Day of the Triffids [1962]

This 1962 version of The Day of the Triffids has been a TV staple for many years, more probably because of a lasting affection for John Wyndham's original novel than any high regard for the film itself. The premise--a meteor shower blinds almost all of humanity, just as a space-borne strain of ambulatory killer plants begins to proliferate--is so strong that it's easy to overlook the frankly messy realization of it. The film opens well, sticking close to the book, as Howard Keel awakens in a London hospital after an eye operation and takes off the bandages to discover that he can see but most of the rest of the population can't. There are unsettling, effective bits with a plane literally flying blind and the beginnings of panic among the fumbling survivors, and one good Triffid encounter in a fog. Then the film is strangely compelled to stray all over the map, with trips to France and Spain that have no discernible purpose. Director Steve Sekely's original cut was adjudged so disastrous that an uncredited Freddie Francis was brought in to shoot a whole new subplot, featuring Keiron Moore and Janette Scott in a vine-besieged lighthouse, to thread through the old footage. The results are less satisfying than the later BBC serial adaptation, but it still has some irresistible end-of-the-world and killer-plant material. --Kim Newman

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