Monday, September 10, 2012

Movie Review: No Blade of Grass (1970) Dir. Cornel Wilde

No Blade of Grass by Cornel Wilde

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Blurb: Loosely adapted from the excellent John Christopher novel The Death of Grass (reviewed here last week) No Blade of Grass follows the same premise of a strange new virus, which only attacks strains of grasses such as wheat and rice, and the world is descending into famine and chaos. Architect John, along with his family and friends, is making his way from London to his brother's farm in northern England where there will hopefully be food and safety for all of them.

Thoughts: I admit I had very high expectations after loving the book but nothing could have prepared me for the crimes against literature perpetrated by Hungarian-American director Cornel Wilde with this adaptation. The very real difference between the book and the movie, my expectations and reality is what has caused the low rating as otherwise there are some really strong moments. Largely based on extreme violence.

It's a dystopian film where people are struggling for survival and featuring gang warfare and rioting. A violence packed eco-apocalypse drama. People get shot. A lot. And the hero is John Custance who wears an eye-patch only to enhance his "bad guy" image as far as I can tell.

The ragtag group of survivors that Custance brings together under his leadership show a quick and virtually unhesitant rejection of societal values and the adoption of a survivalist 'law of the group.' It wants to be a film about the thin veneer of social codes that stop us from behaving like Custance, and how easily they can be wiped away but it gets lost under a sea of red paint and silly surface action written specificlly for the film including a ridiculous gunfight with a motorcycle gang.

Wilde aims for a documentary like feel with his mise-en-scene whilst assaulting your eardrums with his jaunty score. The highlight of the visuals being another scene not in the book, a scene that would be mirrored in reality in 2011, Londoners looting shops under the guise of anti-government protests.

The book gave me hope of an interesting psychological character study, a look at the weakness of man but the movie only provided surface shocks and gratuitous violence. Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs would hit screens a year later and with similar washed out visuals and violent content achieves something so much more impressive and emotionally affecting.

Set in England and cast entirely with English actors Wilde manages to turn everyone in to a caricature of the typical little Englander, complete with everyones favourite Eastender Wendy Richards as a busty young cockney lass out for a good time no matter that the world as she knows it is ending.

My major problem with the movie is the acting; the overt preaching environmentalism of the opening segment, the deliberately emotive juxtaposition of horrific imagery with first world gluttony and an invasive score that doesn't allow the viewer to analyse or think for themselves are other large reasons to dislike and could have been largely ignored if it wasn't for the absurdly over the top amateurish performances from the majority of the cast.


  1. Actually never heard of this before, but it looks like one I would watch just for the atmosphere.

    1. as much as i tried to distance my love of the novel from my viewing of the film i imagine coming to it fresh might enhance your viewing pleasure. if you can find a copy i hope you enjoy it more than me.