APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 13: The Day of the Triffids (1962)

As London was assaulted by the Blitz, writer John Wyndham was who witnessed the destruction of the city from the rooftops of Bloomsbury. Many of the scenes and incidents he saw, including a quiet Sunday morning after the bombs fell, were sent in letters to his long-term partner Grace Wilson and they are in his novel The Day of the Triffids. The book also suggests that while the plant-like triffids came from space, their ability to destroy our planet came from an over-reliance on technology.

Albert R. Broccoli and Irving Allen had purchased the film rights and hired Jimmy Sangster to write the script, which intimidated the screenwriter. He didn’t think that his script was good, but that version was never made. This version, written by Bernard Gordon, who had been blacklisted due to the testimony of producer William Alland. Through his friendship with Philip Yordan — and yes, Night Train to Terror does connect to everything — the writer found regular work as a writer and producer for Samuel Bronston Productions in Madrid, even if through the goodness of his heart Yordan received full credit on movies like Circus World, Battle of the Bulge, Custer of the West, The Thin Red Line, Cry of Battle and Horror Express.

Gordon was under FBI surveillance for twenty years and we wouldn’t know that he’d written many movies if it wasn’t for journalist Ted Newsom, who discovered that Gordon was the real name behind the kayfabe author credit Raymond T. Marcus. Gordon led all blacklisted creatives when the Writers Guild of America correctly credited pseudonymous screenwriters from this era.

As for Yordan, he once told his friend Gordon, “It’s Jews like you who ruined the motion picture industry with this anti-hero shit.”

As for Day of the Triffids, it’s loosely based on the book and doesn’t really get across the apocalyptic menace within its inspiration’s pages. It does, however, have giant plants spitting poison that kills at Janette Scott, so there’s that.

Directed by Steve Sekely and Freddie Francis*, it prefigures the way that zombies keep coming in waves that trap humans within increasingly smaller places to hide. Indeed, the hospital scenes in the book inspired 28 Days Later. The goofy inspiration is that the plants are turned back by seawater, a plot twist that would be used to ridiculous effect decades later in Signs.

*Kieron Moore and Janette Scott weren’t in the original cut of the film. It turns out that there were only 57 minutes of good usable footage available, so Francis directed the entire lighthouse sequence to pad the movie.

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