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Film / The Day of the Triffids

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The Day of the Triffids is a 1962 British Sci-Fi Horror film loosely adapted from the classic novel of the same name by John Wyndham, directed by Steve Sekely and Freddie Fancis.

A mysterious meteor shower blinds everyone who sees it, and also brings to Earth the spores of mobile and hostile Plant Aliens called triffids. Bill Masen (Howard Keel), who is in hospital with his eyes bandaged due to an eye injury, ironically thus becomes one of the few people in Britain with intact eyesight; the film follows his struggles to find safety in the ensuing chaos.

In a subplot invented for the film, marine biologist Tom Goodwin (Kieron Moore) and his wife Karen (Janette Scott), who are stationed on an island lighthouse and have also retained their sight, struggle to find a way to defeat the triffids. In the end, almost by chance, they discover that the triffids are dissolved by sea water, and the world is saved.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital Awakening: Opens with the protagonist waking up in hospital following eye surgery, his eyes still bandaged, to find that nobody else is around.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The book ends with Masen and his friends holing up on an island off the British coast and resolving to keep fighting to take the world back from the triffids. The movie ends with Goodwin discovering a weakness by which the triffids can be easily defeated, essentially giving it a "God will provide" ending similar to George Pal's The War of the Worlds.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Brutally shows the horror of those first few days in two scenes; one shows an ocean liner, helplessly adrift, and the second an aeroplane pilot begging for someone to talk him down, as the entire crew is blind. The plane crashes near Masen's ship, but we never find out what happened to the liner.
    • Adds a subplot of American marine biologist Tom Goodwin and his wife Karen, who are trapped in a lighthouse because their relief ship didn't come as a result of the mass blindness, and are eventually besieged by triffids.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Coker kidnaps people to make them help refugees blinded by a meteor shower and Durrant is a religious fanatic who deliberately sends the protagonist on the wrong trail after his girlfriend. In the film, they're helping blind refugees in a purely selfless and peaceful way, without kidnapping or misleading anyone.
  • The Alcoholic: Tom Goodwin is hinted to be one of these, or at the very least a habitual drinker.
  • America Saves the Day: The American biologist Goodwin eventually fights off the triffids with the lighthouse's firehose out of sheer Last Stand desperation and thus discovers their the Weaksauce Weaknesssea water.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The escaped convicts/rapists and their victims are last seen shooting at the triffids or running from them as a swarm advances.
  • Book Ends: Similar to George Pal's adaptation of War of the Worlds, a narrator introduces the Triffids in the prologue and praises the Deus ex Machina as a divine miracle that saved mankind in the epilogue.
  • Canon Foreigner: Dr. Goodwin and his girlfriend, and their sub-plot, is entirely original to this adaptation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The "SEA WATER — EXTREMELY CORROSIVE — FOR FIRES ONLY" water hose that is used by Goodwin to kill the triffids in the final act is shown very deliberately in an early scene.
  • Death of a Child: Kept mostly to off-screen insinuation, but the scene with the airliner that crashes because the crew is blind prominently has a kid as one of the passengers. (As the air hostess tries to reassure him he suddenly asks if the pilot is blind too, setting off a panic amongst the rest of the passengers, and is tossed aside as they all scramble to the front of the plane.)
  • Deus ex Machina: The Reveal that the Triffids are fatally vulnerable to salt water (of course, the film does not explains how Triffids arrived to the little island Goodwin and his wife are stranded in). The story goes all in with the narrator that introduced the Triffids before the credits praising how it's a miracle and Masen's group of survivors being part of a church's congregation.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The triffids have the advantage for most of the movie, but it's over for them quickly once Goodwin discovers their weakness to sea water.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: One of these starts barking at a triffid, only to be killed by it offscreen.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Susan retains her sight because she was hiding in the baggage car all night, stowing away to escape the boarding school for orphans she was sent to. After Bill saves her from a panicked blind man, he will do anything to protect her for the rest of the film.
  • Hollywood Acid: Although it's only used to dissolve the triffids and win the day, the big warning sign next to a hose saying "Sea water — extremely corrosive" suggests the writers believed sea water acts this way on everything.
  • Kill It with Water: The triffids' big weakness turns out to be sea water.
  • Plant Aliens: The original novel didn't establish where they came from (casually speculating on aliens and Soviet Super Science); the movie version explicitly made them into aliens.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: The film leaves out Josella Playton, the character who was Masen's love interest in the novel, and replaces her with Christine Durant.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Masen returns to the chateau to find sighted convicts holding the blind women at gunpoint and sexually assaulting them. He gets Christine Durant and Susan into the truck and drives away, making no attempt to save the helpless women. Even Durant — who earlier had vowed not to abandon the others — never mentions the chateau incident again.
  • The Remnant: The crews of several navy submarines avoid being blinded because they are submerged when everyone else loses their sight and broadcast radio messages to alert survivors that they're willing to ferry people to safety.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: The three safe zones Masen's group reach end up being attacked by Triffids or destroyed by human hubris (Masen's ship is apparently collateral damage to an airplane manned by blind people crashing nearby and the chateau is taken over by escaped prisoners). The last safe zone they reach (a submarine) is the one that sticks.
  • Salt Solution: Salt water turns out to be the most effective weapon against the triffids.
  • Saved by the Punishment: Most people were blinded by a meteor shower, but a group of prison convicts kept their eyesight because they were confined inside the prison.
  • Screaming Woman: Janette Scott as Karen Goodwin. And despite that famous line from "Science Fiction / Double Feature" in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, she doesn't actually do any fighting.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Masen, in hospital with his eyes bandaged, sleeps through the meteor shower and its immediate aftermath, and wakes to find the world greatly changed.
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: Marine biologist Dr. Goodwin is the only known scientist who isn't blinded by the meteorites and vulnerable to the attacking triffids. He immediately starts trying to find their weaknesses to give humanity a fighting chance, and eventually succeeds.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The airplane crew members are calm and professional despite their fear and grief as they run low on fuel (and notice this by feeling around where the needle is) without knowing where they can land.
  • Survivor Guilt: Discussed by Bill and Christine after the chateau is overrun. Bill explains what she’s feeling as, “Why me? Why did I live and they didn’t?”
  • Touch of the Monster: The advertising poster shows a triffid carrying a blonde woman in a brief white dress.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Coker and the Durrant sisters were under sedation due to being injured in a car accident when the meteorites blinded most of the world, but when Bill and Susan meet the trio (and their wards), they're moving around fine without any sign of any accident injuries.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The movie ends with the discovery that the triffids can be easily destroyed with sea water.