VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (Wolf Rilla, 1960)
Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th St. at Seventh Ave.
Friday, November 9, $14, 9:30
Series continues Friday nights through April 28
The Rubin Museum’s Cabaret Cinema series “Sci Fi Cine Club Kolkata” comes to a creepy close November 9 with the classic 1960 British sci-fi horror flick Village of the Damned. Based on John Wyndham’s 1957 novel, The Midwich Cuckoos — Wyndham also wrote The Day of the Triffids as John Harris, among other books and at least one other pseudonym — Village of the Damned was the first film shown by Indian master and self-described “science-fiction addict” Satyajit Ray at the Sci Fi Cine Club he started in Kolkata in January 1966. The story combines postwar paranoia with a fear of alien invasion — as well as the normal worries associated with childbirth. On what appeared to be a regular afternoon in the quiet little English rural town of Midwich, every living being passes out at the same exact time. When they awaken, no one’s sure what happened — but two months later, every woman able to carry a child is pregnant, including Anthea Zellaby (Barbara Shelley), who is married to Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders), a much older man who did not think it possible he could become a father. When the babies are all born on the same day and on an accelerated schedule, everyone knows there is something strange — the infants’ eerie eyes are a pretty big giveaway — but they decide to raise the children nonetheless. Professor Zellaby sees this as a terrific opportunity for research — even involving the boy born to Anthea, David (Martin Stephens), who appears to be the leader of the blond-haired bunch — while military men Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) and General Leighton (John Phillips) are far more skeptical of the town’s, and the world’s, future.
The German-born Rilla, who primarily made crime thrillers, wrote the screenplay with Ronald Kinnoch and Stirling Silliphant (who would win an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night). The story has clear Third Reich overtones, as the alien children show all the characteristics of the so-called Aryan superior race, while also falling firmly in the evil-children genre that later produced such famous films as The Bad Seed, The Omen, Children of the Corn, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Exorcist while also evoking The Day the Earth Stood Still. It pits the value of human life against the hunger for scientific knowledge, the safety of a community against a band of beautiful, if extremely dangerous, kids. (For those who can’t get enough, the young cohorts made their way into the title of the sequel, 1964’s Children of the Damned, written by John Briley, directed by Anton M. Leader, and starring Ian Hendry.) Village of the Damned is an intense psychological drama that leads to a furious finale. Many a mother has asked herself, “Am I carrying a monster?” In Village of the Damned, the answer is clear. The film is screening Friday night at 9:30 at the Rubin, which is open for free from 6:00 to 10:00, so you should also check out such exhibits as “The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room,” “Shrine Room Projects: Wishes and Offerings,” Shezad Dawood/The Otolith Group/Matti Braun: A Lost Future,” “Gateway to Himalayan Art,” “Masterworks of Himalayan Art,” “A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful,” and “The Second Buddha: Master of Time.”