The Full Wiki

Village of the Damned (1960 film): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Village of the Damned

Film poster
Directed by Wolf Rilla
Produced by Ronald Kinnoch
Written by Stirling Silliphant
Wolf Rilla
Ronald Kinnoch
John Wyndham (Novel)
Starring George Sanders
Barbara Shelley
Martin Stephens
Michael Gwynn
Music by Ron Goodwin
Cinematography Geoffrey Faithfull
Editing by Gordon Hales
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) June 1960 (1960-06)
Running time 77 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $200,000
Followed by Children of the Damned

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 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.



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, reporting a cold sensation just before passing 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. All of the women give birth on the same day, and the doctor doing the bulk of the deliveries reports on the unusual appearance of the children, who all have unusual scalp hair texture and colour (pale blond, almost white), striking eyes and unusual finger nails. As they grow, and develop at impossible speed, 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), who is connected to the military via his brother-in-law (Gwynn), attends a meeting with British Intelligence to discuss the children. There he learns that Midwich was not the only place affected, and followup 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.
The sinister children.

Although only three years old, they are physically 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 a very adult way, are very well-behaved... but they 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 an alien glow in the children's eyes. There have been a number of villagers' deaths since they were born, many of which 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 forcing his suspicious brother to shoot himself.

Gordon, whose 'son' David is one of the children, at first is eager to work with the children. 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 their village containing the 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 evil nature becomes obvious 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 his actions just a moment before the bomb detonates.

In the final shot the glowing eyes of the children appear against the background of the burning building, then move out of shot.

The final shot showing the glowing eyes of the children against the background of the burning building.



The film was originally an American picture when preproduction began in 1957. Ronald Colman was contracted for the leading role, but MGM shelved the project, deeming it inflammatory and controversial because of the sinister depiction of virgin birth. Colman died in May 1958—by coincidence, his widow, actress Benita Hume, married actor George Sanders in 1959, and Sanders took the role meant for Colman.

The film was shot on location in the village of Letchmore Heath, near Watford, approximately 12 miles (20 kilometres) north of London. Local buildings such as The Three Horseshoes Pub and Aldenham School, were used during filming.

The blonde wigs that the children wore were padded to give the impression that they had abnormally large heads.

The children were lit in such a way as to cause the iris and pupils of their eyes to merge into a large black disc against the whites of their eyes in order to give them an eerie look.

The glowing eye effect, when the children used their mental powers, was achieved by creating animated overlays of a bright white iris; this created a bright glowing iris with a black pupil when optically printed into the film. This technique was used mostly on freeze frames to create the required effect, the only sequence of live motion processed in this way being the scene where David tells Alan Bernard to "leave us alone", where the eye effect appears as David speaks. The other time David's eyes go from normal to glowing on screen (after one of the girl children is nearly run down by a car), a two shot of the girl and David, is in fact a composite shot split by a slightly jagged black line; the half with the girl is live motion, and you can see her hair moving in the breeze, whereas the half with David is freeze frames with the eye effect added. A similar split screen effect is used during the first scene of a boy and girl using their powers to stop their 'brother' stealing a puzzle box; the close ups of the Mother holding the boy as his eyes begin to glow and she turns to look at him are achieved as above this time without a black line separating the freeze frames of the boy from the live motion of the Mother. The final effect of the children's eyes zooming out of the flames of their burning school house utilized multiple exposures of a model head with glowing eyes which the camera zoomed in on.

Alternative UK prints without the 'glowing eyes' effects exist, which show that during the final sequence, in the close ups, the kids widen their eyes as they 'attack' Zellaby's mind unlike the freeze frames with added glowing eyes used in the American prints. Another example is a slight smile that David makes after setting one of the villagers on fire in the UK print; the freeze frames of the American print obviously do not contain such subtle detail. This print also has a credit for being filmed at MGM's British studios, that is not on the American prints. According to Peter Preidel who played one of the children in the film the initial UK release in June 1960 had no glowing eyes; they were added for the American release in December 1960. The Guardian newspaper claimed in an article in 2003 that the British censors precluded the use of glowing eye effects in the initial UK release as being too horrific.

"And now we come to the nitty-gritty: why didn't the Children's eyes glow in the recent BBC screening? When I originally saw the film back in Australia as a kid I was particularly taken (i.e. scared witless) by the way the Children's eyes glowed whenever they used their mind powers. I'm sure I've seen the same version since but, as with the last BBC screening, I've also seen the movie sans glowing eyes. Why two versions?" from a review by John Brosnan, Starburst Magazine No.173 January 1993, after a screening of the film on BBC2 during 1992.


Given an 'A' certificate by the British censors the film opened in June 1960 at The Ritz cinema in Leicester Square, London, according to director Wolf Rilla (interviewed in 2003 by the BBC) it soon attracted good audiences with cinema goers queueing round the block to see it.[1] The Guardian 18 June 1960[2] had this to say:

"The story is most ingenious and it is told by Wolf Rilla (director and co-author of the screenplay) with the right laconic touch." (uncredited review)

Positive reviews also appeared in The Observer (by C.A. Lejeune), "The further you have moved away from fantasy, the more you will understand its chill."; The People (by Ernest Betts), "As a horror film with a difference it'll give you the creeps for 77 minutes." and Dilys Powell in the Sunday Times 20 June 1960:

"Well made British film: the effective timing, the frightening matter-of-factness of the village setting, most of the acting, and especially the acting of the handsome flaxen-haired children (headed by Martha Stevens) who are the cold villains of the piece."

The American critics were also in favour of the film, Time magazine December 1960:

"Apparently assuming that a picture with only one star (George Sanders) of second magnitude could not possibly be any good, M-G-M is hustling Village around the neighborhood circuits without even bothering to give it a Broadway send off, it is missing a good bet. Based on a clever thriller (Midwich Cuckoos) by John Wyndham and made in Britain for around $500,000. Village is one of the neatest little horror pictures produced since Peter Lorre went straight." (uncredited review)

Positive reviews also appeared in the New York Times (by Howard Thompson) "as a quietly civilized exercise in the fear and power of the unknown this picture is one of the trimmest, most original and serenely unnerving little chillers in a long time" and Saturday Review (by Hollis Alpert) in January 1961 "An absorbing little picture that you may yet be able to find on some double-feature bill."

They may have indeed as for example, Pittsburgh's Loew Penn theatre ran it from 18 January 1961[3], even in the UK the film was still playing in cinemas such as the ABC Regal in Levenshulme, Yorkshire in March 1961[4], on a double bill with 'The Hand' (1959) starring Derek Bond.

Home media release

  • MGM/UA video released the film on NTSC VHS in the US in 1995, there was also a German VHS release. It has also been released in the US on VCD and with the sequel on Laserdisc.
  • Warner Home Video released the film on DVD as a 2 Disc NTSC Region 1 set under the Horror Double Feature title with 'The Children of the Damned' in August 2004. both films were 16:9 ratio, original Trailers for both films were also included. A UK Region 2 PAL DVD release, initially exclusive to HMV, of this 2 Disc set was released in 2006.
  • Village of the Damned - Den Fortabte By, was released on DVD in Denmark in October 2006, a single Disc without the 'sequel'. The original Danish title of the film (released on 13th Nov 1961)was 'Raedslen fra Himmelrummet' which can be translated as 'Horrors of Celestial Space', the Danes also originally gave it the subtitle 'Satan Eyes'. The subtitle used for this DVD release means 'The Lost City' and was also the title given to John Carpenter's 1995 remake in Denmark.


See also

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address