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Village of the Damned

Entry updated 16 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

1. Film (1960). MGM. Directed by Wolf Rilla. Written by Sterling Silliphant, Rilla, George Barclay (Ronald Kinnoch, the producer), based on The Midwich Cuckoos (1957; rev 1958; vt Village of the Damned 1960) by John Wyndham. Cast includes George Sanders, Barbara Shelley and Martin Stephens. 77 minutes. Black and white.

In this faithful but pedestrian adaptation of Wyndham's novel, everyone in a UK village mysteriously falls asleep for 24 hours. During this period all the women of childbearing age are unknowingly impregnated by Aliens. In due course they give birth to twelve strange children who grow very rapidly and possess the Psi Powers of Telepathy and mind control. Some years later it is realized that the children represent an attempt by another planet to colonize Earth, and they are destroyed by the Scientist (Sanders) who has been their friend – with difficulty, since the method of destruction (a bomb) has to be mentally concealed from them. The children, with their glowing eyes, are the most successful feature of the production; their sang-froid is chilling and seems authentically alien. A virtual remake of this film, this time in an urban setting, was Children of the Damned (1963). [JB/PN]

2. Film (1995). Universal Pictures presents an Alphaville Films production. Directed by John Carpenter. Written David Himmelstein, based on John Wyndham's novel and the 1960 Silliphant/Rilla/Kinnoch screenplay. Cast includes Kirstie Alley, Thomas Dekker, Mark Hamill, Lindsey Haun, Linda Kozlowski and Christopher Reeve. 99 minutes. Colour.

This update, which was offered to Wes Craven before Carpenter came aboard, moves Wyndham's setting to northern California, adds some tonally jarring scenes of graphic violence to what is for the most part a faithful retread of the 1960 film's plotline, and nods to the children's more sympathetic treatment in Children of the Damned (1963; vt Horror!) by presenting the unearthly David as conflicted between the human and Alien parts of his nature. The two child leads, Dekker and Haun, are effective and even iconic, in an otherwise lacklustre cast whose adult stars all seem ill at ease with their characters, as indeed does Carpenter with the studio script and conservative white-collar setting; it would be his last film to pretend otherwise. [NL]


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