The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely / United Kingdom, 1962):

The botanical dread of Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors lays the sturdy foundation, exacerbated beguilingly in conjunction with mass blindness (satire, surely, lurks in "the great scheme of things"). The shower of meteors lights up the London sky, but the key early note is located in Howard Keel's irritation at the hospital as a U.S. Navy officer missing the "once in a lifetime spectacle" outside the window due to bandaged eyes. The following morning brings suddenly sightless citizens hugging the street walls, airplanes crashing, trains plowing through stations; Keel takes to the ocean with the landscape aflame behind him, across the pond he finds a surrogate family (Nicole Maurey, Janina Faye) and the mutated plants of the title, lifting themselves by their roots and sliding toward human victims with maws akimbo. "An intellectual carrot," it was said in Hawks' The Thing, and Steve Sekely works with Philip Yordan's treatment (with its hints of The Naked Jungle) with a similar deadpan, fashioning such gags as Mervyn Johns' pollen facial and the musical preference of predatory shrubbery into stepping stones toward the vengeful-Nature thrillers of the next decade. The apocalypse allows for marital and professional renewal in a parallel narrative kept at an isolated lighthouse, where married scientists (Janette Scott, Kieron Moore), their Albee drama interrupted by marauding stalks, voice the absurdist punchline of John Wyndham's novel: "There's no sense in getting killed by a plant!" The revelation is from War of the Worlds, but the essential image of human fragility (a blind couple gives birth in an arid hacienda while the electric fence barely repulses the green army outside) is purely its own. With Ewan Roberts.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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