RAW MEAT (aka: DEATH LINE)
(director: Gary Sherman; screenwriters: Ceri Jones/story by Gary Sherman; cinematographer: Alex Thomson; editor: Geoffrey Foot; music: Wil Mallone/Jeremy Rose; cast: Donald Pleasence (Inspector Calhoun), David Ladd (Alex Campbell), Sharon Gurney (Patricia Wilson), Hugh Armstrong (The ‘Man’), June Turner (The ‘Woman’), Christopher Lee (Stratton-Villiers), Norman Rossington (Detective-Sergeant Rogers), James Cossins (James Manfred), Clive Swift (Inspector Richardson), Heather Stoney (Alice Marshall, police secretary), Hugh Dickson (Dr. Bacon, lab head); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Maslansky; MGM; 1972-UK)
“One of the best horror films to emerge from Great Britain.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
American-born, London-based filmmaker Gary Sherman (“Dead & Buried”/”Poltergeist III”/”Lisa”) moved on from directing TV commercials to helm in his debut effort as a feature film director one of the best horror films to emerge from Great Britain. It’s the only film Sherman directed that is not routine. The low-budget AIP production is given a great comic turn by Donald Pleasence, playing with magnificent purpose the grumpy caustic working-class sharp-tongued Inspector Calhoun looking to preserve his police manor domain and not to take indignities from the higher-ups at British Intelligence. It’s also effectively chilling as written by Ceri Jones from a story by Mr. Sherman, as it admirably embraces the monstrous and makes its cannibal zombie killer a sympathetic figure who shows great tenderness to his deceased wife despite his gory killing sprees and attempted rape of the heroine. At the same time, it saves its best barbs for the superficial upper class, who are callous and hypocritical in their daily behavior (the upper crust bowler-hatted civil servant is murdered by the zombie-cannibal after being ripped off by a woman he tried to proposition on the station).
Two college students, the sensitive Britisher Patricia Wilson (Sharon Gurney) and the more hardened Alex Campbell (David Ladd), find the unconscious body of prominent government official James Manfred lying on the steps of London’s Russell Square tube station platform and when they report it to the constable, the body is mysteriously gone. Since it’s a case of a missing person of importance, Inspector Calhoun investigates with rigor and through another inspector, Richardson, learns that the underground station was built in 1892 and eight men and four women, tunnel workers, were trapped by a cave-in and mercilessly left to perish because there was not enough funds to rescue them. The tunnel survivors have turned out to be plague ridden monsters having lived for generations in secret beneath the tunnels and survived by living off rats and human corpses. Now the only remaining survivor (Hugh Armstrong), a half-human, is heartbroken over the recent demise of his wife whose corpse he lovingly caresses. At the same time we see him lop off the head of a live rat, go on a bloody killing spree in the station eliminating a couple of underground workers, and kidnap Patricia to take her to his hideout. With a crazed look, the Man roams the darkened tunnels to only utter “Mind the doors.”
The popular cult film is tightly constructed, creates an eerie atmosphere and intelligently suggests inviting mythological overtones about the horror genre. It’s a juicy film I thoroughly enjoyed, though I think the fainthearted might not find it that tasty.
REVIEWED ON 5/25/2008 GRADE: A-