Day Of The Triffids (1962)

Because “Why not?”, and as it makes picking viewing easier, Trash Or Treasure is going through every movie in “Science Fiction – Double Feature”, the opening song for that trash culture classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This week

And I really got hot
When I saw Janette Scott
Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills

This is one of the first films to really ignore all the social commentary of the book it’s based on; whilst the 1951 novel is all about post-WWII decolonization, man’s inability to control the side-effects of its technological advances, and the horrors of dating in a post-apocalyptic world, the film is focused on the importance of dying en masse with incredibly stiff upper-lips and the horrors of a road trip to France. They both agree that being blind makes you some kind of a zombie though, which shows that early 50s literature and mid-60s film aren’t too dissimilar to current social media.

Night Of The Living Apostasioideae

The film starts as it means to go on, with some really quite lovely special effects and a member of the working class being too stupid to avoid being eaten by an overgrown house plant seeking revenge for being watered incorrectly. From there the bulk of the population goes blind, because 99% of the world decided to look up at a meteor shower that happened all over the world at once, lighting up the nights sky like Christmas, rather than hide in terror, and we get introduced to the POV character Bill Masen (Howard Keel), an American recovering from eye surgery in a London hospital so that we get plot convenience and trans-Atlantic interest.

“I’m sorry, but you are still in London in the 60s.”

Because almost everyone is blinded by the light (and possibly revved up like a deuce), everything goes to hell, which is quite worrying. A train driver who didn’t think to stop his train filled with passengers is the first real example of how screwed everyone is, but that also gives us Susan (Janina Faye) to be a traveling companion and main screamer-at-walking-plants for the rest of the movie. We also get to see a dog die so that you know for sure that the poison-spitting, flesh-eating, mass-murdering Triffids are the baddies.


We then go through England, into France, and eventually get to Spain, on a grand tour of the apocalypse. Everywhere is out of petrol and decent coffee, people get to prove yet again that they are the real plants animals, and we meet a whole load of wonderful character actors doing excellent terns as the avatars of various reactions to the end of the world, whilst the Triffid menace keeps lumbering unstoppably towards us. I don’t know if it’s the first film to do such a thing, but it lays down a blueprint that’s been followed very successfully ever since.

“We are gonna get soooo hiiiggghhh off of this”

At the same time as all that, Tom (Kieron Moore) and Karen (Jannette Scott) are in a lighthouse somewhere on the shore of Kent. They start by having a really intense domestic drama, then it really all goes Night Of The Living Dead as the Triffids turn up and try to eat them. Whilst it’s all good fun it feels incredibly detached from the rest of the story, and that’s because when initial production finished they found they were short of half an hour of run time so this whole section got welded on a couple of months later. Still, at least they find out the plants’ one fatal weakness: M. Night Shyamalan-style plot twist.

“Mankind must now ask, “Did We Leave The Gas On” “

And yet, for all of its failings of overly formalized acting, cardboard characters, and muted reactions to green-leafed walking death, it’s still a Treasure of a film. The initial threat is terrifying (and, hopefully, empathy increasing) in and of itself, as it’s demonstrated how reliant the blind are on the goodwill and behavior of the seeing, even before you get the mob-mentality aspect added on top. And then The Triffids are just plain sinister and shot in a remarkably effective way. Simple, comprehensible problems get suddenly intensified by an 8-foot-tall orchid trying to eat your face whilst dragging itself toward you. The film doesn’t use jump scares or fancy concepts, just consistent doom ladened inevitability. It’s a fantastical situation to which everyone responds in a (mostly) realistic manner, and that keeps it relevant to this day.

The Raggedyman

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