Village of the Damned


1h 17m 1960
Village of the Damned

Brief Synopsis

After a mysterious blackout, the inhabitants of a British village give birth to emotionless, super-powered offspring.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
The Midwich Cuckoos
Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1960
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 Dec 1960
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Letchmore Heath, England, Great Britain; Letchmore Heath,England
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (London, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
6,954ft

Synopsis

In the small English village of Midwich, physicist Gordon Zellaby is speaking on the phone with his brother-in-law Alan Bernard, a military officer at the London War Office, when Gordon and all the townspeople and animals suddenly fall unconscious. Concerned when he cannot reach anyone in Midwich, Alan drives towards the town and watches as a constable just ahead suddenly slumps to the ground near a bus, which has stopped in the road because its driver and passengers are under the same spell. Wary bout proceeding, Alan asks his commanding officer to send the southeastern command to investigate. Within hours, the military has set up a perimeter around the town and tests the area by sending in a soldier with a gas mask as a plane monitors from above. The soldier quickly drops to the ground unconscious, while the pilot also passes out, crashing his plane. Several minutes later, however, the bus passengers, constable and nearby cattle all awaken from their spell. In the Zellaby home, Gordon and his wife Anthea realize that they both have been unconscious for hours and are shocked when Alan informs them that the entire village passed out. Military troops move into Midwich and search the ground with detectors, but are unable to determine the cause of the "time out." While Doctor Willers notes that no one was seriously hurt, the townspeople are deeply disturbed by the incident. In the interest of national security, the military orders that the incident be kept top secret and begins surveillance of the Midwich citizenry. Weeks later, Anthea discovers she is pregnant, while spinster operator Miss Ogle and a virgin teenager are also pregnant but cannot explain why. It is soon discovered that every woman capable of giving birth became pregnant the day of the mysterious spell cast on Midwich. When a nursing station is set up for the women, Willers tells Gordon that x-rays reveal the fetuses are in a very advanced stage of development. Despite Gordon's attempts to reassure Anthea that she will have a normal baby, she and all the villagers fear the upcoming births. All twelve babies are born within hours of each other and are similar in their features, including blonde hair and strange, arresting eyes. At four months old, Willers notes that all of the babies have the physical development of eighteen-month-old children. One day, while Anthea is feeding her infant David, the child's stare sends his mother into hysterics. Months later, Gordon shows Alan how David easily solves a puzzle box that even Alan has a hard time resolving. Gordon then takes Alan to meet two of the other children who also easily open the trick box. Gordon, who has been monitoring each child's growth and behavior, explains that if you demonstrate something to one child, that all the children know the solution. Gordon thus concludes they share a common consciousness. Although still the age of toddlers, the children appear to be school age and scare the villagers with their glaring eyes. They demonstrate telepathic abilities, prefer one another's company and politely refuse their parents' attention and love. When Alan suggests the children are evil, Gordon assures him that they are exceptionally bright, but must be taught to understand human interaction. Soon after, Gordon and Alan meet with a committee of government and military personnel and discover that there were many "time outs" simultaneous to Midwich and consequently other colonies of such children exist, including one in northern Australia, where a similar brood of children died within ten hours of birth, and another in the artic, where a group of babies was killed because of suspicions about their blonde hair and fair complexions among the dark-skinned Eskimos. While one doctor believes that a "jump" in human development has taken place, another doctor hypothesizes that the earth received impulses of energy from beings in outer space. Assuming that a series of accidents in Midwich are attributable to the mysterious children, the committee decides to imprison them, but Gordon asks for one year to teach them as a group and monitor their behavior. Over the next few months, Gordon learns that the children, who are under his instruction in a house on the outskirts of town, have limits to their mind reading capabilities. When he asks them if they know of life on another planet and what they plan to do with their telepathic powers, the children refuse to answer, leading Gordon to assume they have plans to control the earth. One day, a man accidentally hits one of the children with his car. Although the child is unharmed, the group uses their telepathic gaze to cause the man to drive into a brick wall, killing him. The brother of the deceased believes that the children caused the death and plans to kill them, but the children, sensing his hatred, use their powers to make him shoot himself in the head. Although Gordon, Alan and Anthea witnessed the event, they were caught in a trance created by the youngsters and were powerless to stop it. Later that night while Gordon, Alan and Willers discuss their options, General Leighton calls to tell them that the Russian army has annihilated the village of Raminsk where another group of "time out" children began wreaking havoc. Meanwhile an angry mob of villagers take torches to the children's house, but the children put them in a trance and cause the leader of the group to set himself on fire. Soon after, when Alan demands to know why David killed the man, the boy informs him that the children know about Raminsk and have decided to survive no matter what the cost. Later that evening, David goes to the Zellaby home to tell Gordon that human emotions hinder their capacity for power and to ask him to make arrangements by Friday to help the children disperse throughout the country covertly. When Friday arrives, Gordon asks his wife to drive Alan back to London while he attends to the children. Now alone, Gordon arms himself with dynamite in his briefcase and imagines a brick wall to protect his thoughts from the children's mind reading skills. Meanwhile, on the road, Anthea suddenly realizes that there was something strange in her husband's request and turns the car around. At the house, the children sense Gordon is nervous during his lesson but are unable to see through his "brick wall." Using their powers, they shake Gordon's concentration by causing the wall to crumble, but Gordon succeeds in holding off the telepathy long enough to detonate the bomb. As Anthea looks on, the explosion kills the children and Gordon, who has saved the world from the control of the aberrant children.

Photo Collections

Village of the Damned - Publicity Stills
Here are a number of stills taken to help publicize MGM's release of Village of the Damned (1960), starring George Sanders. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Village of the Damned - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Village of the Damned (1960). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Village Of The Damned (1960) - Credits, Can't Get Through Second sequence, with credits, in Village Of The Damned, 1960, in which military official Alan (Michael Gwynn) seeks permission to visit fictional Midwich, where something's gone wrong.
Village Of The Damned (1960) - Opening, Midwich George Sanders (As "Gordon Zellaby") passes out during a phone call to his brother-in-law (Michael Gwynn) in the opening sequence from director Wolf Rilla's Village Of The Damned, 1960.
Village of the Damned (1960) - No Way Of Acounting Virginal Evelyn (Sarah Long) can't explain her condition to the doctor (Laurence Naismith) who later, with Gordon (George Sanders) discusses the situation with the vicar (Bernard Archard) in Village of the Damned, 1960.
Village Of The Damned (1960) - It's All My Fault! Anthea (Barbara Shelley) is the innocent mom walking odd young David (Martin Stephens) when he meets up with some of his fellow maybe-demonic-alien playmates, who get even with a clumsy motorist in Village Of The Damned, 1960.
Village Of The Damned (1960) - I Must Have Dozed Off An awakening cow encourages Bernard (Michael Gwynn) and gathered military authorities to enter Midwich, the fictional Hampshire town which seemed to have gone unconscious, where he finds puzzled brother-in-law Gordon (George Sanders) and Anthea (Barbara Shelley) early in Village Of The Damned, 1960.
Village Of The Damned (1960) - He's Only One Year Old Everyone already less-alarmed than they might be about the accelerated development of children throughout the town, Gordon (George Sanders) demonstrates to his military official brother-in-law Alan (Michael Gwynn) their remarkable prowess, led by his own David (Martin Stephens) in director Wolf Rilla's Village Of The Damned, 1960.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
The Midwich Cuckoos
Genre
Horror
Adaptation
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1960
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 Dec 1960
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Letchmore Heath, England, Great Britain; Letchmore Heath,England
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (London, 1957).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 17m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
6,954ft

Articles

Village of the Damned


"I Only Have Eyes for You." That would be an appropriate theme song for the 1960 science fiction thriller, Village of the Damned. This is the one about a strange brood of blond-haired children born on the same day in a small English village to women who were impregnated in a most unnatural manner. Remember the advertising campaign for the film? It featured a bunch of kids with glowing eyes staring straight ahead and the caption, "Beware the eyes that paralyze." Just looking at the film poster gave most people the bejabbers.

Based on the 1951 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham, one of the most widely read science fiction writers of the fifties, Village of the Damned is an imaginative and chilling entry in the genre. What most people don't know is that John Wyndham was just one of three pseudonyms used by writer John Harris during his career. Harris came from a background in advertising and farming, served with the Royal Signal Corps during World War II, and published his first science fiction novel, The Secret People, in 1935 under the name John Beynon. He also wrote The Outward Urge under the pseudonym Lucas Parkes. However, it was under the name of John Wyndham that Harris established his reputation as a spinner of weird and fantastic tales, usually pitting earthlings against some form of catastrophe like an alien invasion. Just take a look at some of his novels. The Day of the Triffids was made into a film starring Howard Keel and Janette Scott (later immortalized in the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975) and later into a BBC series. And what were triffids? Oh, just a harmless bunch of spores from outer space that arrived on earth via a meteor shower and grew into gigantic man-eating plants with a nasty habit of spitting blinding poison into the eyes of humans. His book, Re-Birth, dealt with the survivors of a world-wide nuclear war. In Trouble with Lichen, Wyndham writes about a miracle essence called antigerone which increases life expectancy by a couple of hundred years. And if you like giant spiders spawned by bomb experiments, check out Wyndham's Web.

Of course, it's hard to top The Midwich Cuckoos for downright creepiness and the film version, Village of the Damned, remains a minor masterpiece of the genre. Made in England for less than $300,000, the picture grossed more than $1.5 million during its initial release in England and the U.S. (an astonishing sum for 1960). The film's popularity even inspired a sequel, Children of the Damned (1964), which some viewers feel is superior to the original version. Just a few years ago, director John Carpenter tried and failed to duplicate the success of the original Village of the Damned with his own 1995 remake version starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. And who's to say that Village of the Damned wasn't the primary influence behind the demonic children who inhabit such films as The Boys from Brazil (1978) and Narciso Ibanez Serrador's Island of the Damned (1976) (also known as Would You Kill a Child?).

Filmed on location in Letchmore Heath, England, Village of the Damned is easily the best movie ever directed by Wolf Rilla, a German native working in England (his subsequent output was low-budget sexploitation films with titles like Pussycat Alley, 1963, and Naughty Wives, 1975). In addition to the taut direction and atmospheric setting, the film is also memorable for Martin Stephen's mesmerizing performance as the willful leader of the alien children. The child actor would resurface the following year playing one of the disturbed children under the care of governess Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (1961), a superb film adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

Producer: Ronald Kinnoch
Director: Wolf Rilla
Screenplay: George Barclay, Wolf Rilla, Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Art Direction: Ivan King
Cinematography: Geoffrey Faithfull
Special Effects: Tom Howard
Film Editing: Gordon Hales
Original Music: Ron Goodwin
Principal Cast: George Sanders (Gordon Zellaby), Barbara Shelley (Anthea Zellaby), Michael Gwynn (Maj. Alan Bernard), Laurence Naismith (Doctor Willers), Martin Stephens (David Zellaby), John Phillips (General Leighton).
BW-78m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Jeff Stafford
Village Of The Damned

Village of the Damned

"I Only Have Eyes for You." That would be an appropriate theme song for the 1960 science fiction thriller, Village of the Damned. This is the one about a strange brood of blond-haired children born on the same day in a small English village to women who were impregnated in a most unnatural manner. Remember the advertising campaign for the film? It featured a bunch of kids with glowing eyes staring straight ahead and the caption, "Beware the eyes that paralyze." Just looking at the film poster gave most people the bejabbers. Based on the 1951 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham, one of the most widely read science fiction writers of the fifties, Village of the Damned is an imaginative and chilling entry in the genre. What most people don't know is that John Wyndham was just one of three pseudonyms used by writer John Harris during his career. Harris came from a background in advertising and farming, served with the Royal Signal Corps during World War II, and published his first science fiction novel, The Secret People, in 1935 under the name John Beynon. He also wrote The Outward Urge under the pseudonym Lucas Parkes. However, it was under the name of John Wyndham that Harris established his reputation as a spinner of weird and fantastic tales, usually pitting earthlings against some form of catastrophe like an alien invasion. Just take a look at some of his novels. The Day of the Triffids was made into a film starring Howard Keel and Janette Scott (later immortalized in the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975) and later into a BBC series. And what were triffids? Oh, just a harmless bunch of spores from outer space that arrived on earth via a meteor shower and grew into gigantic man-eating plants with a nasty habit of spitting blinding poison into the eyes of humans. His book, Re-Birth, dealt with the survivors of a world-wide nuclear war. In Trouble with Lichen, Wyndham writes about a miracle essence called antigerone which increases life expectancy by a couple of hundred years. And if you like giant spiders spawned by bomb experiments, check out Wyndham's Web. Of course, it's hard to top The Midwich Cuckoos for downright creepiness and the film version, Village of the Damned, remains a minor masterpiece of the genre. Made in England for less than $300,000, the picture grossed more than $1.5 million during its initial release in England and the U.S. (an astonishing sum for 1960). The film's popularity even inspired a sequel, Children of the Damned (1964), which some viewers feel is superior to the original version. Just a few years ago, director John Carpenter tried and failed to duplicate the success of the original Village of the Damned with his own 1995 remake version starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. And who's to say that Village of the Damned wasn't the primary influence behind the demonic children who inhabit such films as The Boys from Brazil (1978) and Narciso Ibanez Serrador's Island of the Damned (1976) (also known as Would You Kill a Child?). Filmed on location in Letchmore Heath, England, Village of the Damned is easily the best movie ever directed by Wolf Rilla, a German native working in England (his subsequent output was low-budget sexploitation films with titles like Pussycat Alley, 1963, and Naughty Wives, 1975). In addition to the taut direction and atmospheric setting, the film is also memorable for Martin Stephen's mesmerizing performance as the willful leader of the alien children. The child actor would resurface the following year playing one of the disturbed children under the care of governess Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (1961), a superb film adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Producer: Ronald Kinnoch Director: Wolf Rilla Screenplay: George Barclay, Wolf Rilla, Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham Art Direction: Ivan King Cinematography: Geoffrey Faithfull Special Effects: Tom Howard Film Editing: Gordon Hales Original Music: Ron Goodwin Principal Cast: George Sanders (Gordon Zellaby), Barbara Shelley (Anthea Zellaby), Michael Gwynn (Maj. Alan Bernard), Laurence Naismith (Doctor Willers), Martin Stephens (David Zellaby), John Phillips (General Leighton). BW-78m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive video. by Jeff Stafford

Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned - Those Damned Kids are Back!


From Warner Video comes a must-have DVD double feature for science fiction film buffs - Village of the Damned (1960) and its sequel, Children of the Damned (1964). The former feature is the one about a strange brood of blond-haired children born on the same day in a small English village to women who were impregnated in a most unnatural manner. Remember the advertising campaign for the film? It featured a bunch of kids with glowing eyes staring straight ahead and the caption, "Beware the eyes that paralyze." Just looking at the film poster gave most people the bejabbers.

Based on the 1951 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham, one of the most widely read science fiction writers of the fifties, Village of the Damned is an imaginative and chilling entry in the genre. What most people don't know is that John Wyndham was just one of three pseudonyms used by writer John Harris during his career. Harris came from a background in advertising and farming, served with the Royal Signal Corps during World War II, and published his first science fiction novel, The Secret People, in 1935 under the name John Beynon. He also wrote The Outward Urge under the pseudonym Lucas Parkes. However, it was under the name of John Wyndham that Harris established his reputation as a spinner of weird and fantastic tales, usually pitting earthlings against some form of catastrophe like an alien invasion. Just take a look at some of his novels. The Day of the Triffids was made into a film starring Howard Keel and Janette Scott (later immortalized in the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975) and later into a BBC series. And what were triffids? Oh, just a harmless bunch of spores from outer space that arrived on earth via a meteor shower and grew into gigantic man-eating plants with a nasty habit of spitting blinding poison into the eyes of humans. His book, Re-Birth, dealt with the survivors of a world-wide nuclear war. In Trouble with Lichen, Wyndham writes about a miracle essence called antigerone which increases life expectancy by a couple of hundred years. And if you like giant spiders spawned by bomb experiments, check out Wyndham's Web.

Of course, it's hard to top The Midwich Cuckoos for downright creepiness and the film version, Village of the Damned, remains a minor masterpiece of the genre. Made in England for less than $300,000, the picture grossed more than $1.5 million during its initial release in England and the U.S. (an astonishing sum for 1960). The film's popularity even inspired a sequel, Children of the Damned (1964), which some viewers feel is superior to the original version. Just a few years ago, director John Carpenter tried and failed to duplicate the success of the original Village of the Damned with his own 1995 remake version starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. And who's to say that Village of the Damned wasn't the primary influence behind the demonic children who inhabit such films as The Boys from Brazil (1978) and Narciso Ibanez Serrador's Island of the Damned (1976) (also known as Would You Kill a Child?).

Filmed on location in Letchmore Heath, England, Village of the Damned is easily the best movie ever directed by Wolf Rilla, a German native working in England (his subsequent output was low-budget sexploitation films with titles like Pussycat Alley, 1963, and Naughty Wives, 1975). In addition to the taut direction and atmospheric setting, the film is also memorable for Martin Stephen's mesmerizing performance as the willful leader of the alien children. The child actor would resurface the following year playing one of the disturbed children under the care of governess Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (1961), a superb film adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

Children of the Damned (1964), the sequel to Village of the Damned, is equally memorable, but for different reasons, and is a complete departure from John Wyndham's original story. In fact, the two films share no similarities in the storyline, cast or crew other than the composer and three assorted sound people from the first film.

In Children of the Damned, six children are born (at different locations around the world) with unusually high intelligence and special powers (the film's ads warned "Beware the eyes that paralyze!"). United Nations scientists move the youngsters to London for closer investigation. While the researchers argue among themselves about the children's fate, the military tries to figure out a way to harness the youngsters' special powers. Meanwhile, the six children decide to take matters into their own hands.

Some critics noticed an unusual subtext in the film concerning the two male protagonists played by Ian Hendry and Alan Badel. In Science Fiction in the Cinema by John Baxter, the author wrote "the two men live together in what seems a loose homosexual relationship, and when the less dominant of them becomes involved with a woman, the other, played with malicious authority by Alan Badel, throws himself actively into destroying the children....the allegory is plain but on the way to its presentation director Anton Leader has given us one of the finest pieces of SF cinema to come out of England, or for that matter any other country."

As a variation on the theme of potentially destructive children, Children of the Damned is certainly an intriguing film and was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation in the Hugos, the science fiction world's equivalent of the Academy Awards. The film was written by John Briley who would later win a Best Screenplay Oscar for Gandhi (1982). Not only was Children of the Damned filmed in England but most of the crew was British. One exception was director Anton Leader, probably best known for his television work, including episodes of Star Trek, Gilligan's Island and Lost in Space. This is only one of two feature films he directed. Appearing in a small role is Bessie Love, who had been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar decades earlier for The Broadway Melody (1929).

The Warner Video DVD of this double feature is a first rate presentation; the films are presented in their original widescreen format in sharp new transfers. Village of the Damned comes with a running commentary by author Steve Haberman (Chronicles of Terror: Silent Screams) who provides plenty of well-researched factoids on the production and the author. His delivery, which comes across as condescending at first, eventually settles into a comfortable, relaxed groove. More interesting, however, is John Briley's commentary for Children of the Damned - he wrote the screenplay. Despite some television work, the film was his first feature and blacklisted writer Adrian Scott (who was living in England at the time) was brought in to help Briley with the story structure.

For more information about Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned, visit Warner Video. To order Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford & Lang Thompson

Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned - Those Damned Kids are Back!

From Warner Video comes a must-have DVD double feature for science fiction film buffs - Village of the Damned (1960) and its sequel, Children of the Damned (1964). The former feature is the one about a strange brood of blond-haired children born on the same day in a small English village to women who were impregnated in a most unnatural manner. Remember the advertising campaign for the film? It featured a bunch of kids with glowing eyes staring straight ahead and the caption, "Beware the eyes that paralyze." Just looking at the film poster gave most people the bejabbers. Based on the 1951 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos, by John Wyndham, one of the most widely read science fiction writers of the fifties, Village of the Damned is an imaginative and chilling entry in the genre. What most people don't know is that John Wyndham was just one of three pseudonyms used by writer John Harris during his career. Harris came from a background in advertising and farming, served with the Royal Signal Corps during World War II, and published his first science fiction novel, The Secret People, in 1935 under the name John Beynon. He also wrote The Outward Urge under the pseudonym Lucas Parkes. However, it was under the name of John Wyndham that Harris established his reputation as a spinner of weird and fantastic tales, usually pitting earthlings against some form of catastrophe like an alien invasion. Just take a look at some of his novels. The Day of the Triffids was made into a film starring Howard Keel and Janette Scott (later immortalized in the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975) and later into a BBC series. And what were triffids? Oh, just a harmless bunch of spores from outer space that arrived on earth via a meteor shower and grew into gigantic man-eating plants with a nasty habit of spitting blinding poison into the eyes of humans. His book, Re-Birth, dealt with the survivors of a world-wide nuclear war. In Trouble with Lichen, Wyndham writes about a miracle essence called antigerone which increases life expectancy by a couple of hundred years. And if you like giant spiders spawned by bomb experiments, check out Wyndham's Web. Of course, it's hard to top The Midwich Cuckoos for downright creepiness and the film version, Village of the Damned, remains a minor masterpiece of the genre. Made in England for less than $300,000, the picture grossed more than $1.5 million during its initial release in England and the U.S. (an astonishing sum for 1960). The film's popularity even inspired a sequel, Children of the Damned (1964), which some viewers feel is superior to the original version. Just a few years ago, director John Carpenter tried and failed to duplicate the success of the original Village of the Damned with his own 1995 remake version starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. And who's to say that Village of the Damned wasn't the primary influence behind the demonic children who inhabit such films as The Boys from Brazil (1978) and Narciso Ibanez Serrador's Island of the Damned (1976) (also known as Would You Kill a Child?). Filmed on location in Letchmore Heath, England, Village of the Damned is easily the best movie ever directed by Wolf Rilla, a German native working in England (his subsequent output was low-budget sexploitation films with titles like Pussycat Alley, 1963, and Naughty Wives, 1975). In addition to the taut direction and atmospheric setting, the film is also memorable for Martin Stephen's mesmerizing performance as the willful leader of the alien children. The child actor would resurface the following year playing one of the disturbed children under the care of governess Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (1961), a superb film adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Children of the Damned (1964), the sequel to Village of the Damned, is equally memorable, but for different reasons, and is a complete departure from John Wyndham's original story. In fact, the two films share no similarities in the storyline, cast or crew other than the composer and three assorted sound people from the first film. In Children of the Damned, six children are born (at different locations around the world) with unusually high intelligence and special powers (the film's ads warned "Beware the eyes that paralyze!"). United Nations scientists move the youngsters to London for closer investigation. While the researchers argue among themselves about the children's fate, the military tries to figure out a way to harness the youngsters' special powers. Meanwhile, the six children decide to take matters into their own hands. Some critics noticed an unusual subtext in the film concerning the two male protagonists played by Ian Hendry and Alan Badel. In Science Fiction in the Cinema by John Baxter, the author wrote "the two men live together in what seems a loose homosexual relationship, and when the less dominant of them becomes involved with a woman, the other, played with malicious authority by Alan Badel, throws himself actively into destroying the children....the allegory is plain but on the way to its presentation director Anton Leader has given us one of the finest pieces of SF cinema to come out of England, or for that matter any other country." As a variation on the theme of potentially destructive children, Children of the Damned is certainly an intriguing film and was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation in the Hugos, the science fiction world's equivalent of the Academy Awards. The film was written by John Briley who would later win a Best Screenplay Oscar for Gandhi (1982). Not only was Children of the Damned filmed in England but most of the crew was British. One exception was director Anton Leader, probably best known for his television work, including episodes of Star Trek, Gilligan's Island and Lost in Space. This is only one of two feature films he directed. Appearing in a small role is Bessie Love, who had been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar decades earlier for The Broadway Melody (1929). The Warner Video DVD of this double feature is a first rate presentation; the films are presented in their original widescreen format in sharp new transfers. Village of the Damned comes with a running commentary by author Steve Haberman (Chronicles of Terror: Silent Screams) who provides plenty of well-researched factoids on the production and the author. His delivery, which comes across as condescending at first, eventually settles into a comfortable, relaxed groove. More interesting, however, is John Briley's commentary for Children of the Damned - he wrote the screenplay. Despite some television work, the film was his first feature and blacklisted writer Adrian Scott (who was living in England at the time) was brought in to help Briley with the story structure. For more information about Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned, visit Warner Video. To order Village of the Damned/Children of the Damned, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeff Stafford & Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title for the film was The Midwich Cuckoos. Prior to the opening credits, there are several scenes in which Midwich animals and villagers, including "Gordon Zellaby," pass out. The opening cast credits differ in order from the closing credits. The European cuckoo bird of the novel's title is known for laying eggs in the nests of other birds, forcing the other parents to raise the young cuckoos at the expense of their own offspring.
       Although no Hollywood Reporter production charts were found on the film, modern sources suggest that it was produced between 1957 and 1958 and shelved by M-G-M until its 1960 release. George Barclay, who is credited with the screenplay, was a pseudonym used by Ronald Kinnoch, who produced Village of the Damned. A December 11, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Simon Brett to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location in Letchmore Heath, England.
       M-G-M also produced a 1964 sequel to Village of the Damned entitled Children of the Damned, starring Ian Hendry and Alan Badel and directed by Anton M. Leader (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). According to an April 11, 1990 Variety article, writer-director Tom Holland planned to remake Village of the Damned; however, it appears this film was not produced. In 1995, John Carpenter directed Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley in a remake of the same title, based on the 1960 screenplay.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1961

MetroScope

Released in United States Winter January 1961