KLAATU YOU (37)
September 9, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | d. WOLF RILLA | 1960
All-powerful, hive-mind children are unpleasant to contemplate — even more so if they sport flaxen locks and glowing eyes and murder just by thinking it whenever they get nervous.
On the surface this 1960 horror film, in which the bodies of 12 women in an English town are commandeered by fast-growing, presumably extraterrestrial fetuses, is partly a study in the dangers of empathy. Based on a book by the sci-fi writer John Wyndham, called The Midwich Cuckoos — after birds that sneak their eggs into the nests of others to be raised — the story features a professor, also the nominal “father” of one of the children, who advocates for their humane treatment against military men who would prefer to see them mass-exterminated. (The Russians have already nuked their own mutant brood; the Chinese and the “Eskimos,” faced with inexplicable blond babies, summarily dispatched the impostors.) Believing they may be redeemable, he tries to teach them and gather them into the human fold. His hopeful humaneness proves his undoing: the godlike/demonic children, as it turns out, are sociopaths.
The movie devotes little attention to the mothers who’ve carried the interlopers and raised them, beyond making clear that a few of the husbands aren’t too happy about the timing of their wives’ pregnancies. Faithless whores! (When it was released, apparently, there was pushback from religious interests unhappy with its negative portrayal of the virgin birth experience.) Those hapless mothers, once they’ve given birth, quickly disappear into the background. Instead the story’s focus is on a male intellectual, a kind of savior-cuckold whose misplaced tolerance is both heroic and naïvely delusional.
The children’s resemblance to a Nordic super-race isn’t coincidental, in post-World War II popular mythmaking. Beware the hyper-powerful otherness of people who look Scandinavian: there’s lurking danger in the idea of a superior blond.
But the most frightening thing about the children in Village of the Damned is their unity. We depend, as parents and as citizens, on a child population that does not choose to organize against us in social revolution. We depend on the assumption that we can, to a great degree, control our children through language. The hive-mind children are immune to such language control, since they can read our thoughts. In their identity as a monolithic unit implanted in our ranks in a hostile womb takeover, their specter strikes at the dearest holdings of the heart: the beliefs that our children are truly our own, that they’re innately good, and that they’re subject to our own mores and desires.
If we remove the sci-fi elements of the tale — that unseen entities can impregnate us by stealth and telepathy is viable — we’re left with a more imaginable, eminently realer fear: that our young will replace us, not over time and peaceably, in the gentle course of nature, but here and now, without our consent. That our children may not be merely the future, but a terrible and alien present.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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