The Day of the Triffids
Horror, Sci-Fi | 93 mins | Released: 1963
Director: Steve Sekely
Starring: Nicole Maurey, Howard Keel, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Mervyn Johns, Ewan Roberts, Allison Legatt
Our Rating: 7
In The Day of the Triffids, Triffids are tall plants capable of aggressive and seemingly intelligent behaviour. They are able to move about by “walking” on their roots, appear to communicate with each other, and possess a deadly whip-like poisonous sting that enables them to kill their victims and feed on their rotting carcasses. Their appearance is vaguely similar to gigantic asparagus shoots topped with a flower-like ‘head’ that somewhat resemble a Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid and houses their deadly stinger.
In The Day of the Triffids, Bill Masen (Howard Keel), a merchant navy officer, is lying in a hospital bed with his eyes bandaged. He discovers that while he has been waiting for his accident-damaged eyes to heal, an unusual meteor shower has blinded most people on Earth. Once he leaves the hospital, Masen finds people all over London struggling to stay alive in the face of their new affliction. Some survive by cooperating while others simply fight, but it is apparent that after just a few days society is collapsing.
He rescues a schoolgirl, Susan (Janina Faye), from a crashed train. They leave London and head for France. They find refuge at a chateau, but when it is attacked by sighted prisoners they are again forced to escape. The Triffid population continues to grow, feeding on people and animals. Meanwhile, on a coastal island, Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore), a flawed but gifted scientist, and his wife Karen (Janette Scott), battle the plants as he searches for a way to conquer them.
The Day of the Triffids is a 1962 British film based on the 1951 science fiction novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The picture was directed by Steve Sekely, and Howard Keel played the central character, Bill Masen. The movie’s leading lady was Nicole Maurey and it was filmed in colour with monaural sound. The running time was 93 minutes.
Although The Day of the Triffids retained some basic plot elements from Wyndham’s novel, it was not a particularly faithful adaptation. “It strays significantly and unnecessarily from the book and is less well regarded than the BBC’s intelligent (if dated) 1981 TV serial.” Unlike the novel, the Triffids arrive as spores in an earlier meteor shower, and some of the action is moved to Spain; also, the character of Josella Playton Masen, significant in the novel, never appears in the film. Most seriously, it supplies a simplistic solution to the Triffid problem: salt water dissolves them, and “the world was saved”. This different ending appears to be closer to the ending of The War of the Worlds than Wyndham’s novel, as the invading aliens succumb to a common product of Earth (as the Martians died of bacteria) and both end with a religious tone. This ending of Day of the Triffids was also used to similar effect in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs.
Simon Clark, author of The Night of the Triffids stated on interview: “The film version is enjoyable, luring the effective looking Triffids away with music from an ice-cream van and some other good action scenes. The Triffids’ death-by-seawater climax is weak and contrived though. But it would still rank in my all-time top 100 films.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide claimed Day of the Triffids was a “rough and ready adaptation of a famous sci-fi novel, sometimes blunderingly effective and with moments of good trick work.”