Monday, 24 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Martin Stephens in The Village of the Damned

Martin Stephens did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Zellaby in The Village of the Damned.

The Village of the Damned is a fairly effective horror film about a group of strange children "miraculously" born in an English village all at the same time.

The film very much depends upon the potential creepiness of children through its monsters being a group of blond haired, light skinned, kids. Now their very image is off putting, particularly when they are all together, but a little more is needed that little more being Martin Stephens. Stephens plays the only one of the odd children who speaks. Stephens's speaks with an excessively articulation that is most off putting. Although it should be noted that they rerecorded Stephens's lines which makes his voice all the more disturbing since it seems partially detached from the image. Stephens's voice is incredibly creepy though since he does not make anything specifically monstrous about it. He instead delivers his lines as a proper English schoolboy, a too proper English schoolboy for sure, and the sophistication of his voice makes him seem truly alien.

Stephens's work goes beyond merely being the only one of the children who speaks. There is more tasked from Stephens as David also acts as the child who explains a bit of their intent, and philosophy of sorts to his "father" Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders). The philosophy being a maniacal lack of emotion, and Stephens is terrific in realizing this in his hollow expressions. He adds a bit more there within that as there is always an eerie contentment in his description as though the lack of concern is the better way to exist. The film never allows their exact intentions to be explained other than general survival. There is a sense of dread created though and Stephens contributes greatly to this. The soulless quality in David that Stephens brings so effectively suggests a terrible intent since there is such a clear lack of empathy for what surrounds them.

This is technically a one note performance for the most part, but that is exactly the point. Stephens is not playing a real boy but rather a creature in boy form. Stephens though makes the most out of that one note as he is absolutely menacing despite his rather unassuming frame. Stephens brings the demonic presence  to the part, and manages to make the eye glow scenes far more chilling than they would be otherwise. Now I wrote one note for the most part because at the very end of his performance there is a bit of emotion. It's just a brief second but Stephens's portrayal of David realizing he's made a terrible mistake is extremely satisfying due to his oh so consistent portrayal of David's contentment beforehand. This is a striking turn by Martin Stephens but I will say in the end this feels like a warmup. The warmup for his masterful turn as a "creepy kid" in the Innocents.

17 comments:

Calvin Law said...

Another creepy horror film just in time for Halloween :)

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Your choices for a 1960s and 1970s Swiss Army Man? I think I'd go for Matthew Modine in the Dano role and Eric Stoltz in the Radcliffe role for the 80's.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

60's:

Hank: George Segal
Manny: John Hurt

70's:

Hank: Gary Busey
Manny: Tom Waits

Anonymous said...

Any flaws in the film Louis? also what are your thoughts on Sanders performance?

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, if you haven't given it already, can I have your ranking for Mel Brooks' films?

94dfk1 said...

Glad you liked Cranston in The Infiltrator, even if the movie sets a new standard for "by-the-numbers." I gave him a 4 as well.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

The film itself is paced slight strangely as is common with older horror films, as it does seem a little bit like its wrapping up just as the real horror begins.

Sanders - 4(Kind of a precursor to Peck in The Omen and George C. Scott in The Changeling. Sanders gives a good performance and brings a real gravity to the situation. He always takes the material very seriously, and gives a very real human connection to the story. He's particularly good in the final scene of the film as he puts on the facade, while hiding his real anguish of the character.)

Matt:

1. Young Frankenstein
2. Twelve Chairs
3. The Producers
4. Spaceballs
5. Blazing Saddles
6. Silent Movie
7. Robin Hood: Men in Tights
8. History of the World, Part I
9. Dracula: Dead and Loving It
10. High Anxiety

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, your thoughts on Rod Steiger as an actor and also you top 10 favorite performances from him.

Calvin Law said...

Steiger has about 4 performances of his I absolutely love, then he goes massively downhill after that.

Louis Morgan said...

Varun:

Steiger - (Steiger was perhaps an unwieldy talent. He had plenty of it, but even in some of his best work you could perhaps you can see how he easily could have gone off the rails at any time. He seems just about ready to become a bad ham, but in those great performances he stops just before that to achieve brilliance. Of course that wasn't always the case, but I actually haven't seen the majority of his most lambasted performances. In fact I haven't seen that many of his performances on the whole. I adore his best work though. Of course even then when I read he was almost going to play Max Cady, I cringe thinking of him ripping out his throat when yelling "SOMETHING THEY AINT EVER!!!!! GONNA!!!! FORGET!!!! COUNSELOR!!!!!" Then again he might have been great.)

1. The Pawnbroker
2. In the Heat of the Night
3. Doctor Zhivago
4. On the Waterfront


5. The Mark
6. The Harder They Fall



7. Duck you Sucker!



8. The Hurricane
9. End of Days
10. Mars Attacks!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your updated top ten performances in Kurosawa's films.
Also, are you going to cover all of the unreviewed 5's for the bonus rounds? I know you're going to cover Daniels in Gettysburg, and I hope you do the same for Stephens in the Innocents and Courtenay in 45 Years, amongst a few others.

Alex Marqués said...

Tahmeed: He gave a mini-review of Courtenay's performance in the "2015 alternate nominees for lead actor" comment section.

Anonymous said...

I dont think every single 5 rated performances should be reviewed simply because they might steal spots from performances that Louis may have missed.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Alex: Thanks a lot :)

Alex Marqués said...

Your welcome ;)

Alex Marqués said...

Just watched Captain Fantastic. I liked it more than I expected, and Mortensen is absolutely brilliant.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

1. Toshiro Mifune - Rashomon
2. Takashi Shimura - Ikiru
3. Tsutomu Yamazaki - High and Low
4. Toshiro Mifune - Yojimbo
5. Masayuki Mori - Rashomon
6. Toshiro Mifune - High and Low
7. Machiko Kyo - Rashomon
8. Tatsuya Nakadai - Ran
9. Isuzu Yamada - Throne of Blood
10. Toshiro Mifune - Throne of Blood

It will depend on the year, though I will cover any winners.