Saturday, February 13, 2010

Raw Meat (1972)

Th 70's were the best and worst of times for British Horror. On one hand, the newer wave of horror-films like "Night of the Living Dead", "Rosemary's Baby", "The Last House on the Left" and even more low rent, trashy fair had unfortunately made the likes of Frankenstein and Dracula seem like old news. Hammer tried to make them fit in with the times, but for the most part, they couldn't do it. On the other hand, films like "The Wicker Man" (arguably the best British Horror flick of all time), the Amicus anthology films, and even sleaze merchant Norman J. Warren helped change the way people looked at British Horror (whether or not that's a good thing in Warren's case is entirely up to you.) Another British Horror movie that somewhat broke from the mold was Gary Sherman's 1972 cannibal flick "Raw Meat" aka "Death Line."

There's something going on in London's Tube Tunnels-and I'm not talking about drugs either. When a top civil servant goes missing, it turns out that the culprit is one of the last people (or in this case, inbred mutants) in the line of a group of construction workers who were thought to have disappeared in the 19th century. To make things worse, he's got a thing for eating human flesh. Can Inspector Calhoun (a charming Donald Pleasence) and Detective Rogers (Norman Rossington of "A Hard Day's Night" fame) stop this before it's too late.

The debut feature of Gary Sherman, "Raw Meat" may have a premise that sound partially lifted from an American Exploitation movie, but the movie itself couldn't be more British. It has a distinctly British sense of humor-Pleasence offers a fun performance, and is clearly having a good time with the material, and Christopher Lee offers an amusing cameo. It also has the political underpinnings of some of the best British Horror, as the cannibal himself (played effectively by Hugh Armstrong) and his bloodline could be seen as a thinly veiled metaphor for class struggle. The movie itself does offer some gore (including a nifty bit with a shovel), but it relies more on using the underground taverns and the string of mauled corpses in the cannibal's lair to create an atmosphere of unease and tension, as well as death and decay. Everywhere you step in his lair, there are rats and dead bodies littering the ground and walls.

If the movie does suffer in any way, it's in the score by Wil Malone and Jeremy Rose is a bit annoying. How many more times can we hear the same 70's porno synthesizer sounds? It doesn't help that David Ladd is particularly bad as the token American Alex. His performance is quite bad, especially in the the presence of greats like Pleasence, and the fact that he is in the movie simply to attract American audiences is a bit perturbing.

Still, while not exactly a classic, "Raw Meat" is a good slice of British Horror that offers enough humor and horror to please fans of such movies. Now if only the character of Alex was played by a better actor...

Director Sherman went on to direct the classic American zombie movie "Dead & Buried", as well as the police flick "Vice Squad" and the Rutger Hauer vehicle "Wanted: Dead or Alive." Then came "Poltergeist III", and the less said about that, the better, which then was followed by the psycho chick flick "Lisa." It wouldn't be until 2006 when he'd return to directing non TV fair with the movie "39: A Film by Carroll McKane."

Rating: 7.5/10

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