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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Day of the Triffids (1962)

And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills.  [Everybody sing!]  For the record, Janette Scott screamed like a helpless school girl every time she saw a Triffid!  She always waited for her man to kill it for her!  Oh well!  Rocky Horror Picture Show aside, The Day of the Triffids is a delightful B-movie.

Let’s start with the Triffids.  These are not the singing carnivorous houseplant in Little Shop of Horrors (1986), nor are they the terrifying pods that transform human beings into mindless duplicates in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).  Instead they resemble something Sid and Marty Croft would have created for H.R. Pufnstuf or Land of the Lost. [Bonus points if you get these two references.]  They are campy and crazy and that’s the way I like my movie monsters.  Hugh Skillen is credited in the film with “triffid effects.” Not surprisingly, this was the only film in which he did this kind of work.

Next we turn to the plot which begins with a classic Sci-Fi premise:  Most of the earth’s population was blinded by watching a spectacular meteor shower.  To make matters worse, the meteors carried spores with them that quickly grew into man-eating plants that are able to travel across the countryside in search of human prey.  YES!  It sounds crazy when you read it in print but it works.

The rest of the movie follows two story lines: The first is recovering from eye surgery so he escapes being blinded.  The second is a husband and wife research team who are on an island when all this happens.  They set their sights on finding a way to defeat the triffids.

If it feels like you’re watching two separate movies, there is a reason for this.  Director Steve Sekely’s [Revenge of the Zombies] original cut of the film, which followed the story of the sailor, was so terrible that the studio brought in an uncredited Freddie Francis [Dune, The Elephant Man] to save it.  He shot the second story line and interwove it into the first.

Francis’s work is definitely superior to Sekley’s.  His contains Janette Scott [Paranoiac] and Kieron Moore [Dr. Bloods Coffin] as Karen and Tom Goodwin.  Their scenes together have a lot of emotional depth to them, except for the hysterical screaming, and are the best part of the movie.  Sekely’s scenes contain Howard Keel who starred in numerous musicals as the charismatic leading man.  In Day of the Triffids, however, he is a bit flat and wooden and does not do the role justice.  His character also keeps traveling from city to city which makes no sense whatsoever.  It’s no wonder the studio wanted to bring in a new director.

Yet, in spite of this flaw, the film works surprisingly well and I found it thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.  Day of the Triffids is not really scary but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.  There is a reasonable print of it that can be watch on YouTube.  However, be warned, the DVD prints that are available are of poor quality so don’t spend the money to buy it.  The reviews on Amazon are not pretty.  Here’s hoping they will, one day, take the time to restore this gem to its former glory.  Don’t miss it!

RATING: Very Good.

For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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