How They Got Glowing Eyes: Village of the Damned

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The Village of the Damned was based on The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. And that title packs a lot of meaning. Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and these unsuspecting birds end up caring for little ones that aren't their own. Cuckoo’s eggs generally hatch earlier, and those baby birds will then often dominate the nest to the detriment of the other birds.

While the film never clarifies how the pregnancies happened (in fact, the film never even uses the word "pregnant"), the novel makes it clear that aliens were the cause, acting similarly to the cuckoo.

1. There was a different lead.

Originally, Ronald Coleman was supposed to be the leading man. However, there were concerns that the film could be viewed as “anti-Catholic” because the opening could be seen as paralleling the Immaculate Conception. The project was shelved until years later when George Sanders took the lead. 

2. The children could have looked different.

According to director and co-screenwriter Wolf Rilla, the studio suggested making the alien children “harelipped or hunchbacked.” Rilla disagreed, especially since they weren’t portrayed as such in the novel. He said, “I wanted the children to look nice, to be apparently very pleasant.” Instead, the sci-fi factor was achieved differently. He said, “I made these children keep very still at all times in a very unchildlike way... That is what made them rather frightening.”

3. Their eyes didn’t glow at first.

When the film was originally released in Britain, the children’s eyes didn’t glow. Rilla thought the contrast between their white hair and their dark eyes would be enough, but the studio wanted something extra, especially when selling this picture to the public. Tom Howard achieved the glowing eyes look by using matte inserts on the film. The trick was used in the sequel Children of the Damned also.