Invasion Of The Triffids, 1963. 6/10

Very imaginative and unusual British early ’60s sci-fi. Not only are the man-eating plants fairly unique ‘monsters’, but using a meteor shower to trigger the plant mutations is doubly inventive. And we don’t waste any time getting into the action: the general blindness–with its nice array of mishaps–follows from the first triffid attack; then there’s the lighthouse subplot, which actually supports the main plot by giving another perspective.

While the newly-reconciled lighthouse couple battles the triffids, the sailor Bill Mason (Howard Keel) and lost girl Susan (Janina Faye) make their way to Europe, only to find more blind folks (all of whom speak English). Interestingly, the blind people act like zombies, which makes some sense, as they would be disoriented. Since our heroes have found a good spot in France, I don’t see the point of Susan and Bill going to Spain. It’s not like it’s safer there.

The weird party scene with the convicts seems completely arbitrary. I suppose it shows the breakdown of civilization under chaotic conditions; it’s reminiscent of the teen monster movies of the ’50s with the monster crashing the party, so to speak. The party does provide, however lamely, something of a reason to leave. Anyway, the Spanish town thoughtfully provides a couple of trick weapons. Flame-throwers seem a good countermeasure; but leave it to the little girl, Susan, to figure out something better–noise. At that point we know what’s going to happen: the handy ice-cream truck is driven into the sea, with the triffids doomed to follow.

Unlike sentient creatures, the triffids would seem to be immune to sensory stuff; this is where more scientist-driven bits could help the plot. The seawater death does add up, however, as that would kill any terrestrial plant. Might’ve just stuck with the water issue: maybe the triffids, since they’re huge and everywhere, drain the land of freshwater, and then instinctively plunge into the sea.

Unfortunately, Day of the Triffids sort of ran out of steam about half way through. Changing the scene (twice, no less) was just a waste of time. The premise certainly creates interest, but, by leaving the focus entirely with two small groups (the lighthouse couple and Susan and Bill, plus the French lady), there was little sense of an overall danger, other than the various radio alerts and broadcasts. I wanted to see triffids attacking (toy) cities–skyscrapers, trains, buses, etc. All we get are a few people Venus-fly-trapped here and there. The blindness stuff really doesn’t fit with the carnivorous plant concept. This is a jumble of ideas that weren’t integrated well.

There’s certainly the ‘seed’ of an Invasion of Body Snatchers or Thing From Another World pods-from-outer-space theme. But there’s no tense meeting of a desperate group of experts and authorities to ‘explain’ the menace and devise a plan to deal with it. Alternatively, an isolated focus could’ve worked well. The lighthouse is the perfect setting for that–like the polar station in The Thing. The subplot could be central to the main plot; have Bill and Susan find sanctuary with the lighthouse couple, and the four of them put their heads together to see what they can do.

The triffids are actually pretty cool. The good thing about having organic monsters is that that can look like anything–they don’t need recognizable features. It’s also suitably creepy how they just wriggle out of the ground, becoming more and more grotesque the larger they get. Day of the Triffids is worth watching for these effects alone; but there’s too much running around, and too many peripheral characters to keep the interest level high. 6/10.

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