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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 01.24.08] post apocalyptic

Year: 1970
Director: Cornel Wilde
Writer: Sean Forestal
IMDB: link
Amazon: LINK
Review by: Christopher Webster
Rating: 8 out of 10

British novelist John Christopher has become something of a forgotten figure within the literary canon these days which is too bad because I find his imaginative use of apocalyptic themes to be on par with the likes of cult icons John Wyndham or even early J.G. Ballard. You more adventurous eighties TV junkies out there might remember Christopher's work from the BBC series Tripods, which was based on his popular White Mountains trilogy, a series of books (think War of the Worlds meets Invasion of he Body Snatchers) aimed at a young adults, that ran for 2 PA fueled seasons. But anyway, onto No Blade of Grass a surprisingly unforgiving and brutal adaptation of John Christopher's 1956 novel of the same name.

Because of the sheer rareness of No Blade of Grass, finding the film has become something of a Arthurian quest for me over the years. Even before the internet made buying rare movies as easy as shifting and clicking your way through the digital discount movie bin, I would scour every backwoods video joint (you know, the ones that haven't changed their stock since the eighties) in the hopes of coming across even an old previously viewed VHS tape I could grab. I had the film's poster well bookmarked in an old book of cult film images, and would ask aimless questions like a child to anyone who made the mistake of saying they'd seen it. So basically my hopes were pretty damn high when through a friend, I was sent a copy as a belated birthday gift and tossed it in the DVD player for a spin.

So does it live up to my expectations? Even more so.

See the Brits were way ahead of the American's when it came to kitchen sink realism, and although the seventies are known for being Hollywood's dark years the truth is, for British directors, it was old hat by 1970. Even Cornel Wilde, a director most known for his work on TV's Fantasy Island and Love Boat, was able to let loose in England and give No Blade of Grass the edge it needed to live up to Christopher's novel. The bleakness of the locales match the bleakness of the story and the dark places even the most moral characters must go.

However, Wilde attempts some flourishes in the film that have a tendency to detract from the overall experience which is why I felt a rating of 8 to be in order. Often, and for no apparent reason as a major payoff for this is ever really apparent, Wilde will flash forward and show a bit of drama that has yet to play out on screen. The murder of an officer, a scene of rape, every graphic or gritty story point is given away. Was he attempting dramatic irony? Was he engaging with the experimentation of the times? Who knows, but it doesn't really work.

At its heart, I think No Blade of Grass wants to be a tale of hope, it's just that those sentiments rarely shine through all the downbeat edginess. In that way I think it would be more fitting to equate it more to the BBC's Threads than its Survivors series.

Recommended Release: No Blade of Grass

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Matt (14 years ago) Reply

A very interesting film. Cool review.


Jamie Thornton (14 years ago) Reply

Ok, I'm going to have to track this down now.


wolfeyes (14 years ago) Reply

Always great reviews, agentorange. I thought this was a cool poster for the movie: ( it's eerie.


agentorange (14 years ago) Reply

Gee thanks wolfeyes! Actually, that poster is the one I mention in the review. I've got it in a cool book of exploitation movie posters. Yep, that's what awesome old films like No Blade of Grass have become; "exploitation."


quietearth (14 years ago) Reply

awesome review and awesome movie!


Don Hilston (14 years ago) Reply

The screenwriter of No Blade of Grass was a friend of mine in the 50's and 60's then droped off the radar about the time this film came out. Do you know anything of him since then ? We are getting kind of old and would like to know what happened to Sean Forestal. Any joy here? Don


Stephen Wood (13 years ago) Reply

Got this film off of ebay, its now public domain. Not a bad film at all.


steve (12 years ago) Reply

I saw part of this film on a late night Tv maybe 12 or more years ago. I would like to see it.


Peter (8 years ago) Reply

I only just heard of this a week ago - and as I often enjoy 70's sci-fi I downloaded it on iTunes. I was quite disappointed. There are a large number of clumsy and embarrassing aspects, from the flash-forwards mentioned in the review, to the heavy handed depictions of rape and violence, the poor acting, even things like the eypatch worn by the main character - "Custance". Much of the film just didn't sit well with us. There wasn't really a character that I sympathised with - certainly not Custance - though we did like the character: "Pirie". Also, though the premise is apocalyptic, it isn't really a sci-fi film. It doesn't have that sort of sci-fi resonance. It is pretty much set in the early 70's. So sci-fi fans might not get exactly what they are expecting here.

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