Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 07
December 7, 1960
Village of the Damned released

In the winter of 1960, a new vision of horror came to American cinemas from Britain. The Village of the Damned tells the story of a small English village in which all the women are mysteriously pregnant. When they all give birth at the same time, their brood grow up to be strange blond-haired and glowing-eyed terrors, an invasion from outer space by impregnation. In 1957, MGM attempted to adapt John Wyndam’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos into The Village of the Damned, but ran into problems. First the Catholic Legion of Decency objected to the idea of Immaculate Conception suggested by film’s plot. Then the film’s star Ronald Colman began to have cold feet about the film’s story line. His death in 1958, however pushed the film from America to Britain with George Sanders taking over the lead. Shot in Letchmore Heath, the film was directed by German director Wolf Rilla for a much-reduced budget. The end product proved a sensation, pushing MGM to rush forward with a sequel, Children of the Damned, released in 1963. John Carpenter remade the film in 1995. While borrowing from the fifties tradition of alien paranoia, the story interjected both a sense sexuality and of evil offspring that was new. For Rilla, who left Germany when Hitler came to power, the film provided an even more immediate target: "I don't think any of us were aware of it then, but of course now they remind you of the Hitler youth, blond-haired Aryan children and all that. I'm convinced that was an unintentional subtext; after all, the war was still fresh in our memories."


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December 7, 1949
Tom Waits For No Man

Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, California, on this day, 59 years ago. The name Tom Waits is, of course, primarily associated with music: Waits is a distinctive, gravely-voiced singer-songwriter who has made classic albums like Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine and has been a force on the American music scene since the 1970s. Waits, though, with his rasping tones and rough-hewn features is also a casting director’s dream and has been involved in film almost as long as he has in music. Bizarrely, it was Sylvester Stallone who first put him on screen in his directorial debut, Paradise Alley, as a piano player called Mumbles, though Waits subsequently drew attention from somewhat more distinguished helmers. The first of these was Francis Ford Coppola, who cast Waits in four consecutive movies (One From the Heart, The Outsiders, Rumblefish and The Cotton Club) and also had Waits score One From the Heart, for which he received an Oscar nod. His other great relationship has been with director Jim Jarmusch, who also initiated Waits into his exclusive Sons of Lee Marvin club; Jarmusch first utilized Waits in Down by Law in 1986 and has since used his musical or thespian talents in Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Coffee and Cigarettes. Appealing to auteurs with an eye for idiosyncratic, Waits has also appeared twice in Terry Gilliam and Hector Babenco productions and had memorable roles in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (opposite Lily Tomlin) and 2007’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.

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