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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

retro trailer: ‘The Day of the Triffids’

Take a look back at an old trailer…

I saw this several times as a kid — it was a staple of the local TV stations’ Saturday afternoon movies — and I was always creeped out by it. I haven’t seen it again as an adult… but I’m planning to soon, along with the British TV miniseries versions from 1981 and 2009. Hey, I’ll have a Week of the Triffids…

The Day of the Triffids is available on DVD in Region 1 from Amazon.com and from Amazon.ca, and in Region 2 from Amazon U.K.

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  • RogerBW

    The 2009 version isn’t what I’d call good, but it’s enjoyable, mostly for Eddie Izzard. I’m a big fan of the 1981 version, which to my mind only makes one real misstep – but then, I was at the Golden Age of Science Fiction (i.e. 12) when it came out. I’ve never seen the American film version; I probably should, one day…

  • Lisa

    I thought Eddie was quite absurd in it but entertaining all the same. I preferred the 1981 one – it was so innocent and made more sense than the update. Tje lead actor was loads more likely and handsome than Dougray who’s always struck me as a sulky morose screen presense. Thank God Jackman got Wolverine.

  • I saw portions of the American version as a child. I’ve always been meaning to visit it again–especially after reading the John Wyndham novel it’s allegedly based on since that novel seems to use the giant plants as a metaphor for the perils of the post-Cold War world and tended to focus more on the political implications of a society in which everyone was suddenly struck blind–yet another political metaphor perhaps?–than on the plants themselves.

    For some reason, I doubt the 1962 movie was so political. And if it was, it was undoubtedly lost on me when I watched it as a child.

  • The novel’s on my reading list. Has anyone ever made a movie of one of John Wyndham’s other novels, The Chrysalids? That one deals with religious fundamentalism and seems even more relevant today (though I have a big problem with the ending).

  • Muzz

    Bleah, that movie was terrible. I guess I’m a book nerd, but it’s really pretty hacky. Much shorter on redeeming features than other similarly cheap sci-fi of the age.

    Some departures from the book have their merits I guess; the lighthouse stuff was interesting. But there’s so much that’s just “Why?”. The triffs coming from outer space for instance. Them being genetically engineered super plants is just infinitely cooler.

    The recent miniseries isn’t much better. They keep the plants’ origin, but basically turn them into shrieking creeping animals. I’ve always loved that core aspect of the original; that it’s not initially clear the things are doing any animalistic behaviours. That’s why they are allowed to get out of hand.

    The Torrence angle wasn’t much better either. It’s interesting to follow that character, but just making him some megalomaniac who is almost immediately in charge is pretty boring.
    (the recent remake of Survivors suffered from what I think is the same disease. All new English sci-fi series now feel they have to compete with Doctor Who in the action and excitement stakes and they aren’t nearly as good at it as the Dr gang. So intelligent material gets buggered right up by feeling they have to turn everything up to eleven.)

    The old series still wins, even though it’s a tad clunky these days. They knew not to mess too much with a classic.

  • Lisa

    What I didn’t like about Survivors and Triffids was that they were both quite clean and middle class. The apocalyse just seems to be a good opportunity to move into a nicer home. I’ve not read too much of his stuff but I remember being obssessed with Chocky when I was a kid.

  • RogerBW

    Bluejay, there was a radio version of The Chrysalids in the early 1980s, but I don’t remember much about it. Wikipedia says there was a stage play too.

    Lisa, I don’t entirely agree with you, but I’ll save it until the actual discussion. :-)

  • Muzz

    I grant that Survivors is a bit cheerful in some respects. Still it does make some sense. When 99% of the population die off that would mean in GB particularly that suddenly there’s loads of room and lots of stuff. It would take a little while before armed conflict would start to emerge, and that’s pretty much what happens. Plus it was a pretty straight laced old show that was more of a ‘social structure problem of the week’ sort of format after the initial outbreak was over. This week it’s food, then electricity, then law and order etc. The tone can be put down to the times and the cheap production more than anything.

    Triffids I dunno. I’ve heard a lot of people say that about it but I don’t really see it. The early stages are utter chaos: there’s the spectre of martial law and soldiers shooting at the blind here and there, Jo is rescued by Bill from being held as a slave by some bloke, bombs are let off and the sighted pressed into chain gangs looking for supplies, general looting and violence seems rampant, then there’s a disease epidemic and of course a bunch of killer plants roaming around.

    The tone of the book is a bit stiff upper lip British and the series is a little low key compared to what we like now. Still, I think apocalypse stories have become a bit trope-tastic. People expect everyone to go completely nuts almost immediately. It’s ‘get to the anarchy!’. That’s the fun part. Truly though, unless zombies are attempting to eat you at every turn I really don’t think that’d be the way things would go.

  • Ide Cyan

    There’s another movie adaptation of The Day of the Triffids — it’s called 28 Days Later. (Only it doesn’t acknowledge the source, but, seriously, that’s what it is.)

  • Lisa

    I read a review of Survivors and it said that if 90% of the world’s population died (he was apparently quoting the show), that means one in ten people in your street, in your apartment block, etc would still be alive. Your annoying neighbour would survive. That made me laugh quite a lot.

    The behaviour of the people in Survivors is quite annoying, especially when they get to a 2nd series.

  • Isobel

    I’ve never seen any Triffids films/series, although I did see the trailer for the UK miniseries when I was about four or five and it scared the shit out of me – I had nightmares and everything. I was a bit of a impressionable child, though! I also remember a trailer for something (later in the 80s, 85, maybe?) where a young girl is trapped in a coffin and screaming. No idea what it was for but I remember it making me afraid of dying of the first time, because I didn’t want to be buried.

  • Terry Stewart

    I’d go for the 1980’s TV version myself. I could never take the ending of the film version seriously, but they did get some other things right. Particularly the start where he wakes up in the hospital alone, something that the 2009 version mucked up completely. As for Eddie Izzard’s Torrence, he seemed to be a complete cardboard cutout villain – so evil he had some protective evil coating around him so he could survive almost anything, including a plane crash into central London from which he just walked away (had the producers been watching the last Indiana Jones movie?) If something was evil, he would do it however stupid or illogical it might be, and as to why anyone would follow him, let alone him becoming leader, I have no idea. I wasn’t impressed, IMHO a very poor third behind the film and 80’s version.

    In contrast most of the bad things that happened in the 1980’s version were from the best of motives. For example the first conflict is between a group led by a man named Beadley who wanted to save what they could and simply abandon the majority blind population to die (apart from some suitable childbearing women, rather like on Battlestar Galactica where someone says they better start having babies) and a group who want to save as many as possible by enforcing sighted people to look after large groups of the blind and were willing to risk probable death to all. In other words not a simple black and white contrast, more a dark grey to slightly less dark grey with very little real alternative to either (in such a situation what would you really do?) Most of the other conflicts are similar in tone, for example with the religeous community, (started by a woman who was horrified by the polygamous ideas of Beadley’s group and who had left to start her own group, and who also wanted to save as many of the blind as she could) Bill Masen comes accross.

    The contrast with Survivors is also interesting, both had themes of civilization being swept away, people going back to the land and starting everything over again. At the time there was a real prospect of something like that really happening, via nuclear was as opposed to man-made plagues, man-eating plants on blinding meteor showers. As a child I found the idea both horrifying and exciting at the same time. Again the older Survivors TV series is much better than the remake (IHMO).

  • There’s another movie adaptation of The Day of the Triffids — it’s called 28 Days Later. (Only it doesn’t acknowledge the source, but, seriously, that’s what it is.)

    Well, as I remember, there’s no real blindness in 28 Days Later–unless you count the moral blindness of the soldiers in the last half of the movie. And instead of man-eating plants, we get man-eating zombies.

    But apart from that, I have to admit that there are obvious similarities between the two.

  • Lisa

    Yeah I liked the 80’s version better because you could sympathise with most of them. I thought the development of the relationship was more realistic and the ending was better. Bill was just a genuinely nice bloke in extremely difficult circumstances, no father issues, no cynicism, no baggage really. Everyone, these days, is a maverick cop, so it was refreshing to see that.

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