Released in 1973, ‘Death-line’, whilst seldom referenced in film, must have been an influence on many a slasher in the years that followed. Bridging the gap between classic monster-man horrors, and what would soon be a booming sub-genre of horror, ‘Deathline’ carries many of the hallmarks which put the British horror films of the time on the map.
‘Death Line’ also known as ‘Raw Meat’ follows the plight of two young students, who after finding a collapsed man in the London subway find themselves caught between a police investigation led by an eccentric police inspector, and a crazed killer who stalks the underground.
The films plot is admittedly not all that original anymore, but at the time perhaps. The story unfurls in a fairly linear manner, with the police investigation providing the necessary exposition as and when required. The film, whilst not played for laughs, isn’t afraid to put a quintessentially British tongue in cheek and has a very much overacted and over the top feel to it throughout. Whilst the one American character doesn’t seem to get it, the rest of the cast, specifically horror favourite Donald Pleasance, seems to enjoy embellishing period stereotypes from the tea addicted police inspector, to the equally eccentric MI-5 operative played by Christopher Lee in a very brief cameo.
The pace is good, and whilst the story could be summed up in a runtime far shy of 90 minutes, there are a number of engaging sub-plots which seem to fill the time nicely; even if they are not all that essential to the movie’s overall conclusion. Having said that there are a number of lengthy sequences observing the witless killer shambling around in the gloom which would have benefitted from a touch more editing.
The killer (dubbed ‘The Man’) is an odd one for a slasher killer, he seems more victim of circumstance than anything else! Still, his scenes are good enough in context, and whilst he might not have gone down in the annals of horror icons, he has an interesting backstory, linked rather tenuously to some of the violent ends met by many of the workers who dug out the London Underground way back when. The violent scenes, scattered throughout, are gory and bloody at times (an impaling and a decapitation are pleasing), and occasionally emotive at others. As I’ve eluded to, you are led to feel pity for the ‘creature’ to an extent.
With the exemplarity presentation on the Network Blu-Ray the quality of the original cinematography can be enjoyed, even the scenes in the underground are not too dark and the picture is free from signs of aging. The authentic London underground station gives the film an identity, and what a location it is! With its warren of tunnels steeped in a violent history of their own I’m really surprised more hapless horror victims haven’t met a violent end in the dark bowels of the Capital – the only one which springs to mind is ‘Creep’.
Overall, ‘Deathline’ encapsulates everything that makes a cult movie endure. Whilst not excelling in any particular area, the film’s array of stars – playing out of stereotype roles – deliver a fun experience within a story which is becoming of its locations. There are some campy moments, and others which are violent. ‘Deathline’ has been around on DVD for some time, but, as with the recently released British giallo ‘Assault’ the Network release proves definitive and well worth picking up.