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The Day of the Triffids, 1963

From the video case: For reasons unexplained by science, hundreds of meteorites begin to fall to Earth and blind those who witness the phenomenon. The few who retain their sight are horrified to encounter dandelion-like fluff known as Triffids. These Triffids multiply and grow into man-eating plants that begin to march on civilization, destroying everyone in their path. Join four survivors of the terrifying onslaught of Triffids as they search for a means of destroying the menacing plants. (1963, color)

Mark says: Considering this film’s ridiculous premise, it’s surprisingly fun to watch. It is based on a novel by John Wyndham, whose book, The Midwich Cuckoos, was the basis for the sci-fi classic, Village of the Damned.

The Triffids themselves are not that impressive, and are hardly menacing. They uproot themselves and walk about in a fashion more apt to make you laugh than shudder. Though they have the ability to sting and gobble up humans, they move too slowly and look too silly to be truly sinister. Their only real threat seems to be in their numbers. These beasts multiply like weeds.

For me, the more captivating premise of the story is a world suddenly gone blind. People groping through the streets of London, an airliner crashing to Earth, a ship lost at sea, and a passenger train smashing into a terminal provide more thrills than the Triffids.

It’s the above-par acting that really saves this film, though. Howard Keel as Bill Masen makes for a wonderful B-movie hero. His serious approach to the role almost makes you accept the absurdity of the situation. He’s a capable seaman who travels from London through Europe searching for a solution the the world’s predicament.

Janina Faye plays Susan, the little girl Bill takes under his wing as he traverses the globe. Susan isn’t as annoying as many sci-fi B-movie children tend to be (two come to mind immediately: the baby brother in The Blob, and the hustler kid in 20 Million Miles to Earth). Rather, Susan is a sensitive girl beyond her years. You may also remember her as little Tania in the Hammer classic, The Horror of Dracula.

The other significant roles belong to Janette Scott (The Old Dark House, Crack in the World) and Kieron Moore (Dr. Blood’s Coffin) as Karen and Tom Goodwin. They are a married pair of scientists stranded in a lighthouse on an island. Tom has a bit of a drinking problem and seems to have lost all sense of purpose in life. Karen is an incredibly understanding wife and is far too charming to be mixed up with such a brute. However, by the end of the film, Tom regains his purpose in life (finding a weapon against the terrible Triffids) and we discover that Karen’s faith in her husband was not misplaced.

Smaller parts are played by Collette Wilde (Circus of Horrors) and Mervyn Johns (Dead of Night).

As a child I was completely enraptured with The Day of the Triffids. As an adult, I find the film engaging, but it lacks a good pace (it slows almost to a halt after the first 50 minutes or so) and the Triffids, as mentioned above, are lacking in believability and menace.

Directed by Steve Sekely (Revenge of the Zombies).

Scene to watch for: While in a London hospital, Mr. Masen is not only allowed to smoke in bed, but he’s allowed to do it with his eyes bandaged.

Line to listen for: “Keep behind me. There’s no sense in getting killed by a plant.”

Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

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9 Comments

  1. Hi Mark, great review…but I have’nt really been able to take this film seriously since seeing the BBC three part dramatisation that was made in the late 70’s. Its gritty,dark and gripping even by todays standards…although it has dated somewhat,but for me that adds to the appeal! Its available from demonoid…if you want a copy send me an email and I’ll post you out one.

  2. Iron Inspector: I’m definitely interested! I’ve heard about the series, but have never seen it. It’s sounds fantastic. You’ll be getting an email from me soon!

  3. I thought it was interesting that the original version of the film did not have the married couple on the lighthouse island. The scenes were filmed later and edited in. Apparently the film’s backers felt is was either too short or needed something more.

  4. Fred: It was a good decision to add the lighthouse scenes. I really have a fondness for Janette Scott and any time she can be edited into a film I have no objection. The married couple in the lighthouse gave the movie a little more pathos, too.

  5. i like everything about this film…except for the monsters!

  6. John: Yeah, those monsters were not the most fearsome beasts I’ve ever seen. When they are herded together, they’re somewhat menacing, but never really scary. I felt the same way as a boy, and I was a scaredy-cat as a kid!

  7. me too!

  8. I have a great love for the design of the triffids. The menace is definitely in their number, but I can’t help feeling tense in the scene where Bill and Susan are in the forest, their car stuck in the mud, and the triffid is slowly moving towards them through the fog. It’s just a great piece of suspense. Of course, the fact that you never get a really good look at the creatures probably doesn’t hurt, either. Oh, I was surprised you didn’t mention the sound the triffids make. Years later, when the movie PREDATOR came out, I wondered if the strange thrumming sound the alien made wasn’t partially inspired by the triffid sound design. If not, it should have been!

    • Hey Vidman! Yes, the movie does have moments of suspense. The scene you mention is a perfect example. I think the triffids are comparable to zombies. They are slow-moving and not that menacing one at a time, but when they show up in force, they have a bit more clout. The triffids certainly do have a unique sound. I’ll have to watch Predator again sometime and do some comparisons. ;)


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