No Blade of Grass (1970)

Jeepers. No Blade Of Grass (1970) was sold to me as an exceptionally bleak film, and it earns that unusual description with distinction. It’s directed by Cornel Wilde (who had made fave The Naked Prey a few years previous), and concerns the imminent end of the world as a result of man made pesticides and other human actions poisoning all manner of grasses. This is killing the animals who eat the grass, human populations in turn starve (and even turn to cannibalism). Governments gas their own citizens. It’s a really bad scene.

This is where the film starts, essentially. A family is escaping London just before its collapse, venturing to go north to a relative’s farm for safety. Along the way, they encounter dangers that will be familiar to anyone conversant in, say, The Walking Dead: namely, hordes of amoral people desperate to survive and given to accepting, or even perpetuating, horrific actions as a daily occurrence. 

Technically, there’s a lot of stock footage used, often environmental and atrocious in nature, to give us a wider sense of the world at large (sometimes shockingly so, as in an early scene that contrasts news footage of starving black children with white people ignoring it on the tv while they sit at tables piled high with expensive foods). I was reminded of Jacopetti and Prosperi in this, and in the tone as well, that being one of high moral condemnation in the voiceover and mise-en-scène mixed with low brow exploitation elements in the characters and their actions.

Oddly enough, 1970 gave us not one but two films featuring particularly harrowing sequences of a medical procedure involving a pregnant woman (one an abortion, one a stillbirth) – one film is No Blade Of Grass, and the other is End Of The Road. These sequences present the procedures as an extreme metaphor for man and nature, a sign something has gone terribly wrong in the relationship between the two, a terminus. The stillborn child in No Blade Of Grass is probably deformed, we imagine, another victim of the planet’s eco-destruction. It calls to mind the finale of another bleak British film, that being Threads.

So, you may be wondering, do I recommend watching No Blade Of Grass? If you like bizarre exploitation films, then for sure. If you like dystopian science fiction, you may be amazed by the prescience shown here. There’s a lot to admire, and though it’s often heavy handed, its message is just as timely if not more so than the time it was made. It never gets boring and it never goes for the easy out in terms of storyline. Realistic (for the most part) and uncompromising, this is a window into a world that could still be ours any time now.

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