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Film / No Blade of Grass

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No Blade of Grass is a 1970 British apocalyptic Disaster Movie directed by Cornel Wilde, starring Nigel Davenport, Jean Wallace, and Lynne Frederick. It is based on the novel The Death of Grass by John Christopher.

In the near future, a virulent new disease begins destroying crops worldwide, targeting all members of the grass familynote . In response, society starts to break down, and the leaders of the world take to extreme measures to eradicate the plague. When London is overwhelmed by food riots caused by the famine, a man named John Custance (Davenport) tries to lead his family to safety in Westmorland. This will not be an easy task, as the countryside is crawling with all sorts of deviants who will stop at nothing to get what they want.


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, possibly in the process of advancing to a Class 2 or even a Class 3b. It is mentioned that the virus and the increasingly futile efforts to contain it have killed hundreds of millions of people worldwide, including 300 million in China alone.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Bordering on Downer Ending. John manages to set up a new settlement in the valley, but he has lost many of his friends including Pirrie, the latter of whom had also been forced to kill John's brother David, and it's implied that the human race is headed for extinction.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The disease wipes out all grasses, including those that are staple foods for humans, but the protagonists don't seem to mind.
  • Downer Beginning: It is a dystopian film, after all.
  • Eyepatch of Power: John boasts a pretty impressive one.
  • Gaia's Lament: The opening montage seemingly blames the plague on humanity's continual abuse of the natural environment.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Cornel Wilde’s opening narration and the film’s theatrical trailer implies that it was Mother Nature herself who created the Chung-Li virus out of revenge for the human race polluting her world.
  • Green Aesop: Made particularly apparent in the opening montage.
  • Grief Song: The title song, performed by Roger Whittaker, is one of these for the entire natural environment. Given its pessimistic, downbeat lyrics, the song itself is something you would not want to listen to on a day full of blue sky and sunshine.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a montage of pollution, which the narrator blames for the spread of the plague.
  • I Have a Family: A rapist tries to pull this defense when his victim gets him at gun-point. Unsurprisingly, she shoots him.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: In a desperate attempt to contain the virus, the Chinese government uses nerve gas on its people, killing upwards of 300 million people.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: The third member of the biker gang gets away with raping Ann and Mary, but he shows up later with the Huns and it is in the ensuing gun battle that he finally gets his just desserts.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: How the various governments seem to be treating the issue of the virus, considering that they're willing to kill hundreds of millions just to stop its spread.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: A rather dark example. Mary asks her boyfriend to "make her a woman" as they're facing the collapse of civilisation through mass famine. He refuses because she's only sixteen, and she gets raped later on in the film.
  • Overprotective Dad: As they're facing the collapse of civilisation, Mary asks her boyfriend to "make her a woman". He refuses saying she's only sixteen and her father will shoot him. Mary says that he won't... but her mother probably will. The joke becomes less funny when she and her mother are raped later on and her father does kill those responsible.
  • Papa Wolf: After witnessing the bikers sexually assault his wife and daughter and shooting two of them, John then goes out to find and punish the escaped third assailant.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The fat lady, played by Ruth Kettlewell in a brief role, blames the Chung-Li virus on the Chinese soiling the Earth with their “human shit”.
  • Rape as Drama: John's wife Ann and daughter Mary are viciously gang-raped by three members of the biker gang. John and the others eventually find them and shoot two of the men, but one gets away.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The bikers' scenes are accompanied by a jazzy Leit Motif which unfortunately tends to play at rather inopportune moments, including during the rape scene.
  • Stock Footage: Used in the opening montage to portray the environmental destruction of the planet Earth and the devastation wrought on humanity by the plague. Most, but not all of the footage used in the montage originates from a documentary called The Shadow of Progress.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: It's unknown when exactly the story is supposed to take place, but the general aesthetic seems to place it some time in the 1970s. A foreign title gives the date as 2000.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: After enduring so much misfortune and seeing the world crumble around him, John is forced to take matters into his own hands and fight back.


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