John Wyndham is one of those authors that film and TV producers love to re-visit, and one of his most-adapted novels, mobile plant thriller The Day of the Triffids, is now in the hands of Transformers producer Don Murphy and Michael Preger, who has produced more than one Wyndham story in the past.
The Triffids, for the three of you that really don’t know the story, follows a devastating time for humanity when the discovery of aggressive flora coincides with a meteor shower that blinds a good proportion of the Earth’s population. Our sighted hero, Bill Masen, is in hospital after being attacked by one of the rampaging stalk-ers and must try to help fellow survivors make it through an England now dominated by the plants.
"This original classic has still to be successfully envisioned on the screen," Murphy tells Variety. "It is a story that strikes at the heart of what it means to be human – and does so in an intensely cinematic way."
He’s right about both parts, in that it's a great story that has yet to be properly adapted. The 1962 version, with Howard Keel and Nicole Maurey, has its fans, but didn’t quite stick the landing. The 1981 BBC series was a cult favourite (and an endless source of fascination for this writer since his parents deemed it too scary to watch at the time) but suffered from a low budget and plant effects that varied from the enthusiastic to… er… the plastic. Last year’s post-modern second stab by the Beeb took the gritty route, yet seemed sapped of the pulpy fun in its stone-faced environmental message. Also, the ending was rubbish.
So can Murphy make it work this time? We worry a little about the involvement of Preger, since he’s had two shots at bringing Wyndham’s writing to the screen and between the 1995 John Carpenter version of Village of the Damned and that last BBC Triffids, and hasn’t exactly won lots of supporters either way.
Any modern-day take on the Triffids also has to fight the fact that the likes of 28 Days Later have appropriated its post-apocalyptic eeriness and those who’ve never read the book might think it’s all borrowed from Danny Boyle.
But the 3D thing could actually work well, with Triffid stingers whipping out towards us as we duck in our seats…