No Blade of Grass (1970)

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No Blade of Grass (1970)

Post  BoG on Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:57 pm

It's a few months after the release of 2012 (the film)... so let's looks at the much earlier depiction of worldwide disaster... Based on the 1956 novel by John Christopher... The Death of Grass

Dir: Cornel Wilde
"No Blade of Grass Grows... and Birds Sing no More..." so the song is sung over the credits in a very melancholy fashion. The film deals with the ascension of anarchy - new rules now prevail, revolving around a primitive goal of survival. The story focuses on one extended family (led by Nigel Davenport, who sports an eyepatch) which makes its way out of London in order to reach the farm of Davenport's brother. Jean Wallace (wife of the director) plays Davenport's wife and Lynne Frederick (Phase IV) is his daughter. There are a few others in the 'family.' Wilde's narration at the start speaks of useless rhetoric about ecological problems in the seventies, so this suggests a 'future' of around 1980.
Cornel Wilde's direction is not the most subtle at times: early scenes offer a documentary-style presentation of mankind's pollution; Wilde then juxtaposes scenes of starving African children with Britishers gorging themselves at a restaurant (this is right before everything goes to hell). But, later scenes during the trek are direct and effective. The story illustrates how certain people who may have indulged in some shady behavior when civilization was in full bloom now have valuable talents - talents which might be employed by 'respectable' folks. Other 'normal' folk (Davenport was an architect) now take brutal action which would have been unthinkable weeks earlier. What was considered murder weeks earlier is now just pragmatism. There's almost no more 'good' people and 'bad' people - it's just a matter of who survives better.
Wilde does employ an editing technique which is pretty unusual: at several points, he presents a flash forward; suddenly, we see several seconds of violent action which will actually occur 15 minutes later in the film. I understand why Wilde does this; it's a form of foreshadowing and perhaps foreboding stuff to add to the tension. But, it's a tricky style to use and doesn't quite work; I'm not blaming Wilde for how he did it - I don't think this would work in almost any film.
The trek itself - most of the film - is fairly well done, with usually sudden blow-ups of violence; the central action, when Davenport's group has grown in numbers, involves a battle against a pesky motorcycle gang. There's a surprising plot twist in the last 10 minutes. I've read that this follows the book closely, except for Wilde's insertion of mankind's polluting. This all compares fairly well to other post-holocaust films of the time - The Ultimate Warrior (1974), Ravagers (1979) - because it is more realistic, but it is low budget so don't expect to get impressed.
There is one chilling aspect to this film (with me, at least); the predicted ecological upheaval is still with us 40 years later and escalating (global warming, 2012, etc.). 40 years have passed and things haven't gotten better so the film may have been on to something... unfortunately. It may only be a matter of time... Sad BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
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