I’m back with more Apocalyptic fun and another Review in our “End of the World As We Know It” movie marathon here at the Litterbox with another nostalgic “Lil’ Kitten Classic” from 1963… the British Sci-fi horror classic, “The Day of the Triffids”. A horrible global epidemic of blindness… a savage worldwide attack by ambulatory carnivorous plants… and civilization crumbles!! Ummmm? Wait a moment? “Killer Plants”? Really? Seriously? Oh yes, indeed, Gentle Visitors…. Add this to your list of possible Doomsday scenarios. The entire human race reduced to nothing more than walking Miracle-Gro for an invasion by hungry walking plants from outer space. 🙂
Our synopsis? How’s this grab you: “On a beautiful clear night in 1963, people all around the world are treated to a once -in-a-lifetime blazing spectacular from deep space… a meteor shower. In London, merchant seaman Bill Masen misses the show as he’s hospitalized with damaged eyes following emergency surgery. The following morning he awakens to find no one answering his bell. He removes the bandages himself and soon realizes that he one of the few people still left with sight as everyone who observed the meteor shower is now blind. Society quickly collapses beneath this unexpected event coupled with the sudden onslaught of the Triffids, flesh eating plants that are now surprisingly ambulatory, spreading rapidly and devouring the helpless human race.”
Yep…. I know, I know…. it all sounds pretty darn goofy. But… not really any more goofy than the sudden reanimation of the brain munching undead, our old friends, the Zombies. Lil Miyuki saw this one on a Saturday morning “Creature Feature” TV waaaay back in the late 70’s (Or so my vague memories tell me…) and I remember being pretty darn sacred by the whole notion of big killer weeds with poison stingers. Scared enough to still remember it all fondly some 30 odd years later, and that’s saying something… So, if you recall this neat lil’ story too, than how about you “Read On” Gentle Visitor and share some of those feeling with this wee Catgirl? Unlike the Triffids, I promise I won’t bite…. 😉
This one is based of course, on the classic 1951 science fiction novel of the same name by John Wyndham. However… it’s not a particularly faithful retelling of that story as this wee lady found out years later when reading the book in High School. (Isn’t that always the way?) By many standards, it’s really nothing more than a somewhat dated bit of mid 60’s Sci-fi monster movie film making from which most of the novel’s social commentary has been excised in order to make room for more killer plant mayhem and the like. However… for the most part that actually works better I think than if it had tried to stick closer to it’s source material. Sometimes… simpler is better.
So how scary is the idea of walking carnivorous shrubbery when you really look at it? Actually not all that bad when you factor in the whole idea of a freakish outbreak of global blindness. In many ways, the Triffids fill pretty much the same role in an Apocalypse as Zombies. Sure they aren’t all that smart… sure they aren’t really a match one on one for an alert, armed opponent, properly equipped and prepared for them, but like our old friends the “Living Impaired”…. Triffids come in hordes, they have no fear of death, no morale problems and they just keep right on coming no matter what. Yep… they just don’t fight fair. Throw in something to take away humans main advantage… orderly civilization itself… and then all bets are off.
So just what do killer plants do? Why shamble on up and smack you around with some bushy bits while delivering a nasty poison sting to kill you, of course. Then they just sort of hang about while the natural decay process turns your corpse into delicious and nutritious mulch. Yep… I know…. Eeeeewwwhhh!! 😉
Well then… a story about such nasty vegetation needs a pretty special cast to keep one interested while all the horticultural homicide goes on and heading that up we have leading man Howard Keel starring as our merchant seaman hero Bill Masen. He’s filled with that “everyman” morality and spirit that means he’s going to spend most of our movie battling not only our deadly vegetation but also trying to save other lucky survivors from the scumbag villains of humanity that always seem to show up at times like this. He starts off by rescuing school girl, Susan (played by Janina Faye) from a train wreck before making his escape from the deathtrap that is London by boat. The two of them cross the English channel to France where they find temporary refuge at a quaint country chateau being used by some other survivors, a man named Coker (played by Mervyn Johns) and a woman Christine Durant (played by Nicole Maurey), as a safe haven for themselves and some others. They can see as well, having both been hospitalized and unconscious during the meteor storm following a car accident. Unfortunately for them, right after they get there, a roving gang of sighted convicts loosed by the catastrophe decide to swoop in and raid the place… and if that isn’t enough, a big old honking swarm of Triffids decide to crash the party as well.
After some nasty action, our heroes, now with sexy Christine tagging along as love interest, make their way to the NATO military base at Toulon hoping to find some sort of organized help. No such luck… but there is a rumor that the entire crew of a submarine submerged on long duration secret military maneuvers during the meteor storm, have escaped blindness and that they are based in Spain at the naval base at Cadiz. Now that sounds promising… right? But wait…. there’s something else going on as well!!
Apparently the original script for “Day of the Triffids” ran a little short, so later on, before it’s release, additional footage was crammed in to pad things out featuring a plot notion featuring marine research biologist Tom Goodwin (played by Kieron Moore) and his wife Karen (played by Janette Scott). They are stranded by the Apocalypse on a lonely storm wracked island in an old lighthouse where they’ve supposedly been involved in some sort of study on marine life. Well… that and playing out the old “troubled marriage on the rocks” bit, plot wise… They both managed to miss that big old once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle… so of course they can both see still. Handy, especially once those nasty Triffids show up and start sprouting on the island. While not the traveling roadshow that our other lil’ group is, the duo do actually manage to ramp up some serious scares once we get to that whole “trapped in the lighthouse” part of our story. Yes.. yes… even though they’ve lost the spark in their marriage, nothing can bring two lovers together again like battling man-eating plants side by side. You just know by the end of this one, they’ll be back together again once mankind reasserts it’s rightful place over all vegetation-kind. 😉
So… while all that’s going on Bill, Susan, and Christine find themselves trapped with an old Spanish couple, Luis de la Vega (played by Geoffrey Matthews) and his wife, Teresa (played by Gilgi Hauser) at their hacienda. Luis clues them in about the submarine and he’s got a radio so our boy Bill can find out that there’s one final survivor pickup at a nearby beach the very next day, all they have to do is fort up for the night and wait for dawn. At first everything seems good, Bill electrifies the fence around the place to keep the Triffids at bay, handy since Teresa is pregnant and due to give birth any minute now and can’t possibly travel. Naturally before they make their getaway, the biggest horde of Triffids they’ve ever seen arrive. The electric fence can’t hold them back… nor can the improvised flamethrower Bill rigs out of a gasoline tanker stop them… but in true heroic fashion, Bill leads them away using the loudspeaker of an ice-cream truck, giving Susan, Christine and the de la Vegas a chance to escape. Yeah, yeah… don’t worry.. he’ll lose the Triffids and manage to rendezvous with them at the submarine in time for our happy ending… it’s just that sort of Apocalypse after-all. 😉
So what about scientist Tom and his wife Karen? Well they get to do that really cool “last stand” at the lighthouse thing as the Triffids smash their way in and fight to climb up the lighthouse to get at them, all so our hero can discover… ever so conveniently… that the fire-hose of the lighthouse is pumping seawater and that the Triffids are as allergic to seawater as Dracula is to sunlight. Yep… it’s melts them into green goo faster than Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch of the West. Ummmm? Yeah…. I’m with you on this… that’s kind of a dumb vulnerability, but hey… this wee Catgirl didn’t write the script. Sigh…. even wee Miyuki wasn’t impressed.
Mind you, given that 70% of the earth is covered with seawater, it does mean humanity can now easily win the war against the Triffids and make for a tidy ending to our film. Well… except for most everybody still being blind, that is. But let’s not let a little thing like that dampen the celebration! We still get to put one in the “win” column. Yep. Humanity 1… Triffids 0. 😉
So… having watched this one again after all these years, I’d have to say this was one of those times when my sense of nostalgia doesn’t quite match the reality of the film as it really stands. “The Day of the Triffids” isn’t really all that great a film, when you get right down to it. It’s quaint, and it does actually have some really neat ideas that I can see got recycled quite heavily in a lot of later Zombie Apocalypse films, but for the most part it’s awfully dated and pretty much by the numbers, story wise. The acting is adequate, but not outstanding. The effects aren’t all that amazing, and the Triffids themselves have the look of one of the monsters from Irwin Allen’s “Lost In Space” TV show, sometimes a guy in a rubber plant suit… sometimes a puppet… sometimes what looks like stop motion animation… all depending upon what they had to be able to do. About the best thing that could be said is that they were waaaay more convincing than the critters from 1968’s Japanese Sci-fi effort “The Green Slime”. The ending? Practically stolen from “War of the Worlds”. Still…. and don’t ask me why…. I really actually like this goofy film. Yep, I admit it.
Given that I give “The Day of the Triffids” a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5. Goodness knows there are people that will roll their eyes at that, but I stand by my feelings on this one. Sure it’s hokey and stupid and dated as all heck, but it still has that certain something that makes me smile and want to watch. Don’t have a clue why…. maybe it’s just that satisfying idea of seeing mankind win that eternal war against the Plant kingdom. Who knows? Anyways… if you too, have that same undefinable attachment to the goofy films of your misspent youth, then luckily for you, this is a fairly easy one to find a copy of on DVD at usually a pretty nice budget price too. (C’mon… if you are visiting me here at my lil’ Litterbox, then I already know you are a “bad” movie fan at heart… just come out and admit it.. 😉 )
Have I got a Trailer? But of course!! 🙂