Death Line

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Death Line
Deathlinerawmeat.jpg
U.S. release poster
Directed by Gary Sherman
Produced by Paul Maslansky
Written by Gary Sherman
Starring Donald Pleasence
Norman Rossington
David Ladd
Sharon Gurney
Hugh Armstrong
Christopher Lee
Music by Wil Malone
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by Geoffrey Foot
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • December 1972 (1972-12) (UK)
  • October 3, 1973 (1973-10-03) (Los Angeles)[1]
Running time
87 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Death Line is a 1972 British-American horror film, distributed as Raw Meat in the United States, directed by American filmmaker Gary Sherman and starring Donald Pleasence. Its plot follows two university students who find themselves at the center of an investigation involving a man who goes missing in the London Underground.

Plot[edit]

Late one night at the Russell Square station in the London Underground, university students Patricia and her American exchange student boyfriend Alex find an unconscious man collapsed on the stairwell. Fearing the man may be diabetic, Patricia checks his wallet and finds a card that reads James Manfred, OBE. Alex and Patricia inform a police officer about Manfred, Alex and the officer return to the stairwell to Alex's surprise find that Manfred has vanished. Inspector Calhoun is assigned to look into the disappearance. Calhoun antagonistically questions Alex, who asserts the man was a drunk, and suggests he and Patricia robbed the man.

While discussing the case of the missing Manfred, Calhoun's colleague tells him about the history of the London Underground, particularly the Victorian railway workers who constructed the tunnels under dire conditions, and an urban legend that a group of descendants who survived an 1892 cave-in still live below ground in an abandoned section of the tunnels. Meanwhile, one of the last surviving members of a family of these railway workers watches his female companion die; they have survived in the underground by resorting to cannibalism of the railway patrons. In an empty chamber, Manfred's body lies, mutilated. The man laments the woman's death, as he is now left in complete solitude. The man goes into a rage and brutally murders three Underground maintenance workers in, taking one to his lair.

Calhoun remains suspicious of Alex and Patricia, and calls Alex in for repeated interrogations. After seeing a film one night, Alex and Patricia take a train home and get off at Holborn station. While de-boarding, Patricia realizes she forgot her textbooks on the train. Alex attempts to retrieve them, but the doors close before he can exit; just as the train leaves, Patricia yells through the window that she will meet him at home. Once the train exits the platform, Patricia is attacked by the cannibal man and incapacitated.

When Patricia fails to meet him at their flat, Alex seeks help from Calhoun, who is dismissive of him. Alex returns to Holborn station to search for Patricia, and enters the tunnel against the orders of a station attendant. He manages to breach an abandoned area of the Underground that had caved in, and finds remnants of the miners who worked there over a century ago. Meanwhile, Patricia awakens in the cannibal's lair. She finds him to be aphasic and unable to communicate with her. When he begins grabbing her aggressively, she hits him over the head and manages to flee, escaping into a tunnel. He finally corners her and attempts to communicate with her, but becomes frustrated and violently attacks her.

Alex stumbles upon the scene and begins fighting with the cannibal, stomping him on the head. Patricia, however, begs Alex not to hurt him, and they watch as the cannibal stumbles into a passageway. Calhoun and several other detectives who have entered the Underground discover Alex and Patricia. As they search through the abandoned section of the Underground, the detectives uncover a room full of corpses laid in bunk beds – the generations of survivors from the cave-in that occurred a century before. There they find the cannibal, bleeding profusely, and he collapses in front of them, apparently dead. The detectives return meet Alex and Patricia, who have been waiting outside the cannibal's lair, and head to the station platform. After they leave, the cannibal screams "Mind the doors!" as the credits roll.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Hugh Armstrong's role was originally to be played by Marlon Brando but Brando had to back out when his son Christian became ill with pneumonia.[2]

Christopher Lee agreed to do the film for scale because he wanted to work with Donald Pleasence. Despite this, the two never share the screen together due to their large height difference. Director Gary Sherman kept them in separate shots until Lee sits down at the end of the scene so that he wouldn't have issues fitting them both into the same frame.[3]

Release[edit]

Death Line premiered in London in December 1972, and was later released in the United States under the title Raw Meat on October 3, 1973.[1] In the United States, it was released in an edited cut to avoid an X rating.[1] American International Pictures, the film's distributor, retitled the film for its American release, along with a marketing campaign that made it appear as though it were a zombie film.[1] In Los Angeles, it was paired as a double bill alongside the comedy-horror film Cannibal Girls (1973).[1]

Home media[edit]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) released the film on DVD in North American on August 26, 2003.[4] On June 27, 2017, Blue Underground released the film in a Collector's Edition Blu-ray & DVD combination pack.[5] On April 5, 2011, the film was re-released on DVD in a six-film set alongside other MGM horror titles, such as Pumpkinhead (1988), Dolls (1987), Scarecrows (1988), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).[6]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 9 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.1/10.[7] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "a good debut, but it’s undermined by several vast improbabilities in the script and by the painfully inept performance of one of its leads, David Ladd."[8] Robin Wood of The Village Voice praised the film, writing that it "vies with Night of the Living Dead (1968) for the most horrible horror film ever. It is, I think, decidedly the better film: more powerfully structured, more complex, and more humanly involved. Its horrors are not gratuitous; it is an essential part of its achievement to create, in the underground world, the most terrible conditions in which human life can continue to exist and remain recognizably human. [It] is strong without being schematic; one can't talk of allegory in the strict sense, but the action consistently carries resonances beyond its literal meaning."[9]

Ramsey Campbell, in a review cut from The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, but reprinted later,[10] calls Death Line "an unusually bleak and harrowing horror film...very little in the film offers the audience any relief from the plight of the Man...The violence would be intolerable if it were not for the tragic dimensions of the film, but Hugh Armstrong's performance is one of the greatest and most moving in horror films."[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Raw Meat". American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved April 30, 2018. 
  2. ^ Alexander, Chris (April 22, 2017). "How Marlon Brando was Almost the Monster in Death Line". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved April 22, 2017. 
  3. ^ "SHOCK WAVES Episode 57: Death Lines, Pimps & Poltergeists with Gary Sherman!". Blumhouse. Shock Waves. July 21, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2018. 
  4. ^ Erickson, Glenn (April 14, 2004). "Review: Raw Meat". DVD Talk. Retrieved April 30, 2018. 
  5. ^ "Death Line Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved April 30, 2018. 
  6. ^ MGM Collection: 6 Horror Movies (DVD). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment. 2011. ASIN B004QF71ZM. 
  7. ^ "Death Line (Raw Meat) (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 18 June 2018. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 3, 1973). "Raw Meat". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 22, 2017. 
  9. ^ Miller, John. "Raw Meat aka Deathline". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 30, 2018. 
  10. ^ Campbell, Ramsey (August 1985). "Beyond the Pale". Fantasy Review: 33. 

External links[edit]