eerie, intelligent and ambiguous 60's British sci-fi/horror gem
Woodyanders24 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Quite simply one of the all-time great spooky and atmospheric British sci-fi/horror winners from the 60's, this supremely chilling and engrossing knockout still packs a potent, lingering punch even today. All the young women in the quiet remote English hamlet of Midwich mysteriously become pregnant after the whole populace goes into a bizarre and abrupt 24-hour trance. The ladies give birth to a bunch of odd, emotionless, tow-headed kids with extraordinary kinetic and telepathic abilities. They also have glowing bright eyes, unusual fingernails, and acute advanced intellects. Moreover, the murderous moppets casually kill anyone they perceive as a threat in strange and startling "accidents." Some of the frightened townspeople stand up to the freaky tykes to no avail. It's ultimately up to brave and perceptive military scientist George Sanders (who gives a truly outstanding performance) to put a stop to 'em before it's too late.

Tautly directed with commendable understatement by Wolf Rilla, with a smart and compact script co-written by future Oscar-winning screenwriter Stirling Stilliphant, gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, a nicely spare and shivery score, an eerily ambiguous tone, a pleasingly concise 78 minute running time, uniformly aces acting from a top-drawer cast (the child thespians are extremely unsettling while Hammer horror queen Barbara Shelley makes for a very charming and pretty damsel in distress), and a genuinely nerve-wracking conclusion, "Village of the Damned" never falters for a minute. The film's smashing success derives partly from Rilla's wisely stark and straightforward execution, partly from the sheer vague creepiness of the intriguing plot (no explanation is ever given for how or why the children were born in the first place), and primarily from downplaying needless flashy special effects razzle-dazzle to emphasize instead the strong and absorbing adults vs. children conflict at the heart of the narrative (this movie could be read as a weird and imaginative fantastic allegory on the generation gap that was a key hallmark of the 60's). A terrific terror tale that's wholly deserving of its substantial classic status.
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Little Budget, Big Movie
ragosaal1 September 2006
I don't think producers of Village of the Damned were willing to spend much money on this movie. In fact, only George Sanders in the cast could be considered as a star and he was on his way back by the time he made this picture. Though Barbara Shelley and Michael Gwynne where often casted in horror films none of the two got even close to reach stardom. I don't think the rest of the actors where known outside England. The movie was filmed in black and white and no decoration or huge sets were needed. No much for special effects even for 1960.

But somehow out of this unpretentious film turned out a real little classic in its genre. The idea of alien children dominating adults and killing them with just a look of their shinning eyes works perfectly and makes an interesting sci-fi or even horror story that keeps tension till the end. The final confrontation between Sanders and the kids is outstanding as we watch him trying hard to think of a brick wall that starts to brake and reveal the inside part of the bag on the desk. Although the actor didn't seem to put much effort in his role his talent was enough to present a fine performance.

The movie lasts less than 1 hour and 20 minutes but that is enough to deliver the plot and no more is needed. Definitely one of the best sci-fi/horror films I've ever seen.
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„Cool Britannia", a brick wall and a suicide bomber
manuel-pestalozzi3 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
What is absolutely striking about this comparatively short movie is the accomplished stylishness of the blond alien kids. It reminded me spontaneously of the long playing record covers of the 70ies. They are all smartly dressed in a kind of school uniform, sport Beatles haircuts (before anyone even heard about the Beatles) and have a demeanor that expresses nothing but utter disdain born out of a feeling of superiority. They are alien, they are special - they are a threat. Adults, run for cover! It is almost unimaginable that this movie did not have a huge influence on the pop culture that was yet to be born.

The main character, played by George Sanders with the „coolness" of an earlier generation, first shows an active interest in this new brand of children. They could be mutants that bring on a better future, couldn't they? But in the end he looses his calm just like the others, puts a time bomb into his briefcase and fixes his thoughts on a brick wall in the hope that the mind reading kids cannot penetrate this mental barrier and find out about his suicide mission. The movie ends with a bang and is bound to leave an impression with its viewers.
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Spooky happenings in Midwich
Chris Gaskin20 February 2006
I've seen Village of the Damned a couple of times now and found it very spooky.

Life suddenly stops in Midwich for some strange reason, everybody stopping what they are doing wherever they are. Some hours later, everything starts moving again. The strange thing is that most of the women in the village are pregnant. Looks like aliens or something has invaded the village. When the babies are born, they tend to grow quickly and don't seem to be normal. They aren't and these children are aliens and make people kill each other by controlling them. That's when we see their eyes glowing white. Towards the end, Professor Zellaby, whose wife has given birth to one of these little monsters, heads to the place where they are staying with a suitcase full of dynamite...

Village of the Damned is shot on location in a English country village, from which you get a sense of a small rural community typical of England.

The excellent cast includes several familiar faces: Falcon actor George Sanders, Hammer regular Barbara Shelley (Quatermass and the Pit, Dracula: Prince of Darkness), Laurence Naismith (The Valley of Gwangi, Jason and the Argonauts), Martin Stephens (The Innocents), Michael Gwynn (The Revenge of Frankenstein) and Peter Vaughan (Porridge).

Village of the Damned is a good way to spend an hour and a quarter one evening. Very creepy.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
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I'll Never Forget It
WCBrown13 February 2006
I think I was 7 or 8 years old when I saw this movie by myself at a local theater in Springfield, IL, where I grew up. I don't think the MPAA ratings were in place or enforced when I was allowed in the theater and I think they should have rated it PG-13 and not allowed me in without a parent or older kid to help me keep my sanity.

Now, 42 years later, I can still remember two things about Village Of The Damned: those damned eyes, and the damned ending. The children literally scared the bejeezus out of me and I was afraid to walk the 8 blocks home for fear of meeting one or more of these kids. I had nightmares for a couple of weeks, like some of the other commentators here stated they experienced.

I was delighted to see that a well-known online DVD rental company actually has the DVDs of this and its sequel in a box set and it is on my list to see very shortly. I just hope I don't have flashbacks of the same terror I experienced during my initial exposure to this psychic masterpiece. My wife and two grown daughters have not seen it. I know it will get to my wife; doesn't take much to get a rise out of her. I just hope my daughters are not too jaded from modern special-effects movies to find this "old-school" B&W flick uninteresting. Personally, I can't wait. BTW, I did see the 1995 re-make and it was OK, but nothing as intrusive in my psyche as the original.
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A 60's Scifi Classic
Amunhotep-IVth5 May 2005
This 1960 vintage film set in an small English village is IMHO very well thought out and produced.

This film has an eeriness about it not usually seen in films of later years. The acting, especially the children, is well done and is highly believable. The costumes, especially the uniforms of the children, lends itself highly to the films believability. I saw this film when it was originally in theaters in the 60s and later several times on television. It is always a pleasure to see this classic. The passage of 40+ years has not diminished this films enjoyability.

I firmly believe that had this film been shot in color instead of black & white much of the films effectiveness would be lost. It is therefore my opinion this film is a must see and a keeper.
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One of the best English sci-fi films of the 60s.
djoser14 March 1999
Village of the damned is a tense, well made film. It keeps you on the edge of your seat right the way through, and the ending is brilliant. It benefits from the quaint setting of an isolated English town, and the acting is largely pretty good, especially that of the creepy children.

This 1960 film is much better than the 1995 American remake, which went for gore and loud bangs rather than tension.
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Creepy and Spooky. Well worth watching!
artroraback25 October 2002
Village of the Damned is a creepy and spooky movie. Filmed in black and white to give it an eerie spookiness this movie manages to scare without any special effects. The story revolves around a small town in England where after an unusual occurrence all of the women of childbearing age inexplicably give birth to seemingly too-perfect children. Well worth watching and highly recommended.
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