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The Village of the Damned

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The Village of the Damned is a horror/sci fi movie of 1960 directed by Wolf Rilla and based on the 1957 novel ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ by John Wyndham. The plot of the film follows the events that take place in a quiet English village, when its inhabitants are suddenly struck by a mysterious force that makes them pass out. When they recover, they find that many women have become pregnant during the event, and that their children are all born with white hair and bright eyes.

These children, who appear to have paranormal powers, grow rapidly and become increasingly menacing and uncontrollable, endangering the safety and lives of the villagers. Doctor Gordon Zellaby, played by George Sanders, tries to study and understand the origins of children’s powers and find a way to stop them before it’s too late.

The film is considered a classic of the of horror movies and it also has elements of the science fiction cinema. It has inspired numerous adaptations and sequels. Its storyline deals with themes such as mind control, genetic manipulation and the government’s power over people’s lives. The film was praised for its eerie atmosphere and the performance of the young actors playing children, who managed to create frightening and disturbing characters.

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Plot

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The plot of the film “The Village of the Damned” follows the events taking place in a small English village called Midwich. One day, all the villagers fainted simultaneously for several hours, and when they woke up, they found that many women had become pregnant during the event. Their children were all born with white hair and bright eyes.

As the children grow older, they become increasingly menacing and uncontrollable, using their paranormal powers to manipulate the villagers and threaten their safety. Dr. Gordon Zellaby, a well-known psychiatrist played by George Sanders, tries to study and understand the origins of children’s powers and find a way to stop them before it’s too late.

However, Zellaby discovers that the children were created by a mysterious alien force that intends to use them to take over the planet. Eventually, Zellaby comes to the conclusion that the only way to stop the children is to sacrifice himself, destroying the village and the children with it.

The film deals with issues such as mind control, genetic manipulation and the government’s power over people’s lives, and is praised for its eerie atmosphere and the performance of the young actors playing children, who managed to create scary characters and disturbing.

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Characters

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Here is a list of the main characters featured in the film “Village of the Damned”:

Doctor Gordon Zellaby (played by George Sanders): is a well-known psychiatrist who seeks to study and understand the origins of children’s powers and find a way to stop them before it’s too late.

Anthea Zellaby (played by Barbara Shelley): She is Dr. Zellaby’s wife and one of the pregnant women during the event that led to the birth of the children.

The Midwich Babies: These are the children of the pregnant women at the event. All the children have white hair and bright eyes, and have developed paranormal powers that become increasingly dangerous and uncontrollable as they grow.

Alan Bernard (played by Michael Gwynn): is another villager who tries to help Dr. Zellaby understand the mysterious events that are happening.

James Pawle (played by Peter Vaughan): is the local policeman who tries to keep order in the village, but who soon finds himself facing the threat of children.

Mr. Leebody (played by Laurence Naismith): He is the owner of the village shop and one of the first to experiment with children’s powers.

These are just some of the characters featured in the film, but there are also many other minor characters who contribute to the plot and story development.

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Production

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The film “Village of the Damned” was produced by MGM British Studios and directed by Wolf Rilla. The screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and George Barclay, based on the novel ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ by John Wyndham.

Filming was primarily done near the village of Letchmore Heath in Hertfordshire, England. The production of the film was supervised by Ronald Kinnoch, while the director of photography was Geoffrey Faithfull.

The film’s cast included actors such as George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Peter Vaughan and Laurence Naismith, as well as many young actors who played village children.

The film received a relatively modest budget for its time, but was highly successful at the box office and inspired numerous adaptations and sequels over the years. Its creepy atmosphere and the performance of the young actors playing children were particularly appreciated by critics and audiences.

Distribution and Reception

“Village of the Damned” was released in US theaters by MGM on April 28, 1960, while in Great Britain it was released by British Lion on July 14 of the same year. The film was a good success with audiences, grossing about 2 million dollars in the United States alone.

Critically, the film was received positively. In particular, the creepy atmosphere and the performance of the young actors playing children were appreciated. However, some critics have pointed out some shortcomings in the plot and characterization.

Despite this, “Village of the Damned” has become a cult film over the years, inspiring numerous adaptations and sequels. In 1995, director John Carpenter directed a remake of the film titled ‘Village of the Damned’, starring Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley. The remake received mixed reviews, but was still moderately successful at the box office.

Movie Style

“Village of the Damned” features a characteristic style of the horror/sci-fi genre of the 50s and 60s. The film uses many of the narrative and visual conventions typical of this genre, including the eerie atmosphere, the scenes of suspense and night shooting.

In particular, the film focuses on the idea of ​​an imminent threat that is slowly revealed to the audience, creating a constant tension. The soundtrack, composed by Ron Goodwin, helps to amplify this feeling of tension, with the use of melodies that underline the unusual and menacing presence of the children.

Additionally, the film has a strong sense of claustrophobia, as much of the action takes place within the small village of Midwich. This creates a sense of isolation and of not being able to escape from the threat posed by children.

Finally, the film uses the image of cold and creepy-eyed children to create a sense of dread in the audience. This portrayal of children as alien and frightening creatures was particularly innovative and influenced many other films and subsequent works.

Overall, “Village of the Damned” features a cinematic style characteristic of the period in which it was made, but which had a strong impact on popular culture and the horror/sci-fi genre in general.

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Director

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The director of “Village of the Damned” is Wolf Rilla. Rilla was a British director, screenwriter and actor, born in 1896 and died in 1961. Rilla began his career as an actor but later turned to directing and screenwriting.

Rilla directed few films throughout his career, but ‘Village of the Damned’ is considered to be his best-known work. Additionally, Rilla also co-wrote the film alongside Stirling Silliphant and George Barclay.

Rilla’s direction in “Village of the Damned” was particularly praised for its ability to create an eerie and claustrophobic atmosphere, cleverly using night shots, lights and shadows, and tight shots on the characters’ faces.

Although “Village of the Damned” was her biggest commercial success, Rilla didn’t get many other opportunities to work as a director over the next few years. However, his work on this film was pivotal to the horror and sci-fi genres of the 1950s and 1960s, and influenced many subsequent works.

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