This low-budget, well-made and chilling film – based on John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos – proves beyond a doubt that good movies need not be costly.
There isn’t a wasted motion in this story about an English village terrorised by strange children who use unearthly powers to control the adults around them.
The English village of Midwich is subject to an alien intrusion and for some hours is cut off from the rest of the country. A hemispherical field around the village causes all within it to fall into a deep sleep.
Several months later all the female population of the village of childbearing age become pregnant. The children they give birth to are golden-haired, communicate telepathically, and can enforce their will on the village adults.
As the children grow, their powers increase. Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) proves that what one of them learns, they all learn, by teaching his son to open a puzzle box.
The children move together in groups, outcast from the other village children, and their strange, precise, cold way of talking and their staring eyes causes nervousness in the village adults.
It turns out these are not the only group of odd children – the phenomenon is occurring worldwide.
The stakes are increased when it is discovered that the Russians have blown up a village in which similar children were born, and the men of Midwich, angered by mysterious deaths in the village (caused by the children), march upon the school in which the children are now living.
David, who has become the main spokesman for the children, orders his father to get them away. Zellaby, by then the only adult the children trust at all and whose lessons the children enjoy, agrees, but he comes to the next lesson with dynamite in his briefcase.
The mental shield he puts up – a simple image of a brick wall – is only sufficient to withstand the combined assault of the children for a few minutes, but it is enough.
An inferior 1995 remake starred Kirstie Alley and Christopher Reeve. It’s a so-so John Carpenter film, far below his very best work.
Sir Edgar Hargraves