This came out in 1962 when I was deadly serious about college and probably missed it. I must have seen it first on TV, and I have some history with it. I worked with a guy named Mike, and I was doing an impersonation of some sort, and he called me the terrible triffid. Now others use the appellation. This is The Day of the Triffids, a classic and a really bad one. It’s one of that bag of down-market features currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.
This is London. A brilliant meteor display lights up the sky, and inside a botanical section of the Christal Palace, triffids attack and kill the security guard. The meteor display has triggered them to go rogue. They can kill and devour animals, and they are not rooted to the ground. They roam and multiply.
Merchant naval officer Bill Masen (Howard Keel) misses out on meteor display, because he is laid up with eye surgery and has his eyes bandaged. The doctor promises that tomorrow at 0800 the bandages will come off and Masen will be able to see again. He hopes to see pretty Nurse Jamieson (Colette Wilde), but he never does.
Comes morning, and Masen is sleeping in bed when hears Big Ben strike nine. It’s 0900, and the doctor has not come to remove the bandages. Calling out, Masen receives no response, so he removes the bandages and goes looking. He finds the doctor, blind. Everybody who looked at the meteor display has gone blind. The doctor commits suicide by jumping out the window.
Meanwhile, drunkard scientist Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore) and his wife Karen (Janette Scott) work on research at a lighthouse on a spit of rock off the coast of Cornwall. They, too, missed the display, and they have not been blinded. Tom waits for the resupply boat that will bring him another bottle of scotch. It never arrives. Neither does radio contact work very well. They are puzzled, but they soon learn the fate of the rest of the world.
Masen goes hunting through the streets of London. The few people he comes across are blind.
At the train station a train thunders in, apparently operated by a blind engineer, because it crashes into the platform. A survivor is school girl Susan (Janina Faye), who can see. They team up and go to Masen’s ship.
Masen uses the ship’s radio to gain information of the catastrophe. He and Susan listen in as an airliner, everybody aboard blind, crashes. Coincidentally the crash is near where the ship is docked.
Masen and Susan make it to France, where they meet other survivors at a château. One is Christine Durant (Nicole Maurey).
Escaped criminals invade the château. They, being in prison, avoided the light show and are not blind. They take over and turn the château into a debauchery. Triffids invade and kill everybody except Masen, Susan, and Christine.
The three make it to Cadiz in Spain, where Susan discovers an ice cream truck that plays music over speakers. They take the truck to an estate in the country near Alicante, where a submarine is available to take on survivors.
There they are menaced by triffids. They discover that sound attracts the triffids, and they use the music from the truck to distract the triffids.
When triffids attack, they encounter an electrified fence that Masen has constructed.
But the fence will not hold them, so Masen employs the hose from a fuel truck and sprays fire onto the triffids. Then, while Susan and Christine get away in a car, Masen decoys the triffids with the sound truck.
Susan and Christine make it to the submarine and are taken aboard. As they watch, Masen reaches the bluff above the water, and he dives in to be picked up by crew members from the submarine.
Meanwhile, at the light house, the triffids multiply and break in. As a last resort, Tom sprays them with a fire hose. But the fire hose uses sea water, and the sea water melts the triffids. They have discovered how to defeat the triffids, and humanity is saved.
I don’t think I have to explain why this movie is bad. For one, it is massively disjoint. The Odyssey of Masen and Susan comprises the bulk of the plot. It’s a chain of unrelated episodes without cohesion.
The bit about the convicts at the château breaks up the flow of the action, seeming to have been inserted as a distraction, perhaps to burn off some celluloid.
From France they go to Cadiz. That is way south on the Atlantic coast. From there they drive in a few hours to Alicante, which is on the Mediterranean coast, hundreds of miles away. Really?
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by John Wyndham. The Kindle edition is available on Amazon for $6 ($5.99 plus tax), and I obtained a copy for comparison. There is none. About the only similarity between the two is Masen and the matter of the triffids. There is a Susan character, as well, but no Christine. No lighthouse, either.
So we have to wonder what inspired screen writers Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan to stretch Wyndham’s apocalyptic yarn into such a pot boiler. The book appears to have promise. There is a strong parallel to The Death of Grass (No Blade of Grass) by Samuel Youd (John Christopher), that came out five years after this book. Recommended reading. There is also a movie, but it’s not currently streaming on Prime, so I will watch for it and catch it when it does.