Thursday, July 2, 2015

No Blade of Grass (1970)

          One of myriad early-’70s sci-fi flicks featuring an ecological apocalypse caused by man’s abuse of the planet, No Blade of Grass was made in the UK by he-man actor-turned-director Cornel Wilde, who served as coproducer, writer, and director. Wilde’s storytelling style is clumsy in the extreme, relying on such hokey devices as heavy-handed voiceover at the beginning and end. Additionally, Wilde doesn’t sustain a consistent tone. At one point, for instance, the movie abruptly cuts from a brutal scene of the hero euthanizing someone to a chatty vignette of the hero walking through the countryside with his traveling companions. There’s also an irritatingly mechanical quality to the progression of narrative events, with Wilde contriving scenes solely to advance pedantic messages about compassion and conservation.
          The picture begins with an elaborate montage juxtaposing scenes of overpopulation, pollution, and famine with voiceover provided by Wilde. Then the story proper introduces John Custance (Nigel Davenport), an eyepatch-wearing UK architect who has friends in the British government. John is privy to advance information about a plague that’s spreading across the earth, destroying every patch of grain and grass that it touches. John’s brother, David Custance (Patrick Holt), departs London for a remote countryside estate in Scotland, where he hopes to build a shelter in anticipation of society falling apart. Thereafter, the movie shows John and his family making a pilgrimage to Scotland amid growing anarchy. John soon becomes a postapocalyptic Pied Piper, gathering more and more people to his flock even as the group has bloody conflicts with roving bands of savages. Does it all end with lots of “My God, what have we done?” hand-wringing? Of course it does.
          No Blade of Grass wobbles between talky scenes that fail to illuminate characters and violent scenes that occasionally contain surprising bursts of gore. (In one bit, a housewife gets cut nearly in two by a close-range shotgun blast.) Davenport, as always, brings a certain zest to his performance, but the disjointed nature of Wilde’s screenplay prevents Davenport from forming a believable or consistent characterization. Meanwhile, the largely anonymous British supporting cast performs interchangeable roles competently. The movie also contains, for no discernible reason, a lengthy birth scene integrating real documentary footage of a messy human birth. Restraint, they name is not Cornel Wilde.

No Blade of Grass: FUNKY

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