Sunday, February 18, 2007

Movies watched, week of February 11-17, 2007

Village of the Damned, Wolf Rilla, 1960
Children of the Damned, Anton Leader, 1963

These two
films aren't exactly direct sequels to one another. In fact, the only similarities concern the mind-controlling evil children of questionable origin—as in most cases, the original is the stronger of the two. In Village, the children come into existence when the village of Midwich, England, collectively passes out for about an hour. All the women become pregnant and deliver eerily detached-looking blonde babies who mature at an alarming rate. Their purpose is somewhat vague, but it appears that they seek to ultimately take over the world (and probably can, as they possess superior intelligence). Either way, they seem to have a clear-cut purpose, and are methodically and mercilessly driven to reach their goal.

In Children, however, the children are born all over the world —they aren't all blondes like their predecessors, though they do possess the same detachedness—brought together by government intelligence testing that places them light years ahead of the average human. They band together, taking young Paul's aunt hostage, and more or less squat in an abandoned church. (This setting lends itself toward a much darker, gothic atmosphere, though in the end I think the earlier film is creepier.) When asked what their purpose is, they reply, "We don't know"—somehow, that just doesn't seem very scary. Yes, they've killed a few people with their minds, but they're just kind of improvising—they don't have a master plan, which significantly dilutes their wickedness. They meet the same end, ultimately, as those in Village, but here, it seems to be implying a political message, that we mere mortals are trigger-happy cretins, all too eager to mindlessly destroy what we don't understand. (Maybe this is more accurate than I'd like to admit.)

Dial M For Murder, Alfred Hitchcock, 1954

Not my favorite Hitchcock film, though certainly superior to most films in existence, it presents another case of "the perfect murder" gone wrong. There's a hint of meta-fiction at play, in that one of the characters is a murder mystery writer, who, like Hitchcock, is also drawn to the paradox of the perfect murder. (In no way am I trying to say that that character is supposed to be Hitchcock.) This is one of Hitchcock's first color films, and he makes brilliant use of this new feature (for example, Margot, played by Grace Kelly, appears in white with her husband, and in red with her lover; throughout the film her clothes grow darker in hue), something that most directors don’t consider nearly enough. Most of Dial M For Murder takes place in the same room (as one might suspect, it is based on a play), creating a degree of claustrophobia that enhances feelings of anxiety and suspense in the viewer.

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