08
Oct
15

Village of the Damned (1960)

When 2015 started I promised myself I’d read a lot of books this year. Now, here we are in October and I can say with certainty that however many books I’ve read so far doesn’t come anywhere close to anyone’s definition of “a lot.” Realizing this of course didn’t make me run to my reading nook, but instead prompted me to watch a film adaptation of one of the books I did read this year, John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos. After all, it is October, and what says Halloween more than a dozen creepy kids with glowing eyes?

Just a mysteriously-induced nap in the middle of the day for the whole town of Midwich

Just a mysteriously-induced nap in the middle of the day for the whole town of Midwich

Midwich is a small, forgettable village outside of London. New folks rarely show up, and when they do they’re often met with suspicion. Everyone that lives there has known everyone else for essentially their whole lives. There’s absolutely nothing remarkable about the place. That is, until all the residents of the town experience a strange, unexplained simultaneous black-out. Literally every living thing in the confines of the village falls asleep, right in the middle of what they’re doing, at exactly the same time. Scientists from neighboring villages are unable to pinpoint the cause, and when everyone wakes up seemingly normal, it is chalked up to a harmless oddity.

Unfortunately, it turns out not to be so harmless after all. It isn’t long until the local doctor starts to notice a disturbing trend: every single woman of child-bearing age is found to be pregnant. Some even claim to still be virgins. Not only that, the babies are growing at an alarming rate, causing the doctor and the town’s one intellectual, a writer named Zellaby, to question the origin of these babies…

Beware the children with the golden eyes!

Beware the children with the golden eyes!

A few months pass, and the women uneventfully give birth to the babies. Most are strong, and they seem normal, except for their weird golden eyes. It’s when they get older that the problems start to show themselves. They seem to exert a strange control over people to get what they want. Zellaby also discovers that what one toddler learns, the rest of the group learns without being present. They’re like a unit. A big, scary, evil, golden-eyed unit. What plans do they have in store for little old Midwich?

For a flick from 1960, Village of the Damned is pretty effectively freaky. Those shining golden eyes actually look pretty good, but the actors they cast (and those awful haircuts!) do a lot of the heavy-lifting when it comes to making the kids look super creepy. Unsurprisingly though, the film doesn’t have half the bite the book does.

Cross these kids and they'll make you blow your own brains out.

Cross these kids and they’ll make you blow your own brains out.

Clocking in at under 80 minutes, it doesn’t even really give itself the chance to tackle some of the subtleties that make the book so great. Not only that, the characters are kind of just there; there is no time for any of them to develop personalities. You still get a good dose of Cold-War era paranoia, especially with those kids acting all robotic and pretty much sharing a brain, but the book offers so much more than this skimpy film does.

So, is that what I get for reading the book first? It’s always so hard to put my expectations on the back burner and enjoy a film isolated from its source material. The bottom line is, the story this film tells is legitimately spooky, and done well enough. I have to admit I’m curious about John Carpenter’s 1995 version; I wonder if a more modern adaptation would be willing to take more risks than obviously the 1960 version could, or would, have wanted to. But I digress. In the end Village of the Damned is just allright; it’s the “light” version of a seriously creepy story. Cliche as it is, I have to say: the book was better.

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2 Responses to “Village of the Damned (1960)”


  1. October 9, 2015 at 1:25 am

    I’ve never seen either of the films but I love the book, particularly with its little twist at the end. Do you also know the 1980s BBC version of the Day of the Triffids? That’s a bit creaky now but worth getting on DVD for a bit of retro cosy catastrophe.


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