John Wyndham’s famous post apocalyptic novel received it’s first screen treatment in 1962 with this film from director Steve Sekely, starring, improbably, gruff American Howard Keel as Bill Masen. Masen is a seaman who knows about Triffids, plants that can move , have intelligence and killer stings. Plants that feed on flesh.
So when most of the world is blinded by a meteor shower, the Triffids take full advantage of humanity’s weakness and start feeding at will, growing and multiplying in number. Masen and Christine Durrant work against time to neutralize the encroaching Triffid threat but the infrastructure of the world has fallen apart and it seems that their only chance is to work towards their own survival.
This first visual attempt at the story isn’t a bad one. It’s effects are somewhat dated sure, though there are moments of genuine menace still to be had from the realization of the Triffids on screen. Having read the book , it was always difficult for me to visualize Howard Keel as Bill Masen but them presumably an American lead was necessary to help to sell the movie to the States. The production was troubled with Hammer stalwart Freddie Francis being brought in to shoot new scenes, among them some of the most effective in the film and the narrative deviates hugely from the novel in places, but it’s got some very effective moments especially in the first half where the full extent of their plight is slowly revealed to them, the worldwide scale of the problem and the fight to survive that they will have to undertake. It’s all good, effective storytelling and makes for great entertainment.
The script is definitely muddled in places, as if the adaptor didn’t quite know how to bridge a missing plotline here and there and the dialogue while often effective when following the original becomes painfully wooden sometimes. The performances are equally variable though despite being miscast, Hoard Keel holds the film together well with a commanding though sometimes slightly bemused looking presence and there are several standout scenes (the airplane crash, the couple in the lighthouse) that stay with you at the film’s conclusion. It could have been so much more than it is but it was want the public of the time were demanding and is a good slice of Sci Fi adventure from that era.
Director: Steve Sekely
Cast: Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott