U.S. release poster
|Directed by||Gary Sherman|
|Produced by||Paul Maslansky|
|Written by||Gary Sherman|
|Screenplay by||Ceri Jones|
|Music by||Wil Malone|
|Edited by||Geoffrey Foot|
|Distributed by||Rank Film Distributors (UK), American International Pictures (USA)|
Death Line is a 1972 horror film, distributed as Raw Meat in the United States, directed by American filmmaker Gary Sherman from his own story and starring Donald Pleasence. Its plot follows two university students who find themselves at the centre of an investigation involving a man who goes missing on the London Underground.
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 on the stairwell. Fearing that he may be diabetic, Patricia checks his wallet and finds a card that reads James Manfred, OBE. They inform a police officer, but find that Manfred has vanished. Inspector Calhoun is assigned to look into the disappearance. Calhoun questions Alex and suggests that he and Patricia robbed the man.
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 belowground. 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 patrons. In an empty chamber, Manfred's body lies, mutilated. The man, now left in complete solitude, goes into a rage and brutally murders three maintenance workers.
One night, Alex and Patricia take a train home and get off at Holborn station. Patricia realizes she forgot her textbooks on the train. Alex attempts to retrieve them, but the doors close before he can exit; Patricia yells that she will meet him at home. Once the train leaves however, Patricia is attacked by the cannibal man and incapacitated. When she fails to meet him at their flat, Alex seeks help from Calhoun, who is dismissive. Alex returns to Holborn station and enters the tunnel. He breaches an abandoned area of the Underground 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. She hits him over the head and manages to escape into a tunnel. He corners her and attempts to communicate with her, but becomes frustrated and violently attacks.
Alex finds them and begins fighting with the cannibal. Patricia begs Alex not to hurt him, and they watch as the cannibal stumbles into a passageway. Calhoun and several other detectives discover Alex and Patricia. As they search through the abandoned section, they 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, and head to the station platform. After they leave, the cannibal screams "Mind the doors!" as the credits roll.
- Donald Pleasence as Inspector Calhoun
- Norman Rossington as Detective Sergeant Rogers
- David Ladd as Alex Campbell
- Sharon Gurney as Patricia Wilson
- Hugh Armstrong as The Cannibal (credited as "The Man")
- June Turner as Dying Cannibal (credited as "The Woman")
- Clive Swift as Inspector Richardson
- James Cossins as James Manfred, OBE
- Heather Stoney as W.P.C. Alice Marshall
- Hugh Dickson as Dr. Bacon
- Jack Woolgar as Platform Inspector
- Ron Pember as Lift Operator
- Colin McCormack as Police Constable
- James Culliford as Publican
- Christopher Lee as Stratton-Villiers, MI5
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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 would not have issues fitting them both into the same frame.
Aldwych (formerly Strand) Underground Station was used for underground sequences, as it was only open for weekday Peak services since 1962, and was subsequently closed completely in 1994.
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. In the United States, it was released in an edited cut to avoid an X rating. 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. In Los Angeles, it was paired as a double bill alongside the comedy-horror film Cannibal Girls (1973).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) released the film on DVD in North American on August 26, 2003. On June 27, 2017, Blue Underground released the film in a Collector's Edition Blu-ray & DVD combination pack. 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).
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On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 91% based on 11 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.22/10.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." 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."
Ramsey Campbell, in a review cut from The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, but reprinted later, 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."
- "Raw Meat". American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Alexander, Chris (22 April 2017). "How Marlon Brando was Almost the Monster in Death Line". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
- "SHOCK WAVES Episode 57: Death Lines, Pimps & Poltergeists with Gary Sherman!". Blumhouse. Shock Waves. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Erickson, Glenn (14 April 2004). "Review: Raw Meat". DVD Talk. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- "Death Line Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- MGM Collection: 6 Horror Movies. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Home Entertainment. 2011. ASIN B004QF71ZM.
- "Death Line (Raw Meat) (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
- Ebert, Roger (3 August 1973). "Raw Meat". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
- Miller, John. "Raw Meat aka Deathline". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Campbell, Ramsey (August 1985). "Beyond the Pale". Fantasy Review: 33.