During a mysterious blackout in the city of Midwich, every woman of socially acceptable film age does the Mary, immaculate conception thing, and nine months later gives birth to a blond(e), bouncing, baby, alien/demon/communist. Professor Zellaby, whose young hot wife popped out one of the eye-glowing Svengalis, is excited about the prospect of training these superior beings, when any normal man would have forgotten the kids in favor of the thirty-year-younger woman that sleeps next to him. The government is keen to blow the children out of existence. I suppose I should mention how somebody is proclaiming a love of Jesus or ranting against the existence of any number of gods, but no one in the village gives a…damn. Puns. Gotta love’em.
Village of the Damned never met a metaphor it didn’t like. The messages: anti-communism, anti-conformity, the sexual revolution is changing society, the unreliability of men and the socio-economic stresses this places on single mothers, the growing rift between the generations, the blindness of science to political problems, the 50s view of the role of government, etc. If there’s something you want to discuss, Village of the Damned covers it, and does it all with a slick, intimate, creepy, horror story. Plus, it has George Sanders. I can never get enough of George Sanders.
But you didn’t come to me to hear about how the children can be taken as representative of the cracks seen in nuclear families after World War II. So, let’s talk blasphemy.
Village of the Damned is pretty mild stuff on the sacrilegious scale and, if released now, would be unlikely to distract the religious right from their unending struggle to save our children from witchcraft. But in the late ’50s, U.S. film was in the grasp of God’s censors. Each movie had to adhere to an idealized image of a Christian world, at least to the degree that the Catholic Legion of Decently could figure out what the movie was about. Without their diligence, children might see something other than Jesus, or hear a line that someone, somewhere, might interpret as varying from the Scriptures, and the wee ones’ fragile minds couldn’t take such conflict.
What in Village of the Damned upset the Catholic Legion of Decently and frightened MGM executives enough to have them sit on the script for three years, and then move the production to Britain, where people were slightly (just slightly) less insane? The immaculate conceptions. Not only did the film have all the women of “childbearing years” becoming mystically pregnant (not that we ever see them showing; apparently the sight of a pregnant woman was considered too shocking, again, for the children), but one of them was a virgin. It seems that the only time anyone can mention impregnation without sex is in reference to the Virgin Mary, although I’m betting that anyone that holds this view isn’t having a whole lot of discussions about sex in any form.
Now I haven’t been taking that wild blasphemy very seriously, not when I’ve got School of the Holy Beast around (now there’s blasphemy you can sink your teeth into), but it isn’t entirely to be laughed off. Consider, if one virgin birth can be given a sinister, and perhaps rational explanation, than maybe so can an earlier one. That’s the sort of notion the Catholic Legion of Decency wanted to avoid, and I suppose, for people who had never thought about it (or much of anything else), that could be a kind of revelation.
Village of the Damned is a lot of fun, and a pivotal movie in the development of the horror genre, and you should see it for all the qualities I didn’t discuss here. But isn’t it just a little more fun knowing that once upon a time, it pissed off the Catholic Legion of Decency. I know it makes me feel warm inside.