by John S
Day of the Triffids was adapted three times: once in 1963 as a theatrical film, and twice as a BBC TV mini-series in 1981 and 2009. And what a difference modern technology and an actual budget makes! More on that later. For now, we’re off to the Triffid races. Fasten your seat belts.
The 1963 version opens with some narration about how the world is filled with many different kinds of plants. “Some of those plants are carnivores,” our snooty narrator intones, “and ‘carnivore’ means ‘meat-eating’!”-clearly assuming those of us watching have not made it past third grade. Our story opens with our hero, Dr. Bill Mason (Howard Keel), recovering from some eye surgery that has left his face wrapped in bandages. Bad timing because a meteor shower of epic proportions is set to happen that evening-and Bill is going to miss it because his eye bandages won’t come off until the morning. Sucks to be Bill.
Or does it? You see, that meteor shower ends up blinding everyone who saw it. Specifically, 99.9% of Earthlings. Soon, it becomes clear that being the seeing-eye dog for the greater London area doesn’t really appeal to Bill, so he hightails it out of the city, taking another “sighted” person with him: Susan (Janina Faye), a girl who also luckily missed the light show.
Bill and Susan make it to the English channel and cross over to France on a rickety boat. To their chagrin, they discover Paris to be as screwed-up as London, i.e., blind folk everywhere. Oh, and Triffids, too. You see, in the years leading up to the meteor shower, the Earth was plagued with a new form of plant called the Triffids which look like giant walking asparagi that can devour people. Now, with 99.9% of Earth stumbling around without sight, the Triffids have decided that THEIR DAY HAS COME!!! Who will survive the first Day of the Triffids?I?
Whatever. On to Day of the Triffids 1981… This second version apparently has even less of a budget. The first flick managed to get in some nice shots of Paris, the South of France, and sunny Spain. This version, by comparison, appears to have been filmed in the same four blocks of the crappiest neighborhood in London, with the occasional detour to some bleak cowpatch outside of town. Dr. Bill Mason (John Duttine, this time) again misses the global light shower that blinds the rest of the population. He escapes from the hospital and picks up a traveling companion who can also see. This time, it’s a grown-up woman instead of a girl. She is Jo (Emma Relph), and she accompanies Bill on his escape from London and all its desperate newly-blind. Not to mention the Triffids, who this time do not look like walking asparagi. Rather, they resemble sleek, statuesque pitcher plants-supermodel plants, basically. Who will survive this second Day of the Triffids?
Time for my favorite of the bunch: Day of the Triffids 2009. I favor this version because it looks like they actually had money to spend on it, and it features my favorite movie cliche: “The Ridiculously-Sexy Scientist.” Think Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) from the James Bond global noir The World Is Not Enough. Think Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) from the smart-sharks-attack flick Deep Blue Sea. Think Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) from the killer-dinos-classic Jurassic Park. This breed of cinematic egghead is also known by its clinical name: “Smokinghottus Eyecandyus Scientitus.”
Add to that list the new Dr. Bill Mason, who looks like Dougray Scott this time. Dr. Bill is again spared the blindness that hits most of the Earth. He partners with the equally-hot Jo Playton (Joely Richardson), a radio deejay who also missed the fireworks. This time, though, they have to deal with the hissable Torrence (Eddie Izzard), a colossal tool who also (unfortunately) escaped blindness and uses the catastrophe to his advantage by inserting himself as the new Grand High Poobah of Parliament. Or something.
Then there’s the little matter of the Triffids, which get much more backstory this time: they were bred to produce an oil that has eventually replaced fossil fuels and is now our sole source of sustainable, environment-friendly energy. However, like that jerk Torrence, the Triffids seize the moment and break out of the thousands of farms harvesting their oils and begin their march against humanity. This time, however, they look like a cross between a giant aloe vera plant on a crack bender and the Unabomber.
“That’s sooooo implausible,” grumbled a good friend of mine who is about to get his doctorate in chemistry next month. “It is scientific fact that a plant’s secretions cannot mimic the carbon reaction that leads to the creation of fuel and energy.” To which I kindly responded, “Dude, you are a gentleman, scholar, and true friend-and I value your opinion greatly. But right now, the only scientific fact I care about is Dougray Scott and Joely Richardson are insanely hot. Now shut your piehole before I smack it into the next century.”
Yes, because sometimes the eye candy can make or break a movie. That’s all.
Day of the Triffids 1963 (6 out of 10 – Above Average, comes close but misses the mark)
Day of the Triffids 1981 (5 out of 10 – Average, not bad – but not good either)
Day of the Triffids 2009 (8 out of 10 – Very Good, a near-classic)
John S. is a Scarecrow volunteer who loves James Bond, Jason Bourne, Italian Gialli, Dario Argento, Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Peanut M&Ms with popcorn, Julia Roberts in PRETTY WOMAN, Theo James in anything, HALLOWEEN (movie and holiday), Scarecrow Video, Russell Crowe as a villain, strawberry soda, and Karaoke – not necessarily in that order.