Turn Back The Clock
The Day of the Triffids
Distributed By: Allied Artists
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
As a child, my parents were particular about what I should watch on television. Some shows/movies that they watched were believed to be inappropriate for children and so, I was simply not allowed to seem them. I remember one particular show that would air on Saturday nights on Channel 11 in New York (then WPIX). It was called Chiller Theatre and featured horror and science fiction flicks. From what I can remember of the show’s opening, a hand would creep up out of the ground and an eerie voice could be heard saying “Chilllllerrrrr.” Spooky!
As I grew older, I was allowed to watch some of the films airing on Chiller Theatre. One in particular stood out for me. To this day I can remember sitting with my dad and watching the science fiction thriller, The Day of the Triffids. I only saw the film again once, but still to this day remember people being blind and plant-like creatures taking advantage of that blindness by attacking and eating the humans. Recently, a co-worker who happens to be a huge movie buff informed me that he had a copy of The Day of the Triffids. I begged him to lend it to me so I could watch it again after all these years.
The Day of the Triffids is a British film adapted from the science fiction novel of the same name written by John Wyndham. As the film begins we are introduced to a carnivorous plant that is somewhat like the Venus Flytrap, the exception being that this Triffid plant had arrived on Earth in the form of spores delivered via a meteor shower. Shortly after this lesson in futuristic botany, we enter the meat and potatoes of the film. We meet Bill Masen (Howard Keel), a Navy man whose eyes were injured during the war. Masen is currently in a hospital in London awaiting the removal of his bandages after a recent eye surgery. He is frustrated – unable to watch the multi-colored meteor shower that everyone is talking about currently taking place outside his window. Meanwhile, alcoholic scientist Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore) is more interested in when his next shipment of whiskey will arrive than the meteor shower going on outside the lighthouse he and his wife are residing in. He is tired of working on experiments on the island – tired of life in general it seems – and wants to return home where the alcohol is plentiful and the distractions are many.
The day after the meteor shower, Bill Masen is eager to see the doctor who has promised that he will remove Masen’s bandages in the morning. When the doctor fails to arrive and Masen hears a blood-curdling scream outside his door, he decides to remove his own bandages and set off in search of the doctor. Exiting his room, Masen discovers that almost everyone in the hospital has disappeared, save the doctor who reports that everyone who watched the meteor shower the night before is blind. Masen also soon discovers that the meteor shower has had a strange effect on the Triffid plant, causing it to grow to huge proportions and giving it the ability to remove itself from the ground and move out in search of food. The blind human population serves as perfect prey for these plants that sting their victims and then eat them. Masen heads off in search of help to overcome the growing carnivorous plant population.
Meanwhile, on the island, Goodwin and his wife learn of events on the mainland via shortwave radio. They, too, are finding themselves under attack by the giant plant creatures. Goodwin suddenly realizes that there is more to life than whiskey. Finding a new calling, Goodwin studies remnants of a Triffid he had thought dead. Using his scientific expertise, Goodwin is convinced he will find a weakness in the plant to exploit – something that will kill the monstrous creatures bent on feeding off of the Earth’s entire population.
This movie is everything I remember and more. Released in 1962, the film appears campy in nature. After all, visual and sound effects were not very advanced back then and science fiction movies had to rely on whatever technology was available. Thus, the plants don’t exactly look very realistic. Yet, they are rather creepy in their own right. The main theme is man’s struggle to survive despite seemingly impossible odds. In Masen’s case, he believes he is alone in his quest for help, yet continues on. He’s a survivor – war didn’t defeat him and he is determined not to let a few carnivorous monster plants destroy him either. Goodwin, on the other hand, is a man who has hit rock bottom and, once faced with the challenge of surviving the Triffids, discovers a new purpose in life. Having reached bottom and facing extinction, Goodwin rises to the occasion, using every ounce of his knowledge and skills as a scientist to seek out a way to defeat his nemesis.
As science fiction stories go, The Day of the Triffids basically follows the same outline as most. An alien creature threatens the annihilation of the human race and a handful of human beings resists, eventually finding the one thing that will work against the aliens and save their planet. Still, the film retains some uniqueness in that the main heroes of the story never meet one another and are ignorant of each other’s attempts to destroy the Triffids. Ignore the campy special effects and pay close attention to the story itself. In my opinion, The Day of the Triffids is a science fiction classic that no self-respecting science fiction aficionado can afford to miss.