Beware of the Stare! Village of the Damned (1960)

This movie has been sitting on my Tivo since Halloween of LAST YEAR. I saw the 1995 remake when it came out starring Christopher Reeve and Kristie Alley (directed by John Carpenter). At the time I had no idea it was a remake. As a matter of fact, that tidbit escaped me until I was perusing the TCM offerings for Halloween and saw they were showing the original.  As I spend a lot of my off hours working in various theatres around town, this movie got shoved to the back burner… until this weekend when I was deciding what I was going to blog about.

And, as an added bonus, a friend of mine who is up on popular culture much more so than I posted on Facebook on Monday (July 3) a remembrance photo of George Sanders, star of Village of the Damned. Mr. Sanders was born on July 3, 1906, so how fitting that I blog on this film during his birthday week!

Beware of the Stare!  What a great tag line for the movie!

Basic plot – The film takes place in the fictional English village of Midwich.  For a period of several hours the town mysteriously “falls asleep.”  Villagers lay strewn in the roads and fields, dropping as the mysterious sleep comes over them.  Odorless, colorless, undetectable on radar, sonar, or giger counter. Anyone entering the village from outside falls after crossing the proverbial border.  Animals are not immune – they too fall prey to this phenomenon. This proves deadly when a military plane, on a recon mission, flies into Midwich airspace and the pilot suddenly falls asleep at the controls.

After a period of time everyone wakes from their deep sleep. No one knows what caused it or why it happened.  Everything returns to normal.

Except…. Except suddenly all of the women of child bearing years find themselves with child.

Gordon (Sanders) and Anthea (Barbara Shelley) are overjoyed at the news that Anthea is pregnant. Having married Anthea late in life Gordon is more than happy to become a father.

Not everyone shares their enthusiasm.  When a 17 year old girl shows up to the town doc with a bun in the oven and no husband, she is viewed as the town whore by her father, despite her insistence that she had been with no man. And then there is the wife who informs her husband that she is pregnant. He’s none too thrilled at hearing the news, considering he had been gone from the village for over a year.

Pretty soon Gordon and some of the other scientists and top military people conclude that all the pregnancies happened during the village “blackout” months before.  Their theory is soon proven correct as all children are blond haired with “strange eyes.”  The children grow at a rapid rate once born and soon are school age. They are shunned by all in the village who see them as demons. Gordon and the military soon learn that their children aren’t the only ones in the world. Pockets of these special children are showing up in other countries as well. And they are starting to exercise their special powers and are taking over the villages where they are living.

village-of-the-damned-stephens

Gordon, who has developed a sense of trust with Midwich’s children, including his son David (the children’s ringleader), houses them separately from everyone else and teaches them their school lessons, all the while plotting with the military to try and stop the children before they leave the village to conquer other parts of the world.

Outsmarting the children is no easy task – the children can speak without moving their lips; they can read minds and can manipulate humans with the power of their damn stare (they use this lovely parlor trick to murder two adults who cross them).

(1960) Village of the Damned Screenshot 1

I mean, look at them. It creeps the hell out me looking at this still photo!

The movie builds to a dramatic conclusion when Gordon has a final showdown with the children at their school house.

I found this movie to be a very satisfying horror film for the time period in which it was written. The special effects aren’t over the top, and while sometimes the overlay of the “creepy eyes” on the children to make the stare ominous doesn’t quite line up, it still is a solid flick clocking in at less than 90 minutes. It definitely should be included on any must see classic horror list.

The Carpenter flick, as I recall, wasn’t bad, but seeing as I have a bias against most remakes, I would recommend the original over the 1995 Carpenter film.

 

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