Death Line (known as Raw Meat in the US) is a 1972 British horror starring Donald Pleasence in possibly his greatest role. Well, at least my favourite role of his.
He plays Inspector Calhoun, a detective called in to investigate the disappearance of an important politician who was last seen at the London Underground station, Holborn.
Incredibly sarcastic & incredibly British, Pleasence lights up the screen every time he has a scene. His disbelieving nature & obsession with tea is charming & funny, moments of lightness needed in a film that is very dark & bleak.
Set predominately within the London Underground, particularly Holborn & Russel Square stations. The movie focuses on a family of cannibals who are descendants of workers who were buried alive & never rescued during the construction of the tube. Inbreeding & a lack of health care has seen all but one die out. Simply known as ‘The Man’ he is forced to pick off people from the stations, normally from the last train of the night.
It’s him who ends up killing the politician resulting in police being called in to investigate & eventually the uncovering of his lair.
Death Line is a really good film, it’s story is well told & it’s main characters interesting & well played. It’s not just Pleasence who excels in his role. Hugh Armstrong, who plays the hulking beast of a man, is fascinating to watch. Initially a horrific creature, he ends up being a hugely sympathetic character. Who he is…it’s not his fault. He doesn’t know any different, he has lived a life underground living off what he can find to eat.
His one companion dies in a heart-wrenching scene & he’s left with nothing but his survival instincts. His attempt to ‘take’ a new companion fails because of his lack of communication skills. The only thing he knows how to say is “mind the doors”.
How brilliant is that?
Just using that line of dialogue, he conveys a wide range of emotions. Confusion, frustration, anger, kindness & much more.
The film’s harrowing subject matter does begin to weigh it down in the latter half though & visually it’s a very dark movie. A lot of the time you’ll be struggling to see what’s going on. While not overly gory, it does have some gruesome horror moments. Ultimately though what you’ll remember of Death Line is the performances of Pleasence & Armstrong.
(Christopher Lee is billed on the poster & cover art but he is in it for a minute or two at most & does very little of note(