Sunday, April 24, 2011

#261. Village of the Damned (1960)

Directed By: Wolf Rilla

Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens

Tag line: "What Demonic Force Lurks Behind Those Eyes?"

Trivia:  Ronald Colman was originally supposed to star in this film, but he passed away in 1958.

Village of the Damned is only 75 minutes long, and I admit to being utterly amazed by this fact. Over the years, I've seen this film probably a half-dozen or so times, and I still can't believe how much the filmmakers were able to squeeze into such a relatively short running time.

It's an ordinary day in the small English village of Midwich, with one minor exception: each and every one of the townspeople has suddenly and mysteriously fallen into a deep, deep sleep. They awaken several hours later, slightly groggy but none the worse for wear. That is, until a month or so later when it's discovered that all of the town's women of child-bearing age are now pregnant. Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders), whose wife, Anthea (played by Barbara Shelley) is one of the pregnant women, teams up with the town's doctor (Laurence Naismith) and the military to try and solve this very strange mystery. However, before anyone can agree on what's causing the phenomenon, the women deliver their babies, all on the same day, and all sharing the exact same size and general appearance. As the children grow and mature at an alarmingly rapid rate, Zellaby and the others continue to search for answers as to why they were born, and why they all have such piercing, cold eyes.

Village of the Damned kicks off with an intriguing mystery when everybody in town falls asleep at the exact same moment. The opening minutes of the film are filled with chaotic scenes of cars that have run off the road, and tractors that continue to move forward with their drivers asleep at the wheel. There's even one house where a faucet has been left open, resulting in gallons of water spilling out onto the floor. The military, which was in the area on maneuvers, starts to investigate this strange occurrence, yet before they or anyone else can figure out what's happening, everybody wakes up, almost as suddenly as they fell asleep. The mystery that surrounds this film, which is always engaging, continues with the unexplained pregnancies, but once the babies are born, the time for questions is over. Each and every one of these youngsters proves to be super intelligent (when you teach one something, the others all learn it as well), a fact that, at first, is treated as little more than a curiosity. But when the children grow, their powers grow as well, and before long these kids are holding the entire town of Midwich hostage.

Village of the Damned is packed to the absolute breaking point with mysteries, thrills and chills, all squeezed into a very brisk, very breezy hour and fifteen minutes.