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There’s so much interesting stuff to write about Cornel Wilde’s No Blade of Grass that I have a hard time finding words for them. Similar to Ray Milland’s excellent cheapie Panic in Year Zero!, which also deals with a family escaping the disaster called mankind. Wilde’s vision of the future is a lot more gritty and nasty, far from the slightly more family-friendly version told my Milland. No Blade of Grass borders to the experimental, a mix between UK TV-soap, American exploitation and the social satire or Roger Corman. Some might say Wilde slaps us in the face with his message of impending doom, but I say it’s needed. People are too stupid to understand it anyway, especially at the time.
Nigel Davenport and Jean Wallace is John and Ann, a London-based couple with a pre-teen son and a teenage daughter. The world is slowly coming to an end. Famine strikes everywhere, except in the rich quarters of the world, where the rich people are eating themselves to death while starving, skeleton-like, African kids with balloon-heads looks down at them from the television set. But it’s boiling underneath and riots are getting closer and closer to them, until one day when they pack their car and heads up north, to John’s brother’s farm where they easily can defend themselves against the roaring, furious masses of the working class. But the trip is filled of death and chaos, and no one can be trusted. Slowly the family descents into the most primitive level of human behavior, without understanding it themselves…
No Blade of Grass is a rough ride. The script is actually pretty sharp, bordering to cynic, and Wilde’s chaotic, almost improvised visual style makes it both edgy and somewhat confusing. It’s like they’ve just grabbed the camera in most scenes and shot the first thing they say, which I tend to believe was the plan. To keep it real, to keep it almost documentary. The characters are rare, people we should root for - but they behave like all the other assholes running around creating havoc. This is really interesting actually, considering how extremely immoral they behave - which also just pinpoints what humans really are: animals, and animals to everything to survive.
I’m sure the violence was very shocking at the time, and the rapes and graphic childbirth. This feels less extreme today, what stays with us is the behavior and morality of our “heroes”. No one is safe here, women and children behave equally shitty. There’s no good people in Wilde’s world. On an exploitative level it’s a fine slice of sleazy cinema, with a lot of extreme characters and action. It becomes even more bizarre when the family (and they friends they've met during the trip) meets a motorcycle gang right out from an Italian post-apocalyptic eighties movie and the whole thing ends in a western-style shoot em up-scene out on a Scottish field. In another sequence a woman is shot to death and the massive amount of blood coming out from her body is animated - in some way, it looks very odd but also strangely effective.
I REALLY liked No Blade of Grass, it’s a very odd movie, gritty as hell, dirty, chaotic, violent and packed with a weird form of human cynicism. The question Cornel Wilde want to ask us is if we all wouldn’t do the same thing if we was set in the same situation...and I think his own answer is yes, whether we like it or not.
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