Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

The Midwich Cuckoos

A few years back, before the project was stalled by litigation, I started to develop ideas for a contemporary TV adaptation of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos for producer Marc Samuelson. At that time Marc’s company had a long-term option on all the Wyndham material that still lay within the Estate’s control.

My take on it was that the premise wouldn’t easily modernise without losing its essential tone but that to do it as a period piece would be pointless, as Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned was pretty well definitive for its time. I reckoned that one could only clone it, or change things and do it less well.

My proposed answer was to incorporate the material from Midwich Main, expanding the range of story elements available to the adaptor while staying entirely true to Wyndham. Midwich Main was an unfinished sequel that Wyndham abandoned because, according to the correspondence in Liverpool University’s Special Collections and Archives, he felt it was leading into developments that would be little more than a rerun of the original story.

What there is of the sequel, about 25,000 words, is also part of the Wyndham archive. Thanks to librarian/administrator Andy Sawyer, I was able to get myself over to Liverpool and read the typescript.

I could see what Wyndham meant about his structure. But I could also see elements in his new narrative that might be used to expand the original. All adaptation involves losses and additions, none more radical than when updating a story’s setting. But using these elements, rather than inventions of my own, would mean that the reshaping could be done using mostly authentic parts.

It stopped there, because the producers of the John Carpenter Village of the Damned feature announced a TV spinoff that they weren’t entitled to make, and which would have infringed on Samuelson’s option. Back in the 60s the feature film rights had been separated and sold outright to MGM while the TV rights had been retained. Samuelson acted and the whole thing drifted off into lawyer-land, never to return.

One of my proposals included using the same two young actors for all the Midwich children, Oompaloompa-style.

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2 responses to “The Midwich Cuckoos”

  1. I once heard that there was an adaptation of Wyndham’s The Chrysalids in development hell… so much potential, so much legal wrangling.