STARRING: Nigel Davenport, Jean Wallace, John Hamill, Lynne Frederick, Patrick Holt, M.J. Matthews, Ruth Kettlewell, Michael Percival, Tex Fuller

1970, 96 Minutes, Directed by:
Cornel Wilde

Description: Rare and out of print. A movie directed by Cornel Wilde (UK/1970) set in a Britain gripped by a deadly virus, which is destroying the world's crops. One family takes refuge in the Lake District, where they are hounded by 'The Huns', a gang of evil motorcycle thugs.

No Blade of Grass belongs to that peculiarly English corner of film-making where levity is not welcome . . .

Everything is terribly serious; the film opens with Roger Whittaker preaching at us through the medium of twangy singer-songwriter folk about how we are destroying the world. This sets the tone precisely, a fact which might bother some people, but not me – life and death (of the planet, mind you) are serious. There are many, many comparatively light-hearted films out there which approach broadly similar subject matter (i.e. 28 Days Later, Idiocracy) many of which I have enjoyed. The fact that I have enjoyed those does not in my mind preclude the possibility of also enjoying wholly serious moral tales such as this.

We are quickly plunged into a world where food is scarce and rapidly running out, with no apparent hope of reprieve.

We join the story at a point where Britain’s major cities are falling into anarchy and martial law has been declared. Our mismatched and imperfect group are escaping London to seek refuge at a farm owned by a family member. Soon after their escape from the city, laugh as you may at some of the drama school acting (some is also very good though), we witness a truly shocking scene of violence against a Mother and her daughter. From hereon in you can be sure there will be little respite from misery.

If you ever watched BBC television’s The Last Train you will know what to expect – a sort of hellish road trip. No Blade of Grass must be one of the first examples of what is now a well established sub-genre. Cars running out of petrol, people trudging across countless fields and running into similarly displaced middle class English people – some nice, but most not.

The final act of the film is rather violent and involves a ridiculous gunfight with a biker gang, the members of which seem to be happy just riding round in a little circle and getting shot at. I think it’s probably fair to say that this film was made relatively cheaply and quickly. However, getting a film like this made in 1970 probably wasn’t all that easy (though plenty cropped up later in the decade and onwards). That probably explains the inclusion of clumsily written sexual tensions which are incongruous and superfluous against the backdrop of grittier and more realistic elements of the film.

If the shortcomings in this film’s acting and script prevent you from suspending your disbelief for long enough to appreciate the bleakness of the atmosphere and story then try Threads instead. Another bleak British film that guarantees to ruin your day . . .

(Incidentally the movie is based on a 1955 novel The Death of Grass by John Christopher, famous for The Tripods Trilogy.)

- Geoff Clayton



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