THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS———Triffidis Celestus are carnivorous plants that rain upon the unsuspecting Earth during a worldwide meteor shower in this 1962 sorta-classic. That global light show somehow also manages to blind nearly everyone who sees it, leaving only selected cast members with the gift of sight. This enables them to get out of the way of the growing, swarming, bloodthirsty plants, at least long enough to be able to flee a number of times, decimate lots of triffids and—in the case of pretty supporting actress Janette Scott—scream at such ear-piercing levels that you really need to keep your remote handy whenever she shows up, unless you want to be rendered deaf. That would also handicap you in a versus-situation, since the triffids make assorted slurp, squish and rattle sounds as they approach.
Howard Keel’s career had dipped in the years since Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Kiss Me Kate, reduced to stuff like guest spots on Death Valley Days, and he must have wondered, as he manfully dodged ravenous flora, if he’d survive appearing in a goofy movie like this. Lifted from a well-regarded 1951 John Wyndham book, the script and budget let down the project, the score is too busy and the effects range from neat to awful.
Cinematographer Ted Moore, who steered the first four Bond films, helps provide some creepy atmosphere, while Hungarian director Steve Sekely—who brought forth treasures Revenge of the Zombies, Women in Bondage and Amazon Quest— turned in a movie that was only an hour long, prompting uncredited Freddie Francis to shoot enough additional material to pad the running time to 93 minutes. His contribution is the lighthouse siege with the sonically shrieking Ms.Scott and Kieron Moore, who battles the plant horde with a fire hose—melting them with seawater—who would have guessed?
This earnest, silly, ambitious, slapdash movie has somewhat of a cult following, mostly from people who were kids when it came out. It made $1,900,000 in the States. I saw it on a double-bill with The Time Machine when I was ten: my buddy and I were suitably impressed. Actors can’t get much of a fair shake in a movie about 8-foot tall attack-weeds: there is only so much you can do with dialog like “Wait here ” or “Get the hammer and nails”, let alone “I’m not a botanist.” Best course of action is to master looking aghast, such as the first victim of plant-rage here, the proverbial night watchman, a category of bit player who have movielands second highest casualty rate, after sentries.