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Village of the Damned (1960)

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

 

Click here, or on the image above, to view the entire film of Village of the Damned (1960).

Wolf Rilla, in late life a hotelier, made numerous films during his career, but none so perfect as Village of the Damned (1960), starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley and Martin Stephens, which was based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham.

When a strange alien force renders everyone in the village of Midwich unconscious, all the women of child-bearing years become mysteriously pregnant, resulting in a series of sinister “virgin births.” The offspring of these unholy unions are a group of blond, “Aryan-perfect” children with what are described throughout the film as “arresting” eyes, and who have absolutely no compunction about killing anyone who gets in their way, or refuses to do their bidding. As the children grow from infants into young adolescents, they become more and more threatening, until finally it takes drastic measures to curtail their unwelcome reign.

Shot mostly on location in a small village outside of London for a few hundred thousand pounds, Village of the Damned succeeds because of its simplicity, it’s concision (77 minutes from first frame to last), and the superb acting of the leads, especially the unsettling presence of Martin Stephens as David, the leader of the group. The film was considered too risky for production in America, even in 1960, when the Motion Picture Production Code was still in full force; thankfully, at the time, the authorities in England were more enlightened.

You can see the entire film by clicking here, or on the image above; if you haven’t seen it, do so now, and avoid both the 1963 sequel, Children of the Damned, and the 1995 remake.

Voyage to Italy

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Roberto Rossellini went through a number of artistic “periods” in his life; his very early work for Mussolini’s propaganda machine at Cinecitta; his Neorealist work with Rome, Open City (1945) and Germany Year Zero (1948); his films with Ingrid Bergman, who collaborated with him on some of his greatest films of the 1950s, including Stomboli (1950) and Voyage to Italy; and his later TV films in the “historical” period, of which my favorite is Blaise Pascal.

All of his work is luminous and revelatory; here’s a brief essay I wrote on Voyage to Italy for Senses of Cinema 51, one of the most unexpected, perhaps, of all his films, for its narrative structure seems to be heading relentlessly in one direction for nearly the entire duration of the film, only to reverse itself with a moment of spiritual triumph in its final moments. It’s a stunning piece of work.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

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