Village of the Damned (1960)

UK, 1960
77m
35mm film, black and white, 1.85:1
mono (Westrex Recording System), English

A British science fiction film directed by Wolf Rilla.

Plot Summary

The inhabitants of the small English village of Midwich all fall unconscious one afternoon. Nine months later, the women give birth to a group of children who all grow up to look and act exactly the same. Possessed of tremendous psychic powers, the children begin killing villagers and one of their fathers, Gordon Zellaby, tries to protect them. But as their acts of destruction grow ever more outrageous, Zellaby is forced to make a terrible decision…

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Wolf Rilla
© MCMLX [1960] by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Produced by: Ronald Kinnoch
Screenplay by: Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, George Barclay [real name: Ronald Kinnoch]
Based on the novel ‘The Midwich Cuckoos‘ by John Wyndham
Photographed by: Geoffrey Faithfull
Edited by: Gordon Hales
Music by: Ron Goodwin
Recording Supervisor: A.W. Watkins
Sound Recordist: Cyril Swern
Wardrobe Supervisor: Eileen Sullivan
Make-up: Eric Aylott
Hairdresser: Joan Johnstone
Photographic Effects by: Tom Howard
Art Director: Ivan King
Locations: Letchmore Heath, England, UK

Cast
George Sanders (Gordon Zellaby)
Barbara Shelley (Anthea Zellaby)
Michael Gwynn (Alan Bernard)
Laurence Naismith (Dr Willers)
John Phillips (General Leighton)
Richard Vernon (Sir Edgar Hargraves)
Jenny Laird (Mrs Harrington)
Richard Warner (Harrington)
Thomas Heathcote (James Pawle)
Martin Stephens (David Zellaby)
Charlotte Mitchell (Janet Pawle)
Keith Pyott (Dr Carlisle)
John Stuart (Professor Smith)
Bernard Archard (vicar)
Sheila Robins (nurse)
Peter Vaughan (P.C. Gobby)
Tom Bowman (pilot)
Susan Richards (Mrs Plumpton)
Rosamund Greenwood (Miss Ogle)
Sarah Long (Evelyn)

Alternative Titles

Het Dorp der vervloekten – Netherlands
Le Village des damnés – France

Sequel
Children of the Damned (1963)

Remake
Village of the Damned (1995)

Extracts included in
The First 100 Years: A Celebration of American Movies (1995)

See also
The Midwich Cuckoos (2022)
School of the Damned (2019)

Press

1960
Daily Telegraph 18 June 1960
[T]he film [provides] a good deal of harmless excitement before the invention finally runs down. The weakness is a failure to establish an atmosphere of fear. Wells, with a careful accumulation of persuasive detail, would have had our hair standing on end. Here the fantasy always seems more credible than the reality, with the result that we are more amused than chilled. – from a review by Patrick Gibbs

The Guardian 18 June 1960
[N]o usual film of its science fictional kind. Certainly its story contains monsters and, in a sense, they are monsters from another planet or at least from another world. The point about them, however, is that, far from being hideous, they have the appearance of charming blond children. The story is most ingenious and it is told by Wolf Rilla (director and co-author of the screen play) with the right laconic touch. – author not known

The Observer 19 June 1960
Written and handled with a considerable amount of delicacy, it may possibly appeal more to the adults than the adolescents, and the further you have moved away from fantasy the more you will understand its chill. […] It’s difficult to suggest, until you’ve seen those Children’s eyes, and their dreadful, rigid uniformity, the compulsion of what might have been a ridiculous and makeshift little picture. Village of the Damned is not in any way a classic. But Walter Rilla [sic] has marshalled his young cast with exemplary skill, and I doubt if George Sanders has ever let himself go so deep into a part. […] I may be quite alone in this opinion, but I haven’t been so haunted by a play about ultramundane possession since I saw The Innocents, the stage version of Henry James’s ‘Turn of the Screw‘ – from a review by C.A. Lejeune

The People 19 June 1960
It’s a film with a ghastly fascination. And the reason it holds you is because it is acted and directed with a deadly seriousness. As a horror film with a difference it’ll give you the creeps for 77 minutes. – from a review by Ernest Betts

The People 19 June 1960
[A] well-made British film: the effective timing, the frightening matter-of-factness of the village setting, most of the acting, and especially the acting of the handsome, flaxen-haired children (headed by Martin Stephens) who are the cold villains of the piece. – from a review by Dilys Powell

The Times 20 June 1960
There are no concessions to kind hearts and cinema conventions: no cathartic clinch to end all happily. Characters are brutally despatched with a happy disregard for the degree of sympathy they command, such as we have scarcely seen since Tod Browning’s horrors in the ‘thirties. […] There is something incomparably sinister about this gang of beautiful children with their huge malevolent eyes, looking, and by just looking forcing one man to shoot himself and another to crash his car. They are related to the monsters of The Turn of the Screw. All the same, as they sit at their studies, silent (because they do not need speech to transmit thought), responding as one person, they are true originals.” – from a review by David Robinson

Time 5 December 1960
Apparently assuming that a picture with only one star (George Sanders) of second magnitude could not possibly be any good, M-G-M is hustling Village around the neighborhood circuits without even bothering to give it a Broadway send-off. It is missing a good bet. Based on a clever thriller (The Midwich Cuckoos) by John Wyndham and made in Britain for about $500,000, Village is one of the neatest little horror pictures produced since Peter Lorre went straight. – reviewer not known.

1961
Saturday Review 14 January 1961
An absorbing little picture that you may yet be able to find on some double-feature bill. – from a review by Hollis Alpert

References

Periodicals

  • Castle of Frankenstein no.10 p.6
  • The Daily Cinema 13 June 1960 p.10 – review
  • The Daily Cinema no.8335 (22 July 1960) p.7 – note (Over 40 titles in big M-G-M line-up)
  • The Hollywood Reporter 18 October 1960 p.3 – review, credits
  • Kine Weekly vol.517 no.2750 (16 June 1960) p.29 – credits, synopsis, review (Reviews for showmen by Josh Billings)
  • Kine Weekly vol.517 no.2751 (23 June 1960) p.11 – note (Your films by Josh Billings)
  • Kine Weekly vol.517 no.2752 (30 June 1960) p.11 – note (Your films by Josh Billings)
  • Kine Weekly 16 June 1960 p.29 – review
  • Mad Movies no.1 (June 1972) p.unpaginated – credits, review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin July 1960 p.101 – review, credits
  • Saturday Review 14 January 1961 – review (by Hollis Alpert)
  • Time 5 December 1960 – review (author not known)
  • Variety 29 June 1960 – review, credits

Newspapers

  • Daily Telegraph 18 June 1960 – review (by Patrick Gibbs)
  • The Guardian 18 June 1960 – review (author not known)
  • The Observer 19 June 1960 – review (by C.A. Lejeune)
  • The People 19 June 1960 – review (by Ernest Betts)
  • The Sunday Times 19 June 1960 – review (by Dilys Powell)
  • The Times 20 June 1960 – review (by David Robinson)

Books

  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed) pp.204; 205
  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.187-188
  • British Gothic Cinema by Barry Forshaw pp.120, 174
  • English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.5, 90-92, 91, 134, 317
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.334
  • Feature Films, 1960-1969: A Filmography of English-language and Major Foreign-language United States Releases by Harris M. Lentz III p.506
  • House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse p.319
  • Reference Guide to Fantastic Films by Walt Lee p.524 – credits
  • Sci-fi Chronicles by Guy Haley (ed.) p.169
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester p.508-510
  • Sixties Shockers by Mark Clark and Bryan Senn pp.41
  • Terry Nation: The Man Who Invented the Daleks by Alwyn W. Turner pp.68
  • Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956-1976 by Gary A. Smith p.232
  • Variety Science-Fiction Movies by Julian Brown (ed.) p.120-121 – illustrated credits, review