• Craig Hunter

PT - Movies - 025 - The Day of the Triffids

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The Day of the Triffids book by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids (1961) dvd

28 Days Later (2002) dvd

Show Notes

John Wyndham


- born 1903 and died in 1969 ( age 65 )

- published several books under various names with little success in his career before WWII

- served in WWII

- after WWII he changed his writing style and wrote as John Wyndham and had great success with his first 4 novels after the war:

* The Day of the Triffids (1951)

* The Kraken Wakes (1953)

* The Chrysalids (1955)

* The Mildwich Cuckoos (1957)

- he and longtime partner Grace Wilson avoided marriage because of the Marriage Bar which would have meant the end of her teaching job. This issue was explored in Trouble with Lichen (1960)

The Day of the Triffids (1951) by John Wyndham


Plot Summary

Bill Masen is a biologist who works on a triffid orchard. Triffids are cultivated by corporations for their oil which is a viable alternative for crude oil. Bill has had a lifelong fascination with the walking, carnivorous plants--that may have been created in a Russian lab--since his childhood when he was stung by a triffid in his garden but survived.

The story begins with Bill in a hospital with bandaged eyes having been stung by a triffid on the job. Before he has his bandages removed there is a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower that can be seen all over the world. The next morning, Bill awakes in his hospital bed but no medical staff show up for the scheduled removal of his bandages. After some time, Bill removes the bandages himself and discovers that everyone in the hospital is blind.

Bill makes his way into the city and comes to realize that almost everyone everywhere, is blind, and there is chaos and it is only going to get worse as people die and disease spreads. He meets a sighted woman Josella Playton and together they gather some supplies and find an apartment to stay for the night.

The next day Bill and Josella discover a group of sighted and unsigned people lead by a man named Beadley. They plan on leaving for the country and starting a colony. Bill and Josella join them but before they leave, they are separated from each other when kidnapped by a man named Coker and forced to lead groups of the blind.

When most of Bills group of blind men and women begin dying from some kind of illness, Bill escapes and is joined by a repentant Coker as he heads out to the country in pursuit of Josella. Soon he and Coker go their separate ways on good terms. Coker returns to a settlement that they briefly stayed at and Bill continues on looking for Josella.

Bill finds a young girl named Susan all alone and together they soon find Josella living in a country house with her friends that she had told Bill about on their first night together in the apartment.

Several years pass at the colony but it seems that they will not be able to hold off the onslaught of the triffids forever. They make contact with a representative of Beadley's colony and agree to move to it after the summer.

Before the summer ends, they are visited by an armed representative of a militaristic colony and told they will be assigned a contingent of blind that will serve as farmhands in their fiefdom and they as essentially slave-owners. Bill and the others fake interest then trick the representatives into complacency while they escape. On their way out, they break the fences letting the hoards of triffids

My thoughts

it seems to me that the author was making a comment that man's greed would lead him to use technology to try to conquer nature and this would lead to his destruction.

In the book, Bill says that he thinks the "meteor shower" that blinded everyone may actually have been a satellite based weapon that went off by accident. Also, the Triffids were thought to have been invented by the Soviets for some nefarious purpose and escaped into the wild and then it was discovered that their flesh could be made into a useful oil and so capitalism exploited this and began industrial farming triffids and this caused them to proliferate.


The Day of the Triffids (1962) Movie


5:50 to 6:12 6:20 to 6:44 and 7:02 to 7:27. They make Bill Masen an American merchant navy officer, and kind of obnoxious at first. The American person too frequently gets portrayed unfairly in films as loud, aggressive, obnoxious, over-confident...in film format, it better suits the character to be like this because you only have an hour and a half and you need to move the story forward. For example, in the book, in the hospital, Bill hems and haws over whether he should take his bandages off himself or wait for staff to return to do it. In the movie, Bill wakes at 9 am after oversleeping and immediately angrily calls for the nurse and within a minute, he takes off the bandages himself.

After the initial scene with Bill portrayed as obnoxious, he changes, and for the rest of the film he is still confident and decisive but comes across as humbled by the experience, 1:07:00 to 1:07:50.

Bill leaves the hospital and walks to a train station in London to try to catch a train to his ship. No trains are running but this is where he meets Susan who is a runaway from a boarding school. Bill and Susan hop in a car and drive to Bills ship but get stuck in the mud on a country road behind some crashed cars. This is when they discover the triffid threat as a creeping lurching triffid emerges from the misty forest to try and make a meal of Susan.

At the shipyard, Bill accesses a radio transmitter and hears a distress call from a British ocean liner, and distress calls from foreign countries. The Japanese distress call is in Japanese and the audience is shown burning buildings so we know it's a distress call but Bill doesn't see the images but he somehow knows it's a distress call. To be fair, they next hear a French distress call and Susan apparently speaks French so she can translate and they could infer that the Japanese call was also a distress call.

Bill and Susan end up at a house with Mr Coker, and a handful of sighted people and lets of blind people but things fall apart and they head out to Spain with Christine, looking for an American naval base. They end up on a ranch with Luis and Teresa.

Bill gets their radio working and they learn that packs of triffids are roaming the country side and that there is a submarine scheduled to evacuate survivors on Saturday. There is a big showdown with Bill creating a diversion so that the others can escape by car while the triffids pursue Bill and they can all rendezvous at the submarine.

There is a separate story line of Tom and his wife Karen who live and work in a lighthouse on a small rocky island. They can both see but are stranded now that everyone is blind and there will be no boats to bring them supplies. They are not safe from the triffids though. Shortly after the meteor shower, Tom has a battle with a triffid. The triffid moves quickly, like a man, and Tom uses a harpoon to sword fight with the triffid's tentacles, while Karen helplessly screams because she's a woman in the 1960s. Tom labours for a way to destroy the triffids but to no avail but then accidentally discovers that the triffids are disintegrated by salt-water.

Day of the Triffids 1981 BBC Miniseries


Bill wakes up in a hospital bed with his eyes bandaged. Its 8 am and the doctors haven't checked on him and this is the day that he is to have his bandages removed. He speaks into a recorder and tells us that this accident was the result of a Triffid string and that it is the last straw that he is going to stop working on a Triffid farm. He explains how triffid farming came about in a flashback scene with two capitalists in a room kniving with one smoking a cigar and the other drinking a scotch. He can no longer wait and takes off his bandages and wanders out of his hospital room to find that everyone is blind and there are Triffids on the loose. He meets Josella and they make plans to get out of the city.

They meat Bleaker and are ready to join their community when Coker sets the fire and kidnaps Bill and Josella and they are separated.

Bill is forced to lead a group of blind men and women and over the next several days several of the group contract a lethal illness like typhoid. Most of the group dies and the others leave.

Bill goes back to the university where Beakers group was and runs into Coker. They leave London for Tynsham and find a group there who are basically Christian fundamentalists. They leave to continue to look for Josella.

Episode 5, 12 min in. Coker and Bill have a talk.

Coker heads back to Tynsham and Bill goes on to Sussex Downs looking for Josella. He meets a little girl on her own called Susan. Together they find Josella.

6 years later

Still at Sussex Downs, Bill has just come back from London for the last time. it's crumbling and too dangerous. The Triffids surround their compound at Sussex and it seems to be only a matter of time before they break in.

Bill and Jo on a little getaway to the beach. They create a myth for their children. Bill reveals that he thinks everyone was blinded by satellite weapons that emit a radiation and that the plague was caused by man also.

Jack Coker arrives at Sussex Downs in a helicopter.

They have built a community on an island. Coker doesn't describe the organizational structure of the community but does say that they are not out to rebuilt society as it was before the fall of civilization, 13:22 to 14:06.

The next day an armored vehicle arrives with two men that fancy themselves a part of a council that has some military authority to take over encampments and set up sighted feudal lords to rule over blind peasants.

Bill and the rest, agree tentatively to go along with what the men are proposing, then later that night, they get the men drunk, sabotage their vehicle, and flee in their own truck, smashing the gate to allow the Triffids in on their way out.

Day of the Triffids 2009 BBC Miniseries


Much of the story is changed for this version.

Bill flashes back to his mother who was killed by a Triffid. She was a scientist researching Triffids. Triffids provide an oil that will "replace fossil fuels". They are grown under high security.

Bill is stung by a Triffid when a protester breaks into a Triffid "orchard" where the oil company is gathering Triffid oil.

The meteor shower happens while Bill is in a hospital bed. Everyone is blind and there is great chaos.

Disposition in the book is replaced with scenes. For example, in the book, Bill thinks about how he will need to adjust his morality and not try to rescue those who need his help because he can't really save them. Not for long, and they will bring him down in the end. In the movie, this sentiment was conveyed when Bill ran into an old woman in a wheelchair who asked for his help. He said he would go and return to help but when he saw her a few minutes later she was dead. Bill closes her eyelids, when the old woman died so did this type of compassion.

The movie also follows Eddie Izzard. His journey is more selfish. He is in a plane and when he ralizes that there is chaos and the plane is going to crash. He doesn't hesitate in taking the inflation device from under the seats of several passangers and barricading himself in the bathroom with the inflatable pillows. This act shows that he will easily sacrifice others to save himself. After the plane crashes and he emerges scrapped but not seriously injured while the rest have died, he cheers in exaltation.

Bill saves Josella from a police officer. Eddie steals shit and the protestor who was being held in a cell in the Triffid orchard, gets out of his cell, turns off the power at the orchard, and tries to let out the Triffids.

When Josella and Bill arrive at the orchard, Bill's friend Lucy is dead along with the protestor and everyone else and the Triffids are all escaped.

They visit Jo's dad and he's dead.

Bill and Jo make an announcement from the BBC office, warning people of the threat of the Triffids.

Why didn't they say, for anyone listening, who is sighted, make your way to "X" so that we can build a new community.

Meanwhile, Eddie Izzard is walking around cocky. He enters the Prime Minister's residence and asks "Helga" to see the Prime Minister. Eddie tells Helga that he is going to take over running the country now.

Bill is really cold with Josella.

Coker joins up with Torrence (Eddie Izzard)

This is basically an action movie based on the novel.

Inspiration for Other Films

28 Days Later (2002)


Primate research centre

Activists break into a primate research center where monkeys are being forced to watch videos of violent protests and police brutality, a la Clock Work Orange. Activists break in a free the monkeys that are infected with a "rage" virus that makes them aggressive and homicidal. A monkey attacks a female protester and there is blood, implying that she has been infected with the virus.

28 days later

A man wakes up in a hospital bed naked and alone. He wanders down the hall and can't find anyone. He gorges on a Pepsi from a broken pop machine and takes some chocolate bars and pops in a bag, implying that he has not eaten in a while.

He is now walking in London and there is no one to be found and it is silent and still but there are signs that things were violent, like broken windows and overturned cars and he reads a newspaper headline that London was evacuated and the world is in chaos.

He enters a church and there seem to be lots of dead bodies but he says "hello" and several of the bodies get up and chase him. He runs outside and is rescued by two uninfected individuals wearing gas masks who Molotov cocktail the infected people chasing our main character. The scene implies that the rescuers are well adapted to the new reality.

The main character is Jim, a bike courier. Mark and Serena are the rescuers. The give him the rules of surviving in this new reality. The next day they visit Jim's home and his parents are dead. Soon after that, Mark becomes infected and Selena brutally kills him.

Jim and Selena see flashing Christmas lights in an apartment building and when they arrive they meet Frank and Hannah, a father and daughter. The four of them drive out of the city in search of a military post that has been broadcasting from the radio.

The military post is like 10-12 guys and soon after they arrive, the leader tells Jim that they broadcast in the hopes that women would arrive for them to reproduce with. Jim tries to get the girls and leave but is captured at gun point. When they take him outside to execute him, he escapes and then hunts them and rescues the girls.

The final scene we see Jim, Selena, and Hanna in a country house unraveling a "Hello" sign to signal a passing jet.

Special Thanks

Music for the intro:

Music from https://filmmusic.io

"Sweeter Vermouth" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)

License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)