Monday, February 09, 2004

Mind the Doors: Raw Meat aka Death Line (1972)

Although this British made film is well regarded in its home country -- considered to be one of the finest modern English horror films ever made -- this intelligent and moody shocker has long been relegated to cult obscurity in the U.S. and sadly forgotten outside of those genre aficionados who have valiantly tried to keep the film’s dark flame burning over the years. Written and directed by American Gary Sherman, who would later direct the cult fave Dead & Buried (1981), Raw Meat ostensibly focuses on a series of bizarre disappearances in the London Underground and the subsequent ongoing police investigation led by two of Scotland Yard’s finest, Donald Pleasence and Norman Rossington. Genre-vet Pleasance and Rossington have a great repartee together and their scenes add a much needed levity to an otherwise claustrophobic and unsettling film. But just when you think you know where the film is headed, Sherman introduces us to the film’s true main character and real tragic heart of the picture. Long forgotten underneath the streets of London, buried beneath years of rubble and debris that are his sole links to the outside world’s dreams of “advancement” and “progress,” lurks the inbred cannibalistic creature (played by Hugh Armstrong) causing all of the mayhem above. Mindlessly moaning “Mind the doors!” as he shuffles through the deserted tunnels, the creature, along with a dying pregnant female, is the last descendent of a group of tunnel workers buried alive during construction of a new underground station in the late-19th century. Violent, totally crazed, and barely recognizable as a human being, Armstrong nevertheless manages to make us feel empathy for this great, shambling tragic beast. Not since Boris Karloff breathed life into the role of Frankenstein’s Monster has a horror film displayed such a complex yet terrifying “villain.”

The film is available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.

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