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No Blade of Grass


If Al Gore made an apocalyptic action film ...

Rod Lott November 11th, 2011

Actor-turned-director Cornel Wilde (“The Naked Prey”) was way ahead of his time, as his 1970 eco-thriller “No Blade of Grass,” now out from Warner Archive, shows.

nobladeofgrass

Opening with a heavy hand — perhaps the least subtle opening theme in history is interrupted by explosion — the film explores what would happen if a virus resulted in death and destruction of crops, paving the way for famine — and, thus, wonders newscasters, perhaps cannibalism.

Upon hearing rumors that big cities may be nerve-gassed, the Custance family plans to get hell out of London. Sporting eye patch and beret, architect John Custance (Nigel Davenport, “Chariots of Fire”) grabs his gun and family to head for a relative’s faraway place on foot. They fear the worst about their fellow man — “In a few days, mobs will be fighting over every potato patch,” John predicts — and then discover it face-to-face.

“Blade” gets ugly fast, with John’s wife (Jean Wallace, aka Mrs. Wilde) and daughter (Lynne Frederick, “Phase IV”) sexually assaulted — a scene that’s tough to watch — and things go downhill for the clan from there, and Wilde dare not flinch, which speaks entirely to his point: “You don’t like how this looks? Well, unless you start taking care of Mother Earth, this is your future!”

Wilde makes some interesting choice as director, starting with a room full of rich people eating meat; shots of their cutting and chewing is interspersed with near-subliminal clips of Third World orphans, footage of which appears on the TVs behind the well-off diners. He also takes great pains to show that just wealth doesn’t automatically equate to intelligence: "Them Chinese fertilize everything wit' human shit!"

Speaking of pains — the labor kind — Wilde goes so far as to include a sequence showing the birth of a baby, complete with unblinking shots of, yep, “down there.” In a well-done downer of a film like “Blade,” even such a miraculous act comes across as a bummer. —Rod Lott

 
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