DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, THE (director: Steve Sekely; screenwriters: Bernard Gordon/Philip Yordan/from the novel by John Wyndham; cinematographer:Ted Moore; editor: Spencer Reeve; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Howard Keel (Bill Masen), Nicole Maurey (Christine Durant), Janina Faye (Susan), Kieron Moore (Tom Goodwin), Janette Scott (Karen Goodwin), Carole Ann Ford (Bettina), Mervyn Johns (Professor Coker), Geoffrey Matthews (Luis de la Vega), Gilgi Hauser (Teresa de la Vega), Ian Wilson (Greenhouse Watchman), Ewan Roberts (Dr. Soames), Alison Leggatt (Miss Coker); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Pitcher; Cheezy Flicks Entertainment; 1962-UK)
“Unfaithful adaptation from the acclaimed 1951 science fiction novel by John Wyndham.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Unfaithful adaptation from the acclaimed 1951 science fiction novel by John Wyndham, even changing his pessimistic ending to a more rosy conclusion. It’s written by Philip Yordan, who fronted for blacklisted writer Bernard Gordon. Peripatetic Hungarian-born director Steve Sekely (“Hollow Triumph”/”Revenge of the Zombies”/”Miracle on Main Street”) keeps it most effective when following Wyndham’s pungent themes, but lets it descend into cheese when sloppily executing a number of uninteresting shocking incidents with attacking triffids (stuntmen covered with a green foam and looking much like broccoli taking a slow walk). Overall, it retains enough of Wyndham’s themes to keep it more intelligent than the usual sci-fi genre offering, but doesn’t have the same raw power as the book.
The film opens as U.S. Navy officer Bill Masen (Howard Keel) is upset that the bandages from his eye operation are still on, as he recovers in a London hospital and thereby misses the “once in a lifetime spectacle” of the meteor shower. When Bill takes off his bandages the next morning and can see, he discovers that most of the earth’s population has been blinded by the meteor shower with the few exceptions of those who never saw it. The meteorites have also left alien spores behind, which grow into fast-multiplying gigantic maneating triffid plants that are intent in wiping out the maimed human race.
Masen leaves England with a sassy sighted runaway 12-year-old orphan named Susan (Janina Faye), and travels through France, where he hooks up with sighted wealthy humanitarian Mme Durant (Nicole Maurey) who looks after the blinded in her mansion, and then he travels to Spain picking up on the way those he can rescue. The American seaman’s simple plan is to journey to the naval base in Spain where a British submarine is collecting survivors and in the meantime to gather enough sighted survivors to save civilization.
Ultimately a sour marine biologist Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore) stranded in a lighthouse island, off the coast of England, with his loyal sweet scientist partner wife Karen (Janette Scott), who makes quite a scream queen, discovers the means to dissolve and destroy the deadly triffids with sea water (not a weed killer!) and thereby is able to save civilization.
The film is saved from total disaster by giving us one powerful disturbing scene, not in the book, in which the passengers and crew of a British aircraft are in mid-flight and the blind crew tries to land the plane. After the pilot orders the passengers to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for landing, a boy asks the stewardess: ‘The pilot – is he blind too?’ This question has the blind passengers panic and charge the pilot’s cabin.
The chilling post-apocalyptic melodrama, more effective as a thinking pic than as a monster one, was remade in poorer versions in 1981 as a Brit TV miniseries and, in 1997, as a cable TV film.
REVIEWED ON 7/29/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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