GEEKTOBERFEST YEAR 2: THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is a 1951 post-apocalyptic novel by the English science fiction author John Wyndham. It has been called one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. The novel has been adapted into radio, television, games, comic books, and film. We’re taking a look at the movie based on this book.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is a 1962 British science fiction horror film produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan and directed by Steve Sekely. The stars are Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janina Faye, Kieron Moore, and Janette Scott.

Liberties were taken with the story and the film’s screenplay is very different from the novel.

Triffids are plants that arrived on Earth as spores from a meteor. Thought to be benign they are a curiosity but became part of Earth’s flora – until one strange night.

BENIGN TRIFFID

An usual meteor shower strikes the Earth. There is plenty of advance warning but since the meteors are expected to burn up in the atmosphere there is no worry and practically everyone in the world is expecting to watch the strange and unusual fireworks show.

Bill Masen is a merchant seaman in hospital having had an eye operation and expecting to have the bandages removed the next day – the day after the meteor shower. When no one comes to remove his bandages he does it himself and now able to see discovers that almost everyone in London has been rendered permanently blind by watching the meteor shower the day before. It is apparent to him that society is falling apart.

He watches as a train crashes and rescues an orphaned 11 years old schoolgirl named Susan. They become traveling companions and decide to head across the English Channel to France.

Meanwhile as all this is going on, the once benign Triffids have transformed into carnivorous man-eating plants growing to enormous sizes and able to uproot themselves and walk. They also have a sting that paralyzes their prey before they eat them. The Triffids reproduce by spores carried by the wind. Not only is 99% percent of the world blind, not only is society wordwide breaking down, but they have to deal with the menace of the Triffids as well.  

In a lighthouse in Cornwall scientists Tom Goodwin and his wife Karen are besieged by the monstrous Triffids and are forced to lock themselves in. They manage to kill a Triffid (or so they think) and while not botanists they experiment on the one they killed in an effort to figure out how to kill them all.

The events in this movie are therefore told in three points of view. First, we see Masen and Susan trying to survive. Second, we see Tom and Karen as they struggle to find a way to stop the Triffids. Third, we see the Triffids hunt and kill and grow in menace.

In France, Masen meets up with Christine Durant and a Mister Coker. They have a chateau and have given blinded people refuge and help. But Coker is later killed by a Triffid.

Meanwhile, Tom and Karen are at their wit’s end, as nothing seems to work. Even the Triffid they had thought they killed came back to life. They keep trying while remaining under siege by the plants.

The chateau is attacked by sighted ex-convicts and Masen, Susan, and Christine manage to escape while everyone else in the chateau are killed by Triffids.

Eventually Masen and crew are rescued by the military. Meanwhile, Tom and Karen do find a way to kill the Triffids – I’m not going to say how and spoil it – but they communicate their findings and humanity is saved. The movie ends with Masen, Christine, and Susan going to church to give thanks.

Cast:

Nicole Maurey as Christine Durant; Howard Keel as Bill Masen; Janina Faye as Susan; Mervyn Johns as Mister Coker

Janette Scott as Karen Goodwin and Kieron Moore as Tom Goodwin

The Triffids played themselves

Most movies of this type tell the story in one of two ways. First, events are seen from a large perspective and from the point of view of the ones fighting the threat, seeking a cure, or responding to the menace. Usually these are scientists, the military, and/or government. That is not to say that there are not individual characters in danger. But these characters represent the larger picture. A perfect example of this is WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) in which the main characters are scientists involved in trying to stop the invaders.

The second way of telling this type of story is to show it from the perspective of an ordinary person simply trying to survive. Interestingly enough this second way was used for the remake of WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), which tells the story of a father trying to keep his children alive and safe. 

Now what is really interesting in this film is that THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS uses both perspectives. Masen, Susan, and Christine are ordinary people having to deal with a world gone blind and giant, carnivorous plants. Meanwhile, Tom and Karen are scientists struggling to stay alive and find a way to kill the Triffids. We get both points of view in this movie and that is unusual. Masen and crew never meet the Goodwins so what we have here is two stories with two sets of characters occurring simultaneously and the protagonists never meet. Can anyone tell me if this has been done before? I kind of liked it!

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is not a great movie. It deviates from the novel in significant ways and suffers because of it.

However, having said that allow me to add that I enjoyed this movie. I am a fan of Howard Keel and that is what first attracted me to this movie. The movie is well played and you laugh when you are supposed to laugh and cry when you’re supposed to cry. The special effects are what you expect for a 1962 film. In other words they are cheesy compared to now but the best that they could do back then.

All I ask of a film is that it pulls me in and lets me lose myself for the 90 minutes or two hours that you have me. This movie did that. It is flawed but still fun and for that reason I am giving it three Grey Geeks

Check out THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS for yourself and let me know what you think.

That’s all for now gang. Thank you for letting me take up so much of your time. I had fun and I hope so did you. Stay safe and be careful. Keep wearing those masks and gloves. Be the super-hero you always knew you were. Hasta la vista!

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