Thursday, September 4, 2008
Raw Meat AKA Death Line (1972)
Surprisingly grim and gory for an early 1970s British production, Raw Meat is the story of a subterranean cannibal man stalking the London subway. He is the last survivor of a cannibal clan trapped underground since 1892. Yes, quite a ridiculous plot, but the film has Donald Pleasance, Christopher Lee, and is heavy on atmosphere, setting, and gore.
The director, Gary Sherman made the popular living dead film Dead & Buried (1981), another atmospheric masterpiece, and the not-so-great Poltergeist III.
Gary Sherman is a well connected man in the horror biz and is a close friend of director Johnathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs). His film Dead & Buried featured some of the earliest special effects work by the recently deceased Stan Winston. The script for Dead & Buried was written by Dan O’Bannon, who co-wrote Alien (1979), and directed Return of the Living Dead (1985), as well as the grossly underrated H.P. Lovecraft film The Resurrected.
I really had to wonder why Gary Sherman isn’t as well known and only made three horror films, but he answered my question in his interview that appears in an article by Marcelle Perks published in the Eyeball Compendium book.
“I’m a good filmmaker and I love making films,” said Sherman, “but the business is so funny right now, nobody makes movies, they make deals.”
The article also revealed the filmmakers originally planned for Marlon Brando to play the part of the cannibal man, and that Donald Pleasance was always playing practical jokes on the cast and ad-libbed a lot of his lines.
A couple years ago I decided I wanted to see some films about the subway, don’t ask me why. I guess sometimes my quasi-manic episodes take the form of strange movie fixations, and the subway-themed movies were but one, along with the Charles Bronson one, the shot-on-video zombie one, and the ocean-themed film binge. Having gained more perspective on subway-themed films than most people ever will, I must say this is definitely the best of the horror genre (C.H.U.D. doesn’t count because it takes place in the sewer system!).
It’s got some trashy scenes with nudity and a lot of gore, but most impressive was the camera work. One very long take shows us the interior of the cannibal’s lair, with hanging slabs of bloody human flesh, bones, half eaten corpses, and his sick, dying mate in the background. The cannibal man needs another mate, so he kidnaps our beautiful female lead and tries to have his way with her, but Donald Pleasance and the gang arrive in time to kill the bastard.
The soundtrack is a particularly groovy piece of 70s porn-esque type music, heavy on bass and keyboard. It was actually released on CD and is two tracks consisting of about 30 minutes of music. The composer, Wil Malone, still arranges and composes many types of music and has worked with artists such as Massive Attack, UNKLE (the song “Lonely Soul”), and The Verve (for their song “Bittersweet Symphony”).
MGM released the film on DVD with no extra features, but the transfer is great, as with most MGM DVDs, and really highlights all the details in the dim underground scenery.
What surprised me the most about this movie was that it was damn good, and is readily available for under $10 new, with perfect picture quality by MGM. I guess I had become so used to the best of the obscure horror being expensive near impossible to find that I almost ignored something that was right under my nose.