What image do you remember the most about Danny Boyle’s superb 2002 horror 28 Days Later? A good way to judge this is with a quick Google Image search to find which of those images from the film that people most frequently post and discuss. It’s probably not much of a surprise that, posters and DVD art aside, one of the most recurring images found online is of Cillian Murphy’s Jim wondering the deserted streets of London, more specifically walking across a deserted Westminster Bridge. Seeing any major city deserted, especially one as large and famed as London, is a memorable cinematic moment, made all the more stunning by the lack of CG assistance (tut tut I Am Legend). That deserted London sequence has always been my favourite part of the movie, I find the military compound section of the movie less interesting (certainly less visually interesting at least).
So imagine my surprise when, watching The Day of The Triffids (1962) recently, I realised that many of these infamous shots from 28 Days Later had been achieved in the past. In fact I’d go as far to say that Danny Boyle knowingly recreated scenes from The Day of The Triffids. To put this in context, in both films a guy wakes up in hospital after an apocalyptic-type event has taken place (Jim in 28 Days, Howard Keel’s Bill in Triffids) to find himself all but alone and subsequently wanders the deserted streets of London in search of answers. Take a look at the comparison pictures which I’ve mocked up below, It’s actually quite staggering in terms of either framing or imagery. Scenes from The Day of The Triffids appear on top, scenes from 28 Days Later underneath:
Above: Bill and Jim awake to find themselves alone in the hospital, complete with of-the-period British NHS garb.
Above: In both movies one of the first visual notes of a deserted London is a crashed London Bus.., an infamous icon of the city.
Above: Both sequences come toward their conclusion by showing the leading men walking across Westminster Bridge with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background.
It’s also worth noting that, impressively, The Day of The Triffids managed to get a deserted sequence at Piccadilly Circus which, traffic and pedestrian wise, is probably more of a chore than securing Westminster Bridge. Not that any of this is derisory towards 28 Days Later, and Danny Boyle has mentioned in the past that the script was influenced by The Day of The Triffids. But it is, none the less, very interesting to see that these iconic shots were actually achieved some 40 years earlier.