A mysterious meteor shower blinds most of the inhabitants of Earth - but worse is to come. As the population stumbles about,the triffids - giant carnivorous plants - begin to herd them for use as food. The survivors, led by a few who retained their sight, must try to find a safe place from the monsters.
The 1962 film version of The Day of the Triffids remains a TV staple, more probably because of the lasting reputation of John Wyndham’s classic original novel than its own qualities. The premise is strong, but the realisation is frankly messy. It opens well, sticking close to the book, as Howard Keel makes his way through a bewildering world of blind panic and creeping, stinging greenery.
There are unsettling, effective bits with a plane literally flying blind and the beginnings of panic among the fumbling survivors, and one good triffid encounter in a fog before the monsters start looking like foul-tempered christmas trees.
After the first act, the film is strangely compelled to stray all over the map, with trips to France and Spain that have no discernible purpose and a new bunch of characters (veteran Mervyn Johns, child actress Janina Faye, cutie Carole Ann Ford) dragged on and written off. Ford has an especially good exit, blindly feeling her way along a wall towards an evil plant which lashes her with its phallic sting. Director Steve Sekely’s original cut was judged to be so disastrous that an uncredited Freddie Francis was brought in to shoot a whole new sub-plot, featuring Keiron Moore and Janette Scott in a vine-besieged lighthouse, to thread through the old footage: this allows for one of those hokey happy endings later parodied in Mars Attacks! as plain old seawater kills the monsters.
A lot less satisfying than the later BBC serial adaptation, it still has some solid end-of-the-world and killer-plant material.
The book is a deserved classic, but this film loses most of the tension and all of the terror in the transition.