Day of the Triffids (1962)

Day of the Triffids (1962), directed by Steve Sekely.

Earth is hit with a double whammy after a spectacular nighttime meteor shower: just about everyone is permanently blind and (one damned thing after another) giant carnivorous walking plants have appeared.

This was one of my favorite "cozy" SF thrillers as a kid. Cozy in that it was an exciting, thought-provoking survival story with scary moments that weren't more than I could take. I suppose young people feel the same about brain-eating zombies and torture porn these days. It has nothing very fine apart from the scenario.

The first catastrophe is handled as well as the second: world-wide blindness means a global collapse of civilization. We see detailed examples in the crash of a passenger train into the station, an ocean liner drifting at sea, and an airliner running out of fuel and unable to land. Some incidents of survival savagery. It's a pretty dark treatment: we get to know characters who can't be saved.

The triffids take the place of the dead in a zombie apocalypse story: they're like slow zombies, and we have the traditional siege against overwhelming numbers. The effects are pretty minimal puppetry but still creepy: they hump along on thick roots like muscular genitalia and when aroused spew green venom.

It's almost a Quatermass plot, with an unhappy scientist couple at an isolated lighthouse who figure out a defense in the nick of time. American baritone Howard Keel is the brave but wooden main hero.

Favorite bit right at the beginning: a night watchman, hearing noises in the greenhouse, has been all through it and knows nothing is there. When he senses something awful creeping up behind, he is too terrified to turn around.

It's been done a couple of times as TV mini-series since. From a book by John Wyndham, always good at intelligent global catastrophe stories.

I found a used copy of the "Cheezy Flicks" DVD version and this is the first time I have seen the movie in widescreen. It's 4:3 letterboxed and the quality is dismal, too rough to bother with screencaps. All the various DVD versions are said to be bad. We've had rumors of a pristine restored version for years, but it never appears. Probably an urban legend.