No Blade of Grass (1970)

35mm film, Metrocolor, 2.35:1
mono, English

An American/British science fiction film directed by Cornel Wilde. Production started in the Lake District on 11 May 1970 1Today's Cinema no.9799 (28 April 1970) p.8 – credits (In production)

Plot Summary

A combination of extreme pollution and a grass-killing virus has led to a global famine and the collapse of civilisation in Britain. A small band of survivors struggle to reach a sanctuary in Scotland, battling other survivors, hunger and a vicious biker gang along the way.


Directed by: Cornel Wilde
© MCMLXX by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents. Made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios Limited
Produced by: Cornel Wilde
Screenplay by: Sean Forestal, Jefferson Pascal [real name: Cornel Wilde]
From the Novel [The Death of Grass] by John Christopher
Director of Photography: H.A.R. Thomson
Editors: Frank Clarke, Eric Boyd-Perkins
Music Arranged and Conducted by: Burnell Whibley
Sound Recordist: Cyril Swern
Costume Design: Tony Armstrong (Boutique) Limited
Make-up: George Blackler
Hair Stylist: Biddy Chrystal
Special Effects: Terry Witherington
Art Director: Elliot Scott
Made on location in Cumberland, Westmoreland and Yorkshire

Nigel Davenport (John Custance)
Jean Wallace (Ann Custance)
Anthony May (Pirrie)
Wendy Richard (Clara)
John Hamill (Roger Burnham)
Lynne Frederick (Mary Custance)
Nigel Rathbone (Davey)
Christopher Lofthouse (Spooks)
Patrick Holt (David Custance)
Norman Atkyns (Dr Cassop)
Reg Staniford (Mr Blennit)
Maureen Rutter (Mrs Blennit)
Christopher Neame (Locke)
Bridget Brice (Jill Locke)
Ross Allan (Alf Parsons)
Max Hartnell (lieutenant)
William Duffy (murdered farmer)
George Coulouris (Mr Sturdevant)
Ruth Kettlewell (fat woman)
M.J. Matthews (George)

Extracts included in
42nd Street Forever, Volume 4: Cooled by Refrigeration (2009)


The film was largely panned by the critics when it was first released. Murf in Variety complained that the “extensive over-use of flash-forwards seems an unnecessary device, first confusing, later telegraphing what should be suspense” but allowed that “Film wisely restrains its preachiness, instead concentrating on the inevitable human reactions in any major panic.” 2Variety 4 November 1970 p.24 Marjorie Bilbow in Cinema TV Today was unsure about the film's green credentials: “As an anti-pollution, down-with-artificial-foods freak since well before it became the trendy thing to be, I should like to be able to praise this film as a timely warning. But a melancholy protest song, plus a few shots of smoking chimneys, rivers of detergent foam, dead fish, and seabirds smothered with oil do not add up to a cogent argument proving that pollution had anything to do with the famine that sets the plot in motion. Good intentions do not a fearful portent make; nor do they transform a fairly ordinary story (reminiscent of John Wyndham's more imaginative novel The Kraken Awakes) into anything more than moderately entertaining hokum involving manly men and soppy women.” 3Cinema TV Today no.9962 (8 January 1972) p.27

Monthly Film Bulletin had similar reservations, Richard Combs commenting that “The prophetic warning of No Blade of Grass is completely vitiated by the crudity of its social stereotypes (the marauding motorcyclists called ‘Huns' recall the character credited as ‘Man' in The Naked Prey), while the moral disintegration of the individual characters lacks any psychological strength or consistency” and noting that the “violence and survival of the fittest […] leaves Wilde's naive social and psychological formulas firmly holding the floor.” 4Monthly Film Bulletin vol.39 no.457 (February 1972) p.34.

There were supportive voices though. In Motion Picture Herald, Ron Pennington hailed it as “probably one of the most important motion pictures ever made”, noting that “It is not a pretty film. It is presented realistically and its horror grips from the very beginning and does not really let up until long after the viewing is completed,” and praised the performances 5Motion Picture Herald vol.240 no.32 (18 November 1970) p.528,



  • Cinema Scope no.31 (Summer 2007) pp.12-15 (Canada) – illustrated article (Beyond Brut: The Art of Cornel Wilde by Andrew Tracy)
  • Cinema TV Today no.9962 (8 January 1972) p.27 – credits, review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
  • Films and Filming vol.18 no.8 (May 1972) pp.58-59 – credits, review
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.213 no.26 (28 October 1970) p.3 – credits, review
  • Kine Weekly vol.633 no.3263 (25 April 1970) p.(UK) – note (Studio Round Up: Production Review: MGM, Boreham Wood by Rod Cooper)
  • Kine Weekly vol.633 no.3265 (9 May 1970) p.14(UK) – credits (Shooting now)
  • Kine Weekly no.3272 (27 June 1970) p.11 – credits
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.39 no.457 (February 1972) p.34 – credits, synopsis, review (by Richard Combs)
  • Motion Picture Herald vol.240 no.32 (18 November 1970) p.528 – credits, review (Ron Pennington)
  • Today's Cinema no.9768 (6 January 1970) p.13 – note (Film forecast)
  • Today's Cinema no.9799 (28 April 1970) p.9 – note (First for Littman)
  • Today's Cinema no.9801 (5 May 1970) p.5 – credits (In production)
  • Today's Cinema no.9805 (19 May 1970) p.9 – credits
  • Today's Cinema no.9803 (12 May 1970) p.32 – credits (In production)
  • Today's Cinema no.9816 (23 June 1970) p.6 – credits (In production)
  • Today's Cinema no.9818 (30 June 1970) pp.12-13 – illustrated article (Fighting pollution on film); credits (In production)
  • Variety 4 November 1970 p.24 – credits, review (by Murf)


  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed). p.295 – illustrated credits, review
  • by Walt Lee p.338 – credits
  • Science Fiction Films of the Seventies by Craig W. Anderson pp.20-23 – credits, review