Monday, April 23, 2012

Day of the Triffids

Day of the Triffids

Year Of Release: 1962
Running Time: 95 Minutes
DVD Released By: Cheezy Flicks
Directed By: Steve Sekely, Freddie Francis (uncredited)
Writing Credits: John Wyndham (novel), Bernard Gordon (screenplay), Philip Yordan
Filming Location: Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England, UK

Starring: Howard Keel, Nicole Maurey, Janette Scott, Kieron Moore, Mervyn Johns, Ewan Roberts, Alison Leggatt, Geoffrey Matthews, Janina Faye, Gilgi Hauser, John Tate, Carole Ann Ford, Arthur Gross, Colette Wilde, Ian Wilson, Victor Brooks

Tagline 1: Beware the triffids... they grow... know... walk... talk... stalk... and kill!

Tagline 2: TRIFFIDS TAKE OVER THE WORLD! From the greatest science-fiction novel of all time!

Alternate Titles:
Invasion of the Triffids (1962)
Revolt of the Triffids (1962)

Interesting Bits of Trivia:
The triffids inspired the E.T. plants of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. When the film was finished it was too short, so the entire sequence where the triffids attack the lighthouse was added. The wires pulling the triffids along the ground can be seen, especially in the scene were one of them chases Susan.

Summary and Conclusion
I know that Day of the Triffids is considered to be one of the better known classics, but to be honest, I found it a little boring. The acting was there and the triffids themselves were pretty cool, but there were large parts of the movie where not all that much of any interest was going on. It's really hard to put my finger on what went wrong in this movie, but I think there's a lot of little things that just eventually added up to create some bigger issues.
Firstly, there's the matter of the long periods of generally boring activity. The only really exciting times in this film were when people were either fighting with or running from the triffids. Although there were enough of these scenes to make the movie worth watching, I don't think there were enough to make it as tense as it could have, and should have been. The tension that builds in those kinds of action sequences is what makes a movie like this fun to watch. Unfortunately, between all the traveling and the talking, we didn't really get enough of it for my tastes.
Then we have what basically amounted to semi-characterization, where you find yourself only really caring about Bill and Susan because they were the only characters that gave you any reason to care about them. There was a whole side story with Tom and Karen in the lighthouse that really had nothing to do with anything that was happening in the Bill and Susan part of the story and it left me wondering why it was even included if the two plot forks weren't ever going to connect at the end. What would have made for a better ending would have been if Bill and the rest of his gang eventually met up with Tom and Karen towards the end of the movie and then Tom could have told Bill the whole thing about how he had discovered that ordinary sea water caused the triffids to dissolve into nothing. Together the whole group could then have fought off an onslaught of triffids and gotten rescued by a navy submarine at the end. At least if it had happened that way, it would have made for a more exciting ending and would have left you feeling more satisfied after sitting through 95 minutes worth of film.
As far as plot goes, the film is pretty straight forward. There's a meteor shower that hits the Earth and everyone who looks at it goes blind due to their optic nerves being destroyed. A new plant species known as triffids that had first appeared on Earth after being transported here on a meteor that had landed previously, were now being stimulated by this latest meteor shower and were growing into big ol' walking man-eating plant creatures. With most of the world's population blinded by the meteor shower, those who still can see attempt to help who they can and to do whatever it takes to survive.
The acting was pretty good all around in this film, and everyone did a good job with what they had to work with. Twelve year old Janina Faye did a particularly great job playing Susan, and in fact, probably did the best job out of everyone in the cast. The rest of the cast all pretty much fit into the standard 1962 monster movie mold. If you've seen many movies from this era, then you should be pretty familiar with what I'm talking about. It's not something you can really put into words, but there was a style of acting back then that you tended to see a lot, and pretty much everyone in this movie fit into that style.
The triffids themselves were all quite interesting looking, although I did notice that there seemed to be a couple of different types. The ones you saw early on in the movie didn't look like the ones you saw later. It was hard to ever get a really good look at them, but from what I could see, the "heads" were different between the earlier ones and the later ones. I liked the later look better because it actually looked a little less plant like and more like a creature. I'm not sure what the reasoning was for the two different looks, but they both looked quite good. The moment of the creatures was also interesting and quite well done, and several times we are shown how they actually move around. There's a stump sort of a leg appendage at the base that reaches out and pulls them along the ground. Naturally this made for a generally slow method of locomotion, and the creatures were easy to outrun.
There's currently two DVD releases of this film floating around out there. One is from a company called Allied Artists Classics, and the other, which I used for this review, is from a company called Cheezy Flicks. The Allied Artists one has far more vibrant color, but the somewhat lacking quality of the video and the fact that it was mastered in 4:3 pan and scan instead of it's original widescreen makes it an unattractive release. What makes it even more unattractive is the price tag. It's selling on Amazon right now for $22.46, which is about $16.47 more than it's worth. The Cheezy Flicks release, which sells for $19.99 on Amazon, was mastered in the original widescreen, and the video quality is decent, but the colors are faded and tend to have a slight pinkish hue to them. The real problem with this release though has nothing to do with the quality of the video, it has to do with the mastering of the disc itself. Chapter 18, the last chapter in the movie, has an encoding error in it. The error causes my software DVD player on my computer to lock up, and it caused my regular player to pause and then go back to a certain point in the chapter and start playing again from there. Basically, it's impossible to watch about the last three minutes of the movie on this disc, and I'm not the only one that's had that problem. I had to pop in my Allied Artists disc to see the end of the movie, which is something I shouldn't have had to do. I have written to Cheezy Flicks about this issue and when I get a response I will update this review with a summary of what they said. If they don't respond at all, I'll let you know that as well. As of right now, I can't recommend that you pick up either of these releases. The movie is worth having though and I hope that someday it does see a quality release. We just haven't seen one yet.
I gave this movie three bees because the acting was good, the creatures were pretty cool looking and the movie as a whole was pretty decent. I can recommend the movie to people who love classic monster films, but unfortunately, I can't recommend either of the releases that are currently on the market. If you absolutely must see this film, the Allied Artists one will allow you to watch the whole movie, but the sides are cut off because of the aspect reduction. If you don't care about missing the last couple of minutes, then you can get the Cheezy Flicks release. Or, you can wait until someone puts out a nicely restored release, which I'm sure will happen someday since this movie is one of the more famous classics. It really all comes down to what you're willing to live with at this point. It's sad, but that's the way it is.

UPDATE: I never got a response back at all from Cheezy Flicks about their defective release of this film. Do not under any circumstances buy this disc unless you don't care about not seeing the last couple minutes of the film, and I strongly urge you all to never buy any DVDs from Cheezy Flicks because they obviously don't care about the quality of their releases, customer service, or doing the right thing. I just saw another company, Blue Underground, that had some mistakes in a DVD they released involving the mastering of some day-for-night scenes. It didn't affect the playability of the movie, but they fixed it and offered to replace anyone's disc with the new version if they so desired. They admited the mistake right there on their website and took care of the problem as soon as it was discovered. They actually care about putting out quality releases, unlike Cheezy Flicks.

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