John Wyndham’s “The Midwich Cuckoos” on Film

Midwich, like The Day of the Triffids was a U.K. SF novel about “one problem” and its variant magnifications out of control. In the case of the former, aliens put a quaint English village to sleep and impregnate all the child-bearing women who all give birth, at the same time, producing strange, advanced-intelligence blond-haired kids with glowing eyes.

In 1960, director Wolf Rilla took a crack at adapting the original fairly closely with simple, but thoughtful scenes and effects. (spoiler: The only one that doesn’t work involves a fake model house!)

Veteran actor George Sanders played the village professor who outwits the kids in the climax. The kids do come across as menacing, particularly Martin Stephens as the gang’s scene-stealing leader. (He would later appear as the menacingly ambiguous Miles in The Innocents, a good Deborah Kerr based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.

The print of the above DVD pic is clean as a whistle, nicely remastered. The black-and-white and village location scenes both work well. Hard to believe the film was criticized by some critics for its ‘unsavoury’ subject matter. There is also a nice commentary track which covers the adaptation, the filming, its techniques, the actors, and special effects.

Long before Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Boys from Brazil, and The Omen, there were Village of the Damned and its sequel Children of the Damned (1963), two entertaining ‘little’/B features from across the pond. Recommended for Wyndham readers, UK film buffs, SF fans, and Hammer-movie followers.

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