'Village of the Damned' (1960)

Disclaimer: Films listed here may be terrible, but they must have at least one scientifically interesting idea, however badly they may exploit that concept.

~Village of the Damned (1960)
George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, Richard Warner, Jenny Laird, Sarah Long, Bernard Archard, Peter Vaughan, John Phillips, Richard Vernon
BW-77 mins.

Based on the 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

“People, especially children, aren’t measured by their IQ. What’s important about them is whether they’re good or bad, and these children are bad.”
“You have to be taught to leave us alone.”
“A brick wall … a brick wall … I must think of a brick wall … a brick wall … I must think of a brick wall … a brick wall … brick wall … I must think of a brick wall … It’s almost half past eight … brick wall … only a few seconds more … brick wall … brick wall … brick wall … nearly over … a brick wall ….”

This movie follows John Wyndham’s thriller fairly closely, and benefits from it. George Sanders normally played villains but not here; if there’s any hero in this film, he’s it.

As with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) before it, 1960’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is a cold-war allegory that uses extraterrestrial infiltration to represent Western fears of Communist invasion. Even so, this flick is still one of the best SF thrillers ever made, and it has become one of the SF cinema classics. When a group of albino children born under mysterious circumstances begin to demonstrate superhuman mental prowess, they come to be viewed by their community and the military as a threat to the survival of mankind. Though faithful to the novel on which it is based — THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS by Brit SF author John Wyndham — the film is in many ways more frightening, mainly due to simple but effective special FX and outstanding performances from adult leads George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, and Michael Gwynn and from child actor Martin Stephens. Indeed, the unusually reserved and sympathetic performance from Sanders — well known in England at the time for his over-the-top portrayals of villains or cynical antiheroes — makes the film’s climax extremely dramatic and affecting. Caveat: Avoid John Carpenter’s far inferior 1995 remake. — Michael R. Gates on Amazon.com

A small countryside village in England experiences a time period of several hours where all living things lie lifeless and helpless. Anything living that connects within this sphere of lifelessness gets the like treatment. Everyone soon awakens from whatever happened, and the women of child-bearing years all get pregnant and are all due on the same day. Village of the Damned is one of those discerning, intelligent science fiction films of yesteryear that tends to leave much to your imagination in terms of gore and violence as well as make you think and ponder important questions about the limits with which humanity should go to procure knowledge. The children are decidedly very creepy as their eyes glow when they are angered. Martin Stephens as George Sanders’ boy is particularly good as he looks and speaks with such class and distinction yet has the conscience of a cold-blooded, calculated killer. Sanders is also very good in his role as a man torn between bridging the field of knowledge with the unknown and protecting mankind from foreign/alien harm. His wife, played with credibility, is Hammer beauty Barbara Shelley. A great British science fiction film and certainly one of the more thought-provoking ones around. — BaronBl00d on IMDb

~Master of the World (1961)
Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster, David Frankham, Richard Harrison, Vito Scotti, Wally Campo, Peter Besbas, Steve Masino, Gordon Jones, Ken Terrell
C-99/102 mins.
Screenplay by Richard Matheson
Loosely based on Robur the Conqueror (1886) and its sequel Master of the World (1904) by Jules Verne
Tie-in novel Ace D-504

Poor Jules Verne rarely gets the A treatment from Hollywood, and this film is a classic example. It really deserved better, such as Disney’s version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. A supercomputer would probably have a breakdown calculating the dynamic forces generated by all those propellers festooning Robur’s (Vincent Price) “cloud clipper” airship, and there’s yet another misuse of stock film footage (see below).

While it boasted a larger cast and more location work than was then the norm for AIP, it still betrayed its budget, particularly in the use of stock footage. It’s anachronistic reuse of the opening miniature shot of Elizabethan London from Laurence Olivier’s Henry V as a stand-in for Victorian London has become legendary. But it offered Vincent Price an excellent role as the dangerously idealistic Captain Robur, who travels the globe in his “cloud clipper,” destroying the minions of war in order to force peace on the world. — Wikipedia

It’s interesting to see Charles Bronson in an early role (before he hooked up with Mr. Winner and went-all bitter vigilante); he turns in a good performance. And the late-great Vincent Price is just right as Robur, captain of the flying ship “The Albatross”, in one of his trademark not-strictly evil genius roles — more like, men who usually have good or honourable intentions, but are driven to madness and the use of terrible means to acheive them. The rest of the cast are all of a fairly good standard, except the character of Mr. Prudent [Henry Hull]; I find him extremely annoying and the acting is also quite poor. The effects are alright (you have to take into account it’s the early ’60s), and the set of the ship itself looks good and is well crafted. But the parts where the ship is supposed to be over land (some country-or-other) are almost funny because you can clearly see that the ship is super-imposed on to a completely different piece of film. — Kim Williams on IMDb

~Crack in the World (1965)
Dana Andrews, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Alexander Knox, Peter Damon, Jim Gillen, Gary Lasdun, Mike Steen, Sydna Scott, John Karlsen, Todd Martin, Ben Tatar
C-96 mins.

“A crack in the world?!”
“Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Don’t let this fall apart. We have work to do. We must hear Dr. Rampion complete his report. You were saying that the crack is extending to the east.”
“Along the Macedo Trench. It’s following a geological flaw in the Earth’s crust, known as the Macedo Fault. That runs from here, to the tip of India, veers off towards Indonesia, and terminates off the Australian continental shelf.”
“How do you know that the crack will stop there?”
“We don’t.”
“What if the crack keeps going? Right around the world. What happens then?”
“Where the land masses split, the oceans will be sucked in, and the colossal pressure generated by the steam will rip the Earth apart and destroy it.”
“You mean, the world will come to an end?”
“The world as we know it, yes.”
“The question now is not who is to blame, but how we can stop the catastrophe.”
“At present we don’t know any way we can stop it. First, we have to learn to understand the natural forces involved, and if possible, find some way to control them in the time that is permitted to us.”
“What is being done — now?”
“Every university, every scientist, every thinking military leader is helping us.”
“Is there anything that we can do?”
“… how do you start up a volcano?”
“With a nuclear bomb.”
“He never learns.”
“What’s the hurry, Stephen? Can’t you wait for another Nobel Prize?”
“How do you feel?”
“Medium rare.”

A soap-operatic love triangle superimposed on the imminent destruction of the Earth — hey, why not? They’ve tried just about everything else. Still, when the film concerns itself with the destructive meddling of well-meaning scientists trying to tap the virtually limitless energy contained within the Earth itself, it’s absolutely engrossing. All we have to do is fire a missile with an atomic bomb into the mantle, crack it open, and reap the benefits. But Nobel Prize laureate Dana Andrews fails to take pockets of hydrogen into account …. The FX (special effects) are very convincing, with the actors sometimes taking real chances (this was long before CGI).

Intelligent, suspenseful science-fiction drama which is still worth a look despite modern science/plate tectonics theory having rendered it largely superfluous. Fine acting by Dana Andrews and Alexander Knox elevate the proceedings considerably. Excellent special effects and photography. I saw this on a double bill (it was the 2nd feature) with a Japanese giant monster flick back in the 60’s; can’t remember the monster (maybe Ghidrah?), but this is the one that sticks in my mind. The denouement is awesome. — jckruize on IMDb

~Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Michael Rennie, Karen Steele, Wendell Corey, Warren Stevens, Eduard Franz, Harry Carey, Jr., Adam Rourke, Chubby Johnson, Tyler MacDuff, Dale Van Sickel, Troy Melton, Jimmy Hibbard, Betty Jane Royale, John Beck
C-86 mins.

A surprisingly engaging low-budget time travel yarn; not great by any means, but fun in its own way. A good cast helps things along nicely. Hey, James Cameron, can you say Terminator without even a hint of a blush?

In the future world of the year 2087, freedom of thought is illegal and the thoughts of the world’s populations are controlled by the government. A small band of “free thinkers” send a cyborg back in time to the year 1966 to prevent a scientist from making the breakthrough that will eventually lead to the mass thought control of the future. Our time traveler soon discovers he is not alone when government agents from the future try to prevent him from carrying out his mission. — Kevin Steinhauer on IMDb

Let’s see … Michael Rennie plays a cyborg. He is sent back in time by rebels to prevent a scientist from inventing a device that will have an impact upon the future by enslaving mankind. In turn, Rennie is being chased by agents from the future who are intent that he does not complete his mission. A woman in the present day begins to fall for Rennie. Sounds awful familiar to me. The music will have you rolling; it’s from Saturday morning cartoons, [so] you’re almost expecting that Hanna-Barbera sound effect when someone starts running. Still, the movie has an above average cast for its low budget: Michael Rennie, Karen Steele, Eduard Franz (the Jonathan Drake of Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake), Harry Carey, Jr., Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet), Wendell Corey, and even future M*A*S*H star and Mrs. Chuck Woolery, Jo Ann Pflug, can be glimpsed. — clore-2 on IMDb

~Journey to the Center of Time (1967)
Scott Brady, Anthony Eisley, Gigi Perreau, Abraham Sofaer, Austin Green, Poupée Gamin, Tracy Olsen, Andy Davis, Lyle Waggner (Waggoner), Larry Evans, Jody Millhouse, Monica Stevens
C-82 mins.

An unofficial remake of The Time Travelers, and like its predecessor it just manages to overcome its budget limitations. If you can tolerate Scott Brady’s overbearing character, you might enjoy it.

Low-budget romp through the backwaters of time and space. The distant past and far-off future collide in what amounts to a fiery blast furnace of ideas and images. A trio of scientists, on the threshold of a major breakthrough in time travel, race against the clock and a funding cut. Stanton, the main source of cash, played by a blustery Scott Brady, behaves like an ignoramus. He doesn’t see a profit margin in such an endeavor. At first glance, this remake of A.I.P.’s The Time Travelers, would appear to be a poor relation. Not so fast. I think there are some good ideas spinning around here. You might notice that Star Trek helped themselves to a few. One plot device, involving a time-displacement and frozen duplicates of the main players in a conference room, was lifted for “Wink of an Eye.” And the dark and minimalist set for the alien leader must have inspired “The Empath.” Any takers? The one love scene, strangely, involves a time travel limerick and a lengthy kiss. Uncomfortable. The mutant attack has an Andy Warhol feel to it. Abstract. Cockeyed. Out of whack. The door to the lab breaks into quarters when opened. Cool effect. Even stranger is the small elevator that takes Stanton down four feet, when he could have easily walked down the four steps on his own. A very quick shot of the infamous bat-rat-spider-crab from Angry Red Planet, a previous writing credit of the director, is a shout out to that film’s director. The opening credits reveal time pieces from the past. Good touch. So where’s the original flick? Put it out on DVD now. Let’s compare. The sands of the hour glass are running out. At warp speed. — copper1963 on IMDb


Mike Gray