The Day of the Triffids (1981)

Here’s what I’m going to recommend to sensitive British chap Bill, the star of this BBC miniseries: a little less time giving me lectures about how we shouldn’t have a bunch of satellites in space protecting our national security and a whole lot more killer plant fighting.

It isn’t bad enough that Bill is unable to contain his socialist/commie views to himself for the full two and a half hours of things, but once he decides to unload on us, he just pulls it straight out of his bum!

Where else would he have gotten his theory that everyone on Earth had been blinded not by killer meteors in league with killer plants (the most commonsense explanation) but by some weapon up in space equipped with blinding radiation that went haywire and fried everyone’s optic nerve?

Lame speech at the end of movie aside, what you have here is a much more faithful version of John Wyndham’s novel than 1962’s The Day Of The Triffids.

This version improves on the first film in every category and ditches a lot of the bogus things that either didn’t work or made no sense. For instance, despite being twice as long, we no longer have the stupidly distracting second story line of the couple doing research in a light house. We also don’t have the little blind girl that tags along to play on our sympathies. Sure, Bill picks up a little girl, but she can see and that happens really late in the movie.

There’s also none of this crap where our hero travels to Spain to find an American military base. In this movie, the only hope you have is to get to an island where the Triffids can be hunted down without new ones moving in since Triffids can’t swim.

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The focus in the miniseries is more on the day to day survival after civilization collapses into a screaming mass of sightless Britons bumping into one another than on going at it with those demon weeds.

You would think that this shift away from straight ahead action while almost doubling the running time would result in a deadly dull experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s precisely because they have this chunk of time, that they can develop this new world and Bill’s reactions to everything that’s going on in it.

There’s time to flesh out the backstory regarding the Triffids as well, though I’ll have to confess that it wasn’t as clear as it could have been. (Would you believe that back in the 1960s, the Triffids were farmed for their oil?)

Bill recounts a lot of stuff about shadowy business behind the Iron Curtain and a Russian scientist and I was never real sure if these Triffids were engineered or occurred in the wild or what. But if you’ve been mucking about with the Triffids in captivity for twenty years, wouldn’t you have developed a non-lethal variety just in case they did get loose?

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Bill relates most of the setup for things while he’s laid up in a hospital bed recovering from some temporary blindness that resulted when he got a dose of Triffid poison down at the Triffid farm. This coincides with the big meteor shower everyone watches, which is how he escapes the fate suffered by so many others.

Once Bill’s outside the hospital, it’s pretty much 28 Days Later territory but with giant celery stalks instead of super fast zombies.

Actually, there’s more danger to a sighted person from the blind crybabies than from the Triffids at this point. Anytime a gaggle of these blind folks sniffs out a guy or gal with sight, they descend upon them, desperate for someone to lead them to food.

Bill rescues a woman, Jo, from a blind guy and they meet up with a bunch of people who can still see and are deciding what to do next. Their plan is to repopulate the planet ASAP and you know what that means – polygamy! Each guy who can see gets one chick that can also see and a couple of broads that can’t see. Jo and Bill decide to join up, but before that can go down, the blind attack!

Whatever happened to this invasion of the giant rutabagas? A sighted guy named Coker is leading the blind and takes people that can see prisoner with the idea that they will each be forced to take care of a gang of the blind.

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Just when it seems all is lost, though, a miracle occurs. A plague starts wiping out the blind people! Finally, a lucky break during this apocalypse!

Bill finally gets free of the blind people and spends a good deal of the movie trying to find Jo and avoiding the ever encroaching Triffids.

One of the good things about the movie was that it wasn’t just about the Triffids causing problems. More time was spent on the difficulties encountered just from the blindness. In fact, there were large stretches of the movie where you never dealt with the Triffids and most people didn’t even see them as an overpowering threat at first. It was only as humanity became more fractured and isolated that these things really manifested themselves regularly.

It certainly isn’t the flashiest program you’ll ever lay eyes on and it’s obvious that however many pounds were spent on it, not much of them went toward the Triffids, but for fans of “end of the world” movies, it’s a thoughtful handling of things and makes a good stab at believability, at least as far as the aftermath is concerned. Vastly superior to the previous version.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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