Village of the Damned (1960 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Village of the Damned is a 1960 British science fiction film by German director Wolf Rilla. The film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham. The lead role of Professor Gordon Zellaby was played by George Sanders. This film was #92 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments. A sequel, Children of the Damned, followed in 1963.

A remake was released in 1995, also called Village of the Damned.


All of the inhabitants (including the animals) of the British village of Midwich suddenly fall unconscious, and anyone entering the village also loses consciousness. The military arrives and establishes a cordon. The pilot of an observation aircraft goes below 5,000 feet, loses consciousness, and the plane crashes. A five mile exclusion zone around the village is established for all aircraft. The military send in a man wearing a gas mask, but he too falls unconscious and is pulled back by a safety rope. The man awakens and reported that he had experienced a cold sensation just before he passed out. At nearly that very moment, the villagers regain consciousness, seeming otherwise unaffected. The incident is referred to as a "time-out," and no cause is determined.

About two months later, all women and girls of childbearing age who were in the affected area are discovered to be pregnant, sparking many accusations of infidelity and premarital sex. The accusations fade as the extraordinary nature of the pregnancies is discovered, with seven-month fetuses appearing after only five months. All the women give birth on the same day, and their children's unusual appearance is remarked upon: They have "unusual," "arresting" eyes, odd scalp hair construction and colour (pale blond, almost white), and unusually narrow fingernails. As they grow and develop at a rapid rate, it becomes clear that they also have a powerful telepathic bond with one another. They can tell each other anything that they see from great distances. As one learns something, so do the others.

Three years later village resident Professor Gordon Zellaby (Sanders), whose wife Anthea (Shelley) gave birth to one of the children, and who is linked to the military via his brother-in-law Alan (Gwynn), attends a meeting with British Intelligence to discuss the children. There he learns that Midwich was not the only place affected, and follow-up investigations had revealed similar phenomena in other areas of the world:

  • In a township in northern Australia, thirty infants were born in one day but all died within 10 hours of birth.
  • In an Inuit community in Canada, there were ten children born. Fair-haired children born to their kind violated their taboos, and all of them were killed.
  • In Irkutsk, RSFSR, the men murdered all of the children and their mothers.
  • In the mountains of the north-western Soviet Union, the children survived and were being educated to the highest possible level by the state.

Although only three years old, the children are precocious, being physically and mentally the equivalent of children four times their age. Their behaviour has become increasingly unusual and striking. They dress impeccably, always walk as a group, speak in an adult manner, are very well-behaved but show no conscience or love, and demonstrate a coldness to others. All of this has had the effect of most of the villagers fearing and being repulsed by them.

They begin to exhibit the power to read minds when expedient, or to force people to do things against their will. The latter is accompanied by a glow in the children's eyes. There have been a number of villagers' deaths since they were born, many of which are considered unusual (such as the drowning of an expert child swimmer), and it is the opinion of some that the children are responsible. This is later confirmed when they are shown making a man crash his car into a wall, killing him and then later (following an inquest concerning the crash wherein the children were cleared of responsibility) forcing his suspicious brother to shoot himself.

Gordon, whose "son" David is one of the children, is at first eager to work with them. With government agreement, he attempts to teach the children while hoping to learn from them, and the children are all placed in a separate building where they will learn and live. While the children continue to exert their will, Gordon learns that the Soviet government has used an atomic cannon to destroy the village containing their own spawn of mutant children.

Gordon compares the children's resistance to reasoning with a brick wall, and uses this motif as self-protection after the children's inhuman nature and motive become clear to him. He takes a hidden time-bomb to what he expects to be a session with the children, and tries to block their awareness of the bomb by visualizing the brick wall. David scans his mind, showing an emotion (astonishment) for the first time: "You're not thinking of atomic energy, you're thinking of ... a brick wall!" The children exert force to try to break down Gordon's mental wall to learn what he is hiding from them. They discover the hidden truth just a moment before the bomb detonates, consuming the building in flames as his wife and brother-in-law look on in horror.


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