This subway tunnel-set shocker is one of the most respected British
horror films of the seventies, and the acclaim is largely justified. The
film is not without flaws, however!
The director of this 1972 film, originally titled DEATH
LINE (and retitled RAW MEAT by American International Pictures, a title
retained on the MGM DVD), was Gary Sherman, who went on to bigger,
though not necessarily better, films like DEAD AND BURIED, POLTERGEIST
III and LISA, and is reportedly developing a RAW MEAT remake set in
Horror buffs will be pleased to see Donald Pleasance
and Christopher Lee together in the same film, although Leeís role
appears to have been included solely for marquee value, and Pleasance,
although he has a great deal of screen time, doesnít have much to do.
Disembarking from a subway one night, Patricia notices
a (seemingly) passed-out man. She gets her boyfriend Alex to alert
security officers to the comatose manís plight, but by the time they
return to the stairway the body has disappeared.
A prominent politician and his mistress have recently
vanished in the area, and Alex and Patricia become suspects in the
disappearances. But the inquisitive Inspector Calhoun is moved to study
the history of the subway line, and discovers that a cave-in a hundred
years earlier killed several tunnel workers. Might some of those workers
have survived underground by eating the flesh of their dead companions?
That is indeed the case, as a savage man lives in the
subway tunnels together with a pregnant woman. Their companions have all
died and their flesh stripped clean, leaving these two with no recourse
but to cannibalize unwitting subway patrons. But around this point the
woman savage dies, leaving the man alone...and desperate.
Two subway workers lose their lives at the hands of the
savage man. He then tries to make a new mate for himself by kidnapping
an attractive woman--who, it just so happens, is Patricia. Alex follows
her, leading to a nasty showdown in the savage manís lair.
What makes this film a standout is the highly
atmospheric direction by Gary Sherman. Directorial highlights include
two lengthy and unnerving pans around the savage manís lair, and a
mid-film sequence of shockingly frank brutality. The man, played by Hugh
Armstrong, is both a pitiable character with entirely human motivations
and a repellent monster. Sherman handles this creature so well I find it
puzzling that so much of the rest of the film is as misguided as it is.
Take the central character played by Donald Pleasance.
Heís onscreen for most of the film yet has very little to do. Much of
the first twenty minutes is taken up with him pontificating behind a
desk, and in the end he only turns up after the climactic
Itís odd what Sherman and screenwriter Ceri Jones
choose to include. An overly lengthy sequence in a bookstore serves to
a). show us where a pivotal character works, and b). make
the point that heís being tailed by police, yet is otherwise completely
unnecessary. The film is packed with superfluous elements like this one,
which lessen its power considerably. But still, Shermanís handling of
the human monster and his tortured universe is without peer in horror
RAW MEAT (a.k.a. DEATH LINE)
Harbor Productions, Inc.
Director: Gary Sherman
Producer: Paul Maslansky
Screenplay: Ceri Jones
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Editing: Geoffrey Foot
Cast: Donald Pleasance, David Ladd, Norman Rossington, Sharon Gurney,
Christopher Lee, Hugh Armstrong, Jane Turner, Clive Swift, James Cossins,
Heather Stoney, Hugh Dickson, Jack Woolgar, Ron Pember, Colin McCormack