(On Cable TV, October 2018) Most movies that start with a great premise don’t manage to live up to their roaring start, and while that’s largely true to Village of the Damned (which is quite clearly separated in two sections), both the beginning and the end of the movie manage to be effective in their own way. As the story begins, an entire English village falls unconscious at once, and any attempt to enter the perimeter around the village leads to the valiant explorers also falling down unconscious. The government grows concerned as the hours add up. The mystery remains intact once the villagers wake up and the perimeter is lifted … especially, months later, when it turns out that most women of childbearing age in the village are now pregnant. Fast forward a few years, and the mysterious brood decidedly isn’t acting normal, what with their uniformly blonde hair, detached affect and supernatural powers. As the evidence accumulates that these kids aren’t all right, it’s up to the village professor (George Sanders, in a somewhat atypical but welcome heroic role) to take action … even when the kids can read his mind. The climax is still remarkably effective even with somewhat primitive techniques. Admirably short at 77 minutes, Village of the Damned remains resolutely low-key in its effects and setting—the result is all the more effective as a demonstration of what’s possible with limited means and a few good ideas. After all, creepy kids remain creepy no matter the decade they’re seen in.
(On Cable TV, March 2018) There’s a deliciously impish quality to All about Eve that becomes apparent only a few moments in the movie, and remains the film’s best quality throughout. It’s a cynical look at showbusiness, triangulated between actors, writers and critics. Writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz can use rich material in his exploration of the dirty side of theatrical showbusiness, and his actors, in-between Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders, are all up to the challenges of his vision. (Plus, a small role for Marilyn Monroe.) All about Eve has a lot to say about fame, acting, age and even a touch of closeted homosexuality. It does so with considerable wit—the film is good throughout, but it improves sharply whenever George Sanders shows up as a waspy critic acting as an impish narrator. The film still plays exceptionally well today: showbusiness hasn’t changed much, and much of the film doesn’t deal in easily dated artifacts … although some of the social conventions have thankfully moved on. A bit like contemporary Sunset Blvd, All about Eve is a film built on wit and a great script, so it’s no surprise that it would stay so engaging sixty-five years later.