Saturday, March 10, 2012
Cinema As Punishment
Unavailable on video for a long time, Cornel Wilde's No Blade of Grass finally goes public courtesy of Warner Archives. The film opens with a montage of environmental disasters that, apparently, caused the citizens of the world to riot and abandon civility. Although the logical steps towards such a catastrophe are vague here, you'd better go with it if you expect to survive the rest of the movie. We follow a small group of people who are heading out of strife-torn London to take refuge on a farm in the country. Along the way, some female members of the group get raped, the males shoot at each other, and a gang of outlaw bikers turn up to generate dramatic interest. Oh, yeah, and one bloke gets stuck with a wife who's more passionate about flashing her tits at the other cast members than surviving the disaster.
I first read about No Blade of Grass in Philip Strick's Science Fiction Movies and remained curious about the often-published image of Viking-helmeted marauders on bikes.
It took me until recently to conclude that the bikers in this movie are a bunch of idiots, and purely on board to break up the monotony. In the most pointless sequence, the bikers spot a group of armed civilians and decide to ride near them in a threatening manner. In fact, they ride in a circle so the civilians can shoot them off their bikes. Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of genuinely silly behavior on the loose in this odd science fiction mash-up.
The film has developed a reputation for its explicit violence, a reputation that's undeserved. Yes, lots of people get shot at, and there are a few decent motorcycle stunts, but this '70's effort is neither shocking nor particularly interesting. A terribly unhelpful editing decision here is to include what can only be described as flash-forwards. Now and then, we get tinted frames of red or green prior to more tinted shots of events we haven't seen yet. The colored frames are meant to be some sort of red alert, but they simply serve to undercut any dramatic surprises this film has in store. And it never had many in the first place.
The film must have cost a pretty penny to make. The cast list is considerable, and there are dozens of remote rural settings in addition to impressive riot sequences in London. Unfortunately, the script is obvious and heavy-handed, with Wilde piling on shots of dead animals and chimneys spewing pollution to make his point a hundred times. Although Nigel Davenport acquits himself well as the group leader, even he is betrayed by dialog lacking subtlety.
Also lacking subtlety is a 'No Blade of Grass' folk song that is placed over the opening and end titles. Unless you're a musical masochist, you'll give this charmless ditty a wide berth.
I wouldn't advise against seeing this cinematic relic as it is a curiosity, but I would park your high expectations at the door.
If you really want to see how the world will end, watch Punishment Park, Peter Watkin's masterpiece now on Blu-Ray.
Speaking of punishment, this is it!
Although I'm no fan of contemporary, so-called "extreme" (read: cheesy) cinema (Machine Girl, etc.), I gave Hard Revenge Milly a look because someone recommended it. I shouldn't have bothered. A girl takes revenge on a bunch of guys and gals who've raped her, killed her husband, and burnt her newborn baby to a crisp. Sounds like exploitation heaven, doesn't it? It's not. The over-the-top acting cremates the drama; the gore, inspired by Ichii the Killer, is silly; and the villains are screaming buffoons. Three minutes in, I already knew this was shit. There is a sequel, but I don't care. Keep it away from me.