Village of the Damned

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Village of the Damned is a 1960 science fiction horror film by Anglo-German director Wolf Rilla. The film is adapted from the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. The lead role of Professor Gordon Zellaby was played by George Sanders. A sequel, Children of the Damned, followed, as did a remake, also called Village of the Damned.

The inhabitants of the British village of Midwich suddenly fall unconscious, as does anyone entering the village. The military establishes a cordon around Midwich and sends in a man wearing a gas mask, but he, too, falls unconscious and is pulled back with rope.

The man awakens and reports experiencing a cold sensation just before passing out. The pilot of a military reconnaissance plane is contacted and asked to investigate. When he flies below 5,000 feet, he loses consciousness and the plane crashes. A five-mile exclusion zone around the village is established for all aircraft. After approximately four hours, the villagers regain consciousness, and all are apparently unaffected.

Two months later, all women and girls of child-bearing age in the affected area are discovered to be pregnant, sparking many accusations of both infidelity and extramarital 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. Their children have an unusual appearance, including “arresting” eyes, odd scalp hair construction and colour (platinum blonde), and unusually narrow fingernails.

As the children grow and develop at a rapid rate, it becomes clear they also have a powerful telepathic bond with one another. They can communicate with each other over great distances, and as one learns something, so do the others.

The film was originally intended as an American picture, to be filmed at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Culver City. Stirling Silliphant wrote a script and Ronald Colman was contracted for the leading role, but MGM delayed the project, bowing to pressure from religious groups, including the Catholic Legion of Decency, who objected to the depiction of virgin birth and the plot’s blasphemous implications. Colman died in May 1958. (His widow, actress Benita Hume, married actor George Sanders in 1959, and Sanders took the role meant for Colman.

According to MGM records the film earned $1.4 million in the US and Canada and $775,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $860,000.

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