The Day of the Triffids (1981)
By: J.R. McNamara on April 17, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Roadshow (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. English (FHI) Subtitles. 157 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ken Hannam
Starring: John Duttine, Emma Relph, Maurice Colbourne
Screenplay: Douglas Livingstone
Country: UK
One year ago, I did a review for the 1962 film version of John Wyndam's sublime horror novel The Day of the Triffids (here) , in which I made reference to a TV version of the same story. Well, dear reader, here is the review of that very series.

Produced in 1981 by the BBC, this 6 part series has had critical acclaim, and is probably one of the best adaptations of a novel I have ever seen, even though the occasional character from the novel has been omitted, or sequences reduced for time purposes. There have been many films that have been influenced by this tale, 28 Days Later, and even Peter Cushing's Dalek's Invasion Earth 2150AD but really, nothing beats the original!

For those unaware of The Day of the Triffids (shame on you, stop reading this and go beg, borrow or steal a copy of the novel immediately, or even if you can, get a copy of Marvel Comics adaptation from the mid seventies that was presented in Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction), the story tells of Bill Masen (John Duttine), a man who farms a strange plant of origins unknown called a triffid, from which an oil can be extracted that is far superior to any other animal or vegetable oil. Bill has a history with these plants, which have a tongue-like stamen than whips out and poisons any who come near it. As a child, Bill was stung and developed a resistance to it so when he is poisoned again at work, he doesn't die, but instead is temporarily blinded.

While blind and in hospital, Bill misses out on a global astronomical event that causes any who witness it to go blind, so when Bill removes his bandages he finds he is someone who possesses a most valuable commodity: sight.

The story then goes on to tell of Bill's survival, fighting not only against the triffids, whose numbers are ever increasing with the blind, easy prey that humanity has become, but also against others who have their sight, all of whom feel they have a better way to guarantee man's survival...

Even though this feels like you are watching a series of 80s Doctor Who, it is the quality of acting that makes it stand out. Most of the time, the sets look like sets, but you tend to ignore this as the performances are great. Those that are supposed to be blind are convincing, but the stand out cast member is would have to be John Duttine in the role of Bill Masen. He plays his role with a pathos and conviction that is extraordinarily convincing.

Even though the makers have gone for quality actors and not "stars", this doesn't mean all the effects are bad, in fact, the triffids themselves are astonishing, and in some cases could easily be mistaken for real plants! Having said that though, the 'triffid gun' is straight out of the Blake's 7 SPFX Company!
It was made in 1981 for TV, so you cannot expect the picture quality to be too high. It is presented in fullscreen 4x3 and is a competent image free of any artefacts or damage.
Just mono I am afraid, but with its effective soundtrack this can be overlooked.
Extra Features
No extras unfortunately, but a fairly decent 12 page booklet that is chockablock full of information about the production. I must admit I would have loved a commentary by Duttine and Emma Relph, and with the spectacular extras on the DVDs that most of the Doctor Who stories of this era that BBC have been doing, it is a shame nothing could be dug up for this release.
The Verdict
This is an awesome production, but it is a shame there are no extras on the disc. If you are a fan of end of the world tales like Night of the Comet, I Am Legend or The Omega Man, this is a must have!
Movie Score
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