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Film / Village of the Damned (1960)

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Village of the Damned is a 1960 British Sci-Fi Horror film by German director Wolf Rilla, starring George Sanders and adapted fairly faithfully from the John Wyndham novel The Midwich Cuckoos.

The tale begins as every inhabitant of the English village of Midwich, even the animals, suddenly falls unconscious, as does anyone entering the village. The military establishes a cordon around the village, plus a five-mile exclusion zone for aircraft after the pilot of a plane passing overhead falls unconscious, causing the plane to crash. Nobody can enter the village to find the cause... but when everyone in Midwich wakes again, apparently unaffected by what is soon dubbed a "time out," the danger appears to have passed.

However, two months later, all women and girls of child-bearing age are discovered to be pregnant. All the women give birth on the same day, to strangely identical children, all possessing white-blond hair, striking eyes, and unusual fingernails. As the children grow and develop at a surprising rate, it becomes clear that they share a telepathic bond: what one knows, the others soon know also. And Midwich was not the only community so affected: communities in Australia, Canada, Irkutsk, and the Soviet Union have all seen such births.

However, there is something about these children — these intelligent, well-behaved children — that frightens the adults of Midwich. They show no conscience or love, and can use their mental powers to read minds and force people to do things against their will, even kill themselves.

Now the real question is this: What do they want?

Followed by the sequel/reboot Children of the Damned in 1963, and a 1995 remake directed by John Carpenter.

Village of the Damned contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Title Change: Village of the Damned is an adaptation of the novel The Midwich Cuckoos.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The Children are a lot more malicious and petty in comparison to the original novel, where they only defended themselves and didn't know the consequences of their actions. However, in both versions they knew that eventually they would have to take over humanity or they would be killed.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: In a small town in Winshire - which we can assume allowed them to shut down life for a few hours while they impregnated the women.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Examining the alien newborns, a physician claims that blood tests won't reveal anything, as at that age they still mostly have their mothers' blood. The blood of mother and fetus doesn't mix before birth; in fact, a major job of the placenta is to keep them separated by membranes so the mom's immune system won't attack the fetus's tissues.
    • Children whose hairs are D-shaped in cross-section should have wavy or curly hair. Only circular hairs grow straight.
  • Bizarre Baby Boom: Happens to all the women of child-bearing age in Midwich. (in Children of the Damned, it's spread out to result in six children in six different nations)
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Aliens impregnate every woman of child-bearing age in a small English town. Initial reactions range from joy (from a previously childless couple) to suspicion (from a husband who's been away at sea) to this incredulous reaction from a teenage virgin.
  • Chocolate Baby: Inverted. There's said to be children born to non-white parents in other countries with their albino looks - "golden haired children born to black haired parents" - and they were killed by the parents.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: No one is in any immediate danger as long as they don't threaten the children. They can only read minds of the people in the same room as them, and they can only influence people to do things if they make eye contact - and Gordon is briefly able to resist their psychic powers by just thinking of a brick wall. However it's implied that the children's power is likely to get even stronger - and they seem to think they'll be able to influence things remotely once they're split up.
  • Creepy Child: All the mutant children.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Anthea tells Gordon to sit down before she tells him that she is pregnant.
  • Economy Cast: Even though every woman of child-bearing age is said to have gotten pregnant in Midwich, the children are rarely in groups of more than five. Only in the classroom do we see them all together.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final shot has the glowing eyes headed towards the audience as they are looking through the fire.
  • Enfante Terrible: Guess. Go on, guess.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: When the alien children force a villager to drive his car into a wall, the car immediately bursts into flames.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Bruno, the Zellaby family dog, snarls and growls in the presence of alien baby David.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The children are implied to be the result of alien impregnation during the time out.
  • For Science!: Professsor Zellaby dismisses evidence that the children are evil and insists they be allowed to live at large the better to study their superior alien minds.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: How Gordon calms down Anthea after a displeased David telepathically causes her to have a fit and plunge her hand into scalding water.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The alien children have these when they use their Psychic Powers.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: James Pawle threatens the children with a shotgun after they hypnotize his brother into fatally crashing his car. The children force Pawle to turn the gun on himself, and we see a closeup of his finger pulling the trigger, followed by a reaction shot of the onlookers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: To stop the children, Professor Zellaby blows himself up alongside them.
  • Hive Mind: The children. When one child learns something new, the rest of them learn it as well.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Half-Human Hybrid children in the original, not alien but not exactly human (one scientist argues they are part of a more advanced Human Subspecies) in Children of the Damned.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: When making eye contact, the children can hypnotise anyone into doing what they want.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of villagers suggests this as a way to get rid of the children. He and a group of villagers decide to try Torches and Pitchforks (minus the pitchforks). It does not end well for him.
  • Literal Metaphor: Zellaby focuses on the words "brick wall" to hide how he plans to kill the psychic children. We see their attempts to break through his Psychic Static as a literal brick wall, which slowly falls to pieces as they force their way in.
  • May–December Romance: It's a minor plot point that Gordon is several years older than Anthea - George Sanders was 54, Barbara Shelley was 28 - and as he married "late in life" he wasn't expecting to be able to have a child. Despite the age difference, the two are Happily Married.
  • Mind Rape: The children do this to Allan and send him into shock to send a message.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The children's reaction when they find out what's behind the "brick wall".
    • Most adults' reactions to turning around and seeing a cluster of the children staring intently at them. Then their eyes start to glow...
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: And the children do this for fun.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Sort of, the kids of Children of the Damned take refuge in an abandoned church.
  • Smart People Play Chess: When they are not studying or forcing people to kill themselves, the alien children pass their time playing chess.
  • Super-Intelligence: The children can solve complicated puzzles as toddlers.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: After the death of James Pawle, the villagers decide to get rid of the children. At night, they attack the house where the children live and they try to burn it down. The children stop them with their psychic powers.
  • Uncanny Valley: The albinism in conjunction with the Hive Mind and the complete, and utter lack of emotion the children possesses, has this effect on the audience, and even in-universe.
  • The Unreveal: We never learn who created the children, or why.
  • Villainous Breakdown: A minor one. David (and by extension, the rest of the children) stop acting smug and are legitimately concerned during the 'brick wall' scene.
  • Would Hurt a Child: All the alien children are blown up at the end. For most viewers probably justified in that they are a superior alien race that have about as much regard for human life as humans have for insects.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: On the other hand, the children themselves only harm adults. One of the other village children throws a ball at one girl, and David commands her to leave him alone. There is mention of a boy drowning in the area but it's not known how old he was, or if the children were involved.

Alternative Title(s): Children Of The Damned