The Day of the Triffids
I remember this title from when I was a kid, and I remember something about giant plants attacking people, but I’m not sure if I’m remembering this 1962 theatrical version or the 1981 BBC remake.
There are a couple of different things going on in this story. There is a meteor shower that seems to blind everyone in Europe or possibly the world with its “glare”. Bill Masen (Howard Keel) was in a London hospital with his eyes bandaged from a surgery he had undergone. When he wakes in the morning, he takes off the bandages finding the hospital mostly deserted and the staff who are left, blind. He makes his way out into the city to find that people everywhere are suffering, they can’t find their way around and society is crumbling. A few sighted people remain, like young girl Susan (Janina Faye), who some blind people are trying to strongarm into being their eyes. Masen frees her and they try to make their way through town.
As I’m fond of saying, this could have been an entire movie unto itself; but then the secondary threat kicks in. Triffids are tall plants that can pull their roots out of the ground and walk around, shooting poison at people and eating them, I guess. This would have been a credible threat even without the entire population being blind. They seem to be everywhere. The insinuation in this movie is that they came to Earth on the meteors, although I think there is a gardener who claims they had been there for years. In the book this movie is based on, they are unrelated phenomena; the Triffids had been engineered by humans because they produce a valuable oil, and they only break free when the meteor shower blinds everyone. But that’s not clear in the movie.
Masen and Susan make their way to France where they find a few more survivors, some blind and some sighted, living in a chateau. But they are later overrun with a gang of sighted people looking to loot and pillage, while being surrounded by Triffids. Masen sets up an electric fence to keep the Triffids out and later tries to burn them but they continue to surround the compound. Then they learn that Triffids are attracted to sound so they lure them away with an ice cream truck playing music and run in the other direction hoping to start a new life.
Then there’s a completely standalone side story of Tom (Kieron Moore) and his wife Karen (Janette Scott) isolated in an island lighthouse who eventually get trapped inside by Triffids surrounding them. We cut back to them several times through the movie, dealing with Tom’s alcohol addiction, friction with his wife, scientific study of a dead Triffid, and finally an onslaught of the plants who break into the lighthouse. Finally, they find a weapon to neutralize the plants.
This movie is based on a novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The section with Masen waking up in a nigh-deserted hospital was the inspiration for the movie 28 Days Later
and I have to imagine the compound being overrun by both a human gang and the supernatural threat was an inspiration for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead
The novel was adapted into this 1962 feature film and a BBC miniseries in 1981 and again in 2009. The novel was followed by two sequels; “The Night of the Triffids” (2001) by Simon Clark and “The Age of the Triffids” (2020) by John Whitbourn.