Wolf Rilla


Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1920, Wolf Rilla was the son of German actor Walter Rilla. When Nazi leader Adolf Hitler came to power, the elder Rilla–who was Jewish–moved his family to London, England. After completing his education, Wolf went to work for the BBC World Review in 1942, and in the late 1940s transferred to the network’s newly created television service. He stayed there for a few years, but his passion was for films, and in 1952 he struck out on his own, making his debut as a writer/director with Glad Tidings! (1953). After making several more independent low-budget features, he hooked up with Group 3, a production company formed by Michael Balcon, John Baxter and John Grierson. His first film for them was The End of the Road (1954), with Finlay Currie. His next film for the company, The Blue Peter (1955), about a shell-shocked war veteran, garnered positive critical reviews, and his later comedy Satã à Meia-Noite (1958) was a box-office success. In 1960 Rilla, who by this time was working for MGM’s British operation, directed what would become his best-known film, the tense and chilling A Aldeia dos Amaldiçoados (1960), based on John Wyndham’s novel “The Midwich Cuckoos”, a tale of a sinister group of alien children taking over a small British town. Rilla not only directed the film but, with Ronald Kinnoch (writing as “George Barclay”) and Stirling Silliphant, also wrote it. The film was a tremendous success, making more than $1.5 million in the US alone–on an $82,000 budget–and spawned a less-successful sequel, A Estirpe dos Malditos (1964). Rilla directed his father Walter, along with George Sanders, in Cairo (1963), a somewhat anemic remake of John Huston’s classic The Asphalt Jungle (1961), with the plot changed to a heist of King Tut’s jewels in a Cairo museum. Rilla occasionally crossed over to television in the 1950s, and by the mid-’60s most of his work occurred in that medium. He was also a lecturer at the International Film School in London, and wrote a very well-received guide to screenwriting, “A-Z of Movie Making”, in 1970. He was an officer in the British Directors Guild as well as the film technicians’ trade association ACTT. He retired from the film industry and, with his wife, bought and operated a hotel/restaurant, Le Moulin de la Camandoule, in Fayence in Provence, France.