The Day of the Triffids (film)
|The Day of the Triffids|
|Directed by||Steve Sekely|
|Written by||Bernard Gordon|
|Produced by||George Pitcher|
Bernard Glasser (uncredited)
|Edited by||Spencer Reeve (sup.)|
|Music by||Ron Goodwin|
Security Pictures Ltd
|Distributed by||Rank Organisation (UK)|
Allied Artists (US)
The Day of the Triffids is a 1962 British science fiction horror film in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor, produced by George Pitcher and Philip Yordan, and directed by Steve Sekely and Freddie Francis. It stars Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey, and is loosely based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The film was released in the U.K. by the Rank Organisation and in the U.S. by Allied Artists.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2021)
The film opens with a sequence of meteor showers, with a narrator describing that meteorologists and scientists are studying the phenomenon. With the meteor shower ongoing, a watchman is seen entering the botanical gardens' greenhouse, where the first sighting of Triffids occurs as they are still small plants.
Triffids are tall, carnivorous, mobile plants capable of aggressive and seemingly intelligent behaviour, which arrived on Earth as spores from a meteor shower. They move about the countryside by "walking" on their roots, appear to be able to communicate with each other, and possess a deadly whip-like venomous sting that enables them to kill their victims and feed on the corpses.
The scene transitions to a hospital, where Bill Masen (Howard Keel), a merchant navy officer, is lying in hospital with his eyes bandaged as he's waited on by a nurse named Ms. Jamieson (Colette Wilde). Masen discovers that while he's been waiting for his injured eyes to heal, an unusual meteor shower has blinded most people on Earth.
After nurse Jamieson turns off the light's in Masen's hospital room, the scene cuts to a lighthouse on an island off Cornwall, where Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore), a flawed but gifted scientist and his wife Karen (Janette Scott), are arguing. They decide to leave the lighthouse in the morning because Tom appears fed up with his wife and his work.
Masen wakes up in the hospital the next morning to find the hospital deserted. Masen gets startled as a blind Dr. Soames comes up from behind him and asks Masen to take him to his office where Masen tests Dr. Soames' eyesight. Dr. Soames tells Masen that a majority of the people have been blinded by the lights of the meteor shower the night prior. Dr. Soames then sends Masen away on an errand so he can jump out of his office's window to commit suicide.
Tom and Karen Goodwin are still in the lighthouse on Cornwall preparing to leave, when the radio announcer requests that everyone who has retained their sight should head to the dockyard since most Navy personnel have not been blinded and are there to help. The message continues to explain that mobile plants with a killer stinger are moving around England and warns everyone to be safe before the broadcast ends.
Masen heads to the tracks just as a train comes barreling down the tracks and crashes at the station. Chaos erupts as blind people come pouring out of the train and people on the platform start running around while tripping over everyone else. An orphaned schoolgirl named Susan (Janina Faye) gets off the train and starts getting crowded and grabbed by blind people who want her help when Susan admits she can see. Masen sees Susan struggling and rescues her.
On the way to Masen's ship, Masen steals a car that's been crashed up onto the curb. Masen and Susan are driving through fog when they reach a roadblock of crashed and abandoned cars. While trying to pass the cars, the car's rear tire gets stuck in some mud. As Masen and Susan go off to dig for rocks to give the tire traction, a Triffid begins slinking towards Susan. Susan makes it back to the car where Masen manages to free the tire after slamming the gas pedal down repeatedly. Masen and Susan speed away from the Triffid, just as it spits a green substance on their rear window.
Masen and Susan finally make it to the dockyard where Masen's ship resides. In the radio control room of the ship, Masen and Susan are changing the channels to find out the tragedy of London has befallen the rest of the world as well. One of the first few stations is from out on the ocean, hundreds of miles from New York on the SS Midland, and another from Flight 365 from Cape Town.
While in the radio control room, Masen and Susan's perusing of radio channels gets interrupted by Flight 365 crashing at the dock right in front of the ship. The two of them leave the ship.
Back at the lighthouse, Karen alerts her husband Tom of a Triffid growing on a ledge. After seeing nothing outside, Tom and Karen turn around and head back inside only to come face to face with a fully grown Triffid. Tom battles the Triffid, stabbing it with his spear, as the Triffid's tentacle limbs reach out and attack him. Tom manages to knock the head off of the Triffid, which causes the whole plant to seemingly wilt and die.
Masen and Susan cross the English Channel into France, where they come across Christine Durant (Nicole Maurey) with a blind child standing in the storm out in the middle of the road. Miss Durant gives Masen directions as he drives them all to a chateau where they meet siblings Mr. Coker (Mervyn Johns) and Miss Coker (Alison Leggatt). The Cokers have been giving dozens of blind people shelter at their chateau where he they welcome Masen and Susan to take refuge. The nurse leaves Susan with an English-speaking French woman named Bettina (Carol Ann Ford).
Tom and Karen have been dissecting and studying their Triffid all day when they decide to go to bed. Karen is awoken by a crashing sound, and looks down over the stair railing to see the Triffid moving around downstairs. Tom wakes up to Karen screaming and goes downstairs to investigate. He sees his lab torn up and the table holding the Triffid is overturned with the Triffid nowhere in sight. Karen realizes the Triffids can regenerate since it was able to escape the lighthouse. With the Triffid outside, Tom boards up the lighthouse, trapping himself and Karen inside.
Masen leaves the chateau to gather supplies from a local grocery store with Mr. Coker, when the encounter a Triffid. The two of them follow the Triffid to the meteor landing site where they see a patch of Triffid plants growing before their eyes. The two of them rush back to the chateau to warn the others. Before Masen and Mr. Coker can build their case for leaving the chateau, Susan leads the men and Miss Durant outside to where an airplane she heard earlier is making a second pass overhead. The plane goes down and Masen and Mr. Coker get in the car to investigate the crash site.
At the site of the plane crash, Triffids begin coming out of the foliage and overrun the car, so Mr. Coker and Masen are forced to escape on foot. Masen carries Mr. Coker out to a clearing after Mr. Coker twists his ankle during the escape, only for Mason to discover Mr. Coker died after being sprayed by a poisonous gas from a Triffid they passed on the way.
Masen walks back to the chateau alone to find a party being held by escaped convicts who still have their sight. The convicts are holding everyone captive and forcing them to party with them. Masen rescues Miss Durant and Susan from the party. As they leave the chateau, Masen sees Bettina being overtaken by Triffids, but shooting does nothing and the three of them are forced to escape in the convicts' prison bus as the chateau and everyone inside is overrun by Triffids. They arrive in a post-apocalyptic Toulon. Masen says there is an American naval base in Cadiz, Spain that they have to get to next.
Masen, Susan and Miss Durant arrive in Spain and stop for a rest at a carnival, where Susan finds a musical clown car. The trio drive to a Spanish villa where they meet the blind couple Mr. Luis de la Vega (Geoffrey Matthews) and his pregnant wife Teresa (Gilgi Hauser), who has already been blind for years. Luis tells Masen that the Cadiz naval base has been evacuated by submarines since those who were underwater didn't get blinded by the meteor shower.
Masen gets Luis' radio transmitter working just in time to hear the navy broadcasting a message about the final survivor pickup the next day, Saturday, in Alicante. The group decides to leave early in the morning, and Masen electrifies the enclosing fence around the villa to keep Triffids out during the night. Meanwhile, in one of the bedrooms, Teresa gives birth to a boy.
As night falls, a huge number of Triffids arrives and are being held back by just the fence. The current is too weak to hold the Triffids for long and the shocks of electricity do little harm. Masen, with Miss Durant's help, turns the hose from an oil tanker truck into a flamethrower to set the Triffids on fire. The hoards of Triffids are still at the fence, waiting. It's realized that the Triffids are attracted to sound since they keep coming despite being attacked.
The following morning, Masen uses the musical clown car to lure the Triffids away from the villa so Susan, Miss Durant, and Mr. and Mrs. de la Vega and their son can escape and drive to Alicante (in the de la Vega's own car). The group makes it into a navy submarine and Masen, after abandoning the clown car in a group of Triffids, makes it onto a navy lifeboat and joins the rest of the group on the submarine.
In the lighthouse, the Triffids break through the boards and make their way inside. The Triffids corner Tom and Karen at the top of the stairs with their only escape being a window looking out at the jagged cliffs and ocean below. In a last ditch effort, Tom sprays the Triffids with a salt-water fire hose, and the Triffids begin dissolving into a cloud of green smoke. Tom realizes that sea water was the answer they have been looking for all along, and uses the hose to kill the rest of the Triffids in the lighthouse.
The narrator states that humanity has conquered the Triffids by turning to the very thing that gave humans life in the beginning: sea water. Meanwhile, the people from the submarine have disembarked and are heading into a steeple as they prepare to give thanks for their survival.
- Howard Keel as Bill Masen
- Nicole Maurey as Christine Durant
- Janina Faye as Susan
- Janette Scott as Karen Goodwin
- Kieron Moore as Tom Goodwin
- Mervyn Johns as Mr. Coker
- Ewan Roberts as Dr. Soames
- Alison Leggatt as Miss Coker
- Geoffrey Matthews as Luis de la Vega
- Gilgi Hauser as Teresa de la Vega
- John Tate as Captain — S.S. Midland
- Carole Ann Ford as Bettina
- Arthur Gross as Flight 356 radioman
- Colette Wilde as Nurse Jamieson
- Ian Wilson as greenhouse watchman
- Victor Brooks as Poiret
- Peter Dyneley as the narrator's voice (uncredited)
Although the film retained some basic plot elements from Wyndham's novel, it is 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 in the novel, the triffids arrive from a meteor shower, some of the action is moved to Spain and an important character, Josella Playton, is deleted. Most seriously, the screenplay supplies a simplistic solution to the triffid problem: salt water dissolves them and "the world was saved".
This ending appears to be closer to the ending of The War of the Worlds than to Wyndham's novel. The invading triffids succumb to a substance common on Earth, as do the Martians of The War of the Worlds when they die from bacterial exposure and both films end on a religious note (which is quite unlike Wyndham). This water ending was also used in M. Night Shyamalan's science fiction invasion film Signs (2002), and Night of the Big Heat (1967).
Simon Clark, author of The Night of the Triffids, stated in an 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".
References in popular culture
It is this film version to which the song "Science Fiction/Double Feature" (from the 1973 play The Rocky Horror Show) refers, in the lyric: "And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott/Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills"
The mobile IOS and Android "The Simpsons: Tapped Out," based on the television series The Simpsons, an unlock-able addition is "Cletus' Farm" where crops, including Triffids, can be grown. The Triffids' design is very similar to the film's rendition. These Triffids gift the players XP through the reward titled "End of Humanity."
- Chromolaena odorata
- The Day of the Triffids (1981 TV series)
- The Night of the Triffids, a 2001 sequel to Wyndham's book by Simon Clark
- The Day of the Triffids (2009 TV miniseries)
- See the description of the original artwork that was auctioned in 2012: "The Day of the Triffids (Allied Artists, 1962). Joseph Smith Original Movie Poster Art (22" X 27.25")". Dallas, Texad: Heritage Auctions. Retrieved 23 October 2017.. This artwork has also been attributed to Reynold Brown. Brown's own records indicate that he worked on the campaign for The Day of the Triffids: "Movie Campaigns, A Listing". Retrieved 12 March 2013. The narrative accompanying the sale of the original artwork in 2012 by Heritage Auctions looks to be conclusive, and supports the attribution to Smith.
- "John Wyndham". The Guardian. London. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- "Day of the Triffids".
- "DVD Savant Revival Screening Review: The Day of the Triffids (1963)".
- "Simon Clark interview". zone-sf.com. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
- Halliwell's Film Guide, 13th edition - ISBN 0-00-638868-X.
- "The Day of the Triffids (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
- "Simpsons: Tapped Out". 3 July 2018.
- Lauren Humphries-Brooks (24 January 2014). "Mike Newell Sets His Sights On The Day Of The Triffids". We Got This Covered.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies, American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Vol. II: 1958–1962. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1986. ISBN 0-89950-032-3.
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