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Day of The Triffids

Next week London will be abloom as the Chelsea Flower Show kicks off on 22nd May. The BBFC file we reveal today, however, is a reminder that some plants are more deadly than beautiful…

In 1961 Security Pictures contacted the BBFC about the development of a film adaptation of John Wyndham’s 1951 sci-fi novel ‘The Day of The Triffids’.  The papers published here chart several stages of the BBFC’s involvement with the film, from giving advice on the script during pre-production to the final certification.

The studio were hoping from the start to release the film with an A certificate, which would indicate that the film contained material more suitable for adults but still allow young people to attend with a parent or guardian. The BBFC saw the script, however, as the basis for a film that was likely to require an X certificate, which would exclude under-16s from the audience. The BBFC team detailed several scenes they considered problematic for an A, with particular concern for younger viewers of the film. John Trevelyan (BBFC Secretary 1958-71) summarised, “We believe that children tend to identify themselves with children on the screen and for this reason we are always very anxious about scenes of frightened children”. The “question of identification” may also have caused youngsters to be upset by watching familiar locations being destroyed. Of course the fearsome plants themselves were worrisome too – if they were to be sufficiently scary that may be too much for a child, and the sight of a triffid being dispatched by a truck “may be squashy and nauseous”.

Following production of the film Security Pictures believed it had been “toned down” since the script stage and were still keen for the A certificate. However the BBFC still considered the film they saw to be sufficiently frightening, and to make it acceptable for the A category “you would have to lose a good deal of material that is important to the picture”. A final request for an A certificate came from Rank Films in 1963 on the grounds that “this is a well produced film, and a very expensive one”, and “we do not wish to jeopardise revenue recovery by a weak ‘X’ certificate”. They described the film as “Wellsian in outlook and action” rather than a monster-filled terror fest, but the BBFC maintained its decision that the strength of the horror and panic being caused by the invading plant life merited the X certificate.

The Day of the Triffids was classified X in 1962, and was most recently classified 15 for video in 1997.

Originally posted May 17th, 2012.

 

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