Monday, July 29, 2013

'60s Class: Village of the Damned

How have I gone this long without seeing this film?!?!?  Today's film is Village of the Damned, a movie that's been well-respected for the last fifty-plus years.  Is that why I've avoided it?  Perhaps.  There are some films that are simply 'review-proof.'  Sometimes its because their fan-base is just so fervent that no matter you say, they will see the movie.  The most recent example of this is the Twilight franchise.  You could tell the 'Twi-hards' that the films are utter shit (which they mostly are), but they'll still see every film.  If you want the flip-side, there are movies so good that they are also 'review-proof.'  Go ahead and try to review Citizen Kane.  You can either say that it's great and sound like everyone else OR you can say it's got issues and suddenly be 'the one guy who doesn't like it.'  That's not to say that Kane is bad, mind you, but the fact that I have to add that addendum says alot.  So what is Village of the Damned about?  Given that the film opened in Theaters about 53 years ago, there are probably a few of you who don't know.  It tells the tale of a Village that gives birth (literally) to a brand new danger that could affect the whole world.  The Children are the future, but that's not necessarily a good thing.  To find out what is going down in the UK, read on...
In a great opening, everyone in a Village out in the British Countryside suddenly passes out mysteriously.  What is the cause of this?
Thanks to some happenstance (and convenient writing), his Brother-In-Law finds out what's happening and calls in some Military help.

It seems that there is an invisible line surrounding the Village on all sides (even in the air) which makes you pass out the moment you cross it.  It's freaky to say the least.
In the aftermath, Scientist try to figure out what happened.  There is a more pressing concern in the months that follow: every woman of age is now pregnant!

Shockingly, they avoid any 'immaculate conception' references.  They get to those in the sequel.
All of the Children are born surprisingly-quickly and share many similarities.  This White Dog doesn't approve.  I'd make a White Dog joke, but I don't know how many people would even know what I'm talking about.
The Children seem to share a sort of hive mind and can also read people's minds.  Could you imagine the hell that they would go through spending even a day in High School!
Since this film was made in the '60s (at the start of it, anyways), they spend a lot of time watching stodgy old people discussing the situation. To be fair, super-powered Children that like to kill people are worthy of discussing!
As dated as the method used to make the effect is (they just draw on still frames), it still looks cool.  We'll see if the '90s version holds up this well.
The finale is actually a bit darker than you might expect as the one Scientist who was trying to protect them decides that they are just too dangerous.  He tries to block this thoughts by thinking of a brick wall.  Good stuff.
The Children discover his secret- a bomb in his bag-, but do so too late to stop it.  The film ends with a bunch of Children dead in a house explosion.  Hurray?  The End.
The film certainly holds up better than you might think.  There are many films that were not, but should have been left alone.  The Haunting- for one.  Other such films include Psycho, Night of the Living Dead and Citizen Kane.  Does this film make the list?  Not to judge the Remake before having seen it (in full), but I think it is.  The film is not a product of its time in all of the ways that you might think.  Other than the fact that it's black-and-white and features old men playing scientists, it could pass for a film made much later.  The same can't be said for the sequel, but I'll get to that shortly.  The film both works and fails (depending on your perspective) by telling you little and letting you imply alot.  Are the Children aliens (a la Baby Blood)?  Are the an advanced race transposed into our time?  Are they the product of magic?  The film never actually explains this exactly, nor does it explain the area-wide knock-out effect.  I would love if they explained it (as I hate unanswered questions), but I also realize that any answer that they give exactly could ruin whatever you in your mind decide is what happened.  While the middle of the film is chock full of talking heads (not the band, sadly), the pacing is otherwise great.  The surprising Opening leaves you wondering and the rest of the film follows suit.  It's not perfect, but it was easily worth the $5 I paid for it (and the sequel).  If you're a fan of old-school cinema, get this already.  These folks don't agree on much, but even they think so.
Next up, the Sequel (of sorts) that is often forgotten about.  Is it an over-looked gem or rightfully-ignored dud?  Stay tuned...

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