The Sci-Fi Chronicles brings me yet another film I’ve never seen, and yet feel I know, because it shows up everywhere, The Day of the Triffids. based on the classic science fiction tale by John Wyndham. This adaptation fairly mangles the original novel, tagging on a Hollywood Happy ending, or as happy as a post-apocalypse can be…
The Triffid is a plant, and here again, film differs from novel, as in the original tale, the Triffid was already a plant on Earth, but we learn that for this version, the Triffid arrived in a meteor shower. This strikes me as odd, because of course the film opens with a meteor shower, but not the one they arrive on, but the brilliance of the display blinds almost all of humanity, and invigorates the spore/plant that is the Triffid. The plants become ambulatory and predatory.
One of the lucky few, Bill Masen (Howard Keel), wakes in the hospital after an eye operation in an opening that has been lifted and re-used a number of times in apocalyptic horror or science fiction. He wakes to find the hospital deserted and trashed. He begins his exploration while the story weaves in and out with a tacked on story about a married scientist couple who are working out of a lighthouse, Karen (Janette Scott) and her alcoholic husband, Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore).
Mass destruction and a panic grips not only London, but the entire world, as the newly blinded denizens of Earth try to survive in their new condition, unawares that the plants are lurking around them, stalking them, and killing them. Masen soon comes across a young girl, Susan (Janina Faye) and the pair soon learn the threat that these plants pose to the survivors. And things do get pretty apocalyptic as commercial airliners drop from the sky, cities burn, and the last vestiges of civilization start to slip away.
The pair travel from London on Masen’s boat, arriving in France, where they come across a group of survivors, while the Goodwin’s begin a vivisection on what they believe is a dead Triffid, only to have the plant trash their laboratory when they leave it. Realizing that they may have no hope, they fortify the lighthouse as best they can, boarding up windows and doors, against the onslaught that is headed their way… Triffids follow sound waves to their prey.
Our heroes struggle to survive, against the seemingly unstoppable plants, trying to find a way to safety, moving through Spain and further south… The Goodwins, brace for their final stand, and find a solution to the Triffid problem at the last moment.
I loved that the filmmakers were more than willing to show the rising death toll, I was sure they were going to let the plane land that we spend a few moments on, and for the most part, I was rather taken by the story, the Triffids move in a truly creepy way. I’m intrigued to perhaps watch the most recent BBC adaptation, to see what modern effects and storytelling can do with it, but now, I can say I’ve seen the original B-Movie classic!