Raw Meat (1973)
Beneath modern London buried alive in its plague-ridden tunnels lives a tribe of once humans. Neither men nor women, they are less than animals... they are the raw meat of the human race!
Year of Release: 1973
Also Known As: Death Line
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 87 minutes (1:27)
Director: Gary Sherman
Donald Pleasence ... Inspector Calhoun
Norman Rossington ... Detective Sergeant Rogers
David Ladd ... Alex Campbell
Sharon Gurney ... Patricia Wilson
Hugh Armstrong ... The 'Man'
June Turner ... The 'Woman'
Clive Swift ... Inspector Richardson
Christopher Lee ... Stratton-Villiers, MI5
For generations, they've lingered beneath the streets of London. But now their last survivor has emerged, driven by a desperate hunger for human flesh!
When a prominent politician and a beautiful young woman vanish inside a London subway station, Scotland Yard's Inspector Calhoun investigates and makes a horrifying discovery. Not only did a group of 19th-century tunnel workers survive a cave-in, but they lived for years in a secret underground enclave by consuming the flesh of their own dead. Now the lone descendant of this grisly tribe has surfaced, prowling the streets of London for fresh victims... and a new mate.
Raw Meat, remindin' us that those PSA videos from 1953 about proper dinner etiquette, personal hygiene, an Communism that the substitute teacher used to show back in 3rd grade when the regular teacher'd call in hungover, at the very least taught us it's critical that we, as men, must carry the books of our female counterparts. Otherwise they might leave 'em on a subway car an get kidnapped an dang near slobber-boarded to death by an inbred cannibal coal miner who lives in a subway tunnel, after we get locked inside the car tryin' to retrieve 'em an aren't there to serve an protect our women. See, if David Ladd'd been holdin' Sharon Gurney's books for 'er like those old films instructed 'im to, they'da never gotten left in the subway car, which is the whole catalyst behind the scummy cannibal guy who looks like George Eastman wearin' a Rob Zombie wig burglin' the broad. An to think, people scoff an ridicule the 50s as an antiquated period of indoctrination. Kinda pitiful, ain't it?
An speakin' of doctrination, I've pretty much been sittin' on my can for the last few days catchin' up on classic cinema on account of deer season openin' up last weekend, an cause Tetnis tells me the sutures in my hind end'll take about a week to heal up. What happened was, after I called into work an told 'em I was gonna need the rest of the week off to recuperate from my Ebola infection, me, Billy Hilliard, an Cleave Furguson all piled into Cleave's crummy an went out on openin' mornin' like we always do. Only this year when we got out to our spot at Dead Fish Gulch there were all these signs that said stuff like "no trespassing", "violators will be prosecuted", an "use of deadly force authorized" hangin' on this freshly built barbed wire fence an for some reason the whole place smelled like a Cypress Hill concert. And as you'd rightly expect, the deer were all right up on the ridge with these shit eatin' grins on their faces cause they knew they were safer'n a girl's virginity at a screenin' of A Chorus Line. So we figured, heck, they're practically tame from bein' protected all this time, we'll just walk inside the fence a ways, drop three of 'em, an be on our way before anybody even knew what happened. Which in retrospect was prolly a mistake, cause apparently everyone in town but the sheriff an us knew about the illegal pot grow out there an the moment our three bucks dropped like the ballsac on a 12 year old kid watchin' Deadly Weapons, the rest of the herd came chargin' down the hill at us like Ronnie Lott on a Safety Blitz. We emptied our clips faster'n Ted Nugent on New Year's Eve but there weren't nearly enough cartridges (thank you very much state legislature) to stem the tide, an the short version is that were were all nearly bucked to death. It would seem that the banditos who were growin' the pot had been throwin' M80s at these deer to get 'em agitated enough to attack any intruders an the moment we fired on 'em it was just like mashin' the red alert button on Star Trek. My attorney, Cletus Rubenstein, tells me he's pretty sure he can get us off on the 37 counts of illegally harvestin' a game animal usin' our local "stand your ground" self defense law, but apparently the sheriff's pretty P.O.'d an has us dead to rights on the charges of criminal trespassin' an attemptin' to possess an distribute 4400lbs of marijuana, since he seems to think (wrongly) that nobody could possibly wanna eat the meat off a deer that subsists entirely on skunk cabbage an cockle burrs. I guess the cartel's a little upset too since their entire grow got torched like a synagogue in Damascus, Syria, but I don't sweat them none cause my pad's rigged with more booby traps than Home Alone an Saw put together. Anyway, Cletus is hopeful that if we can get a swift trial, Judge Wrathis may still be mellowed out enough from all the smoke waftin' into town that we may be able to beat the charges, but we'll just have to see what happens.
I don't mean to have diarrhea of the mouth or nothin', I just don't want any wild rumors circulatin' is all. We got about 2700 people here in town an 22 beauty parlors, so I just figured I'd set the record straight before any of those blue haired blabbermouths tried doin' it for me. But we got more important things to discuss, like an honest to God decent movie for the first time in a while. Raw Meat's gotta be the best inbred cannibal coal miner flick in history to feature Donald Pleasence tellin' Christopher Lee where he can stick it, an even though this one sticks to conventional wisdom pretty well, I was still able to pick out a few things that I was unaware of to pass on to you, my eager public. First, offerin' a Brit bagged tea is about like offerin' a southerner instant grits, or a lumberjack some low fat bacon as part of a balanced breakfast. Goes over like a water balloon fight at the Wicked Witch of the West's house. Second, London subway stations basically work on this weird honor system where their electrical switches're right out in the open for any jagoff who wants to kill the lights an play flashlight tag with their droogs while they're waitin' for the next train to show up. An third, trapped in a mine cave in? No problem. There's easily enough air down there to last several decades.
But havin' watched this one from start to finish, I'm startin' to think that all the immaculate livin' conditions an perfectly trained robotic sitcom wives from the 50s an 60s were all just made up to keep people self-conscious about what the neighbors'll say if somebody don't clean up the pile of cat shat in the hallway. I mean, the people in this movie who've been trapped in this subway tunnel for several decades along side their wives an children live in absolute squaller, an keep in mind that these should be women who were born durin' the pinnacle of debilitatin' self-consciousness an unquestioning subservience. But everywhere you look in this poop coop you've got bones, discarded chunks of buttrot, trash, an God knows what else. So where're the doilies, knick knacks, an various other bits of flair spread around the ole homestead in an attempt to make the neighbors green with envy? I'll tell ya where, underneath the pile of buttwipe rags an shriveled up rat tails, that's where, cause the sad truth is that nobody really cares what their home looks like unless they stand to gain social acceptance when somebody important comes over. But the downside to that is they're also somebody who might spread the word about your inability to Donna Reed between the lines an maintain the ideal home for your sickeningly flawless insufferable white bread all-American family around town like the clap in a township whose upstandin' moral supremacy would never allow the tools of the devil (sex education) to be uttered in a public school. Next thing you know you're the biggest laughin' stock in five square miles an can't even buy a duster from the Dollar General without feelin' ashamed. Well I'll tell alla ya somethin' right now, you people make me sick. Tryin' to bully everybody into your self-imposed slavery to sanitation like this, does your petty insecurity know no end? I guess I'd be upset too if I was bustin' my ass to impress everyone with my complete an utter uniformity if everybody else wasn't playin' by the same tight-assed rules of life that I was, an makin' me feel about as smart as Wolf Blitzer on Jeopardy. So you go right ahead an scrub that tub honey, but the cave babe in Raw Meat is a *real* woman, an not some robobimbo with a wide-on for Ward Cleaver. She's the chick your husband's with when he tells you he's out havin' a beer with the boys, so you just keep right on suppressin' those feelins of inadequacy an I'm sure sooner or later it'll all work out for the best.
The movie begins with this barmy git (Manfred) wanderin' from strip club to strip club in downtown London tryin' to find a piece of pikey grotty enough to work his todger, only he ends up with nothin' but a bloody biggie to show for it an hasta head down to the subway station to find a trollop to bugger. Alright that's about enough of that, it's a wonder these people can communicate with anyone outside their borders. Unfortunately the hooker just groins Manfred an makes off with the wad he flashes, leavin' 'im stuck with the wad he'd intended to be rid of an a Sack 'O Woe, but that's the least of his problems cause about that time he's mauled by somethin' hairy, damp, an that's pantin' like it's got debilitatin' black lung. Elsewhere, two tweens (Alex an Patricia) get offa the subway an find Manfred layin' face down in the stairwell an Patty tells Alex to act like he's got the tiniest shred of compassion for his fellow man or get used to the idea of bein' off the job for so long that he'll be on extended unemployment for as long as she can hold a grudge. So Alex tells the constable about Manfred layin' face down by the subway, locked in a tense stairin' contest with the walkway, only when they get down there Manfred's nowhere to be found an the constable tells 'em that if they made 'im come all the way downstairs an Manfred's walkin' down the street singin' Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do someplace with a clean bill of health, there's gonna be Trouble and Tea. The next mornin', this doughy guy who looks like Colm Meaney after gettin' caught takin' upskirts of Scary Spice (Rogers) goes into Donald Pleasence's office an tells 'im about Manfred goin' missin', cept Donald ain't listeninin' an he's bein' downright unpleasence after findin' out his secretary's been secretly slippin' 'im bagged tea for the last week, mostly cause teabaggin's supposed to be his department. Then Donald calls up Manfred's secretary an pretends to be the Archbishop of Canterbury til she tells 'im Manfred's prolly arseholed someplace cause he never showed up for work. So Donald gets Rogers to haul Alex into the station so he can give 'im the business for still havin' most of his life ahead of 'im an shackin' up with his girlfriend outside the bonds of wedlock, an once he's pretty sure Alex's gonna be about as helpful as a sports bra on Chesty Morgan, he tells 'im to bugger off. Then Donald has this dork bring in a buncha subway maps, an the guy explains to 'im that several decades ago when the subway tunnels were bein' built, one of 'em caved in like Fred Flintstone's roof after a meteor shower an all the miners got trapped like a buncha spineless boyfriends at a ballet recital, an since the miners weren't unionized the company just left 'em down there after it went bankrupt. Next thing we see is this dark tunnel where Manfred's body's propped up like a puppet government in the middle east an the whole place looks like a porno studio owned by Beatrice Manowski.
Livin' here, are the last two survivors of the aforementioned cave-in who've been squattin' an leavin' as far as the eye can see for some time now, with the female of the pair either bein' with mutant or havin' one of those swollen up bellies like you see on the kids in the Christian Children's Fund advertisements. Either way she's in bad shape, so the male goes an picks up the nearest corpse an slits its throat to see if maybe a cool, refreshin' Bloody Manfred'll perk 'er up but it don't seem to help none an he gets this look on his face like those mistreated rescue dogs you see on the Animal Planet Humane Society ads that run at 3am. Meanwhile, Donald an Rogers're checkin' out Manfred's mancave an after they've raided the fridge an sampled some of his vintage, Chris Lee shows up an tells Donald to leave the Manfred case in the hands of trained professionals an go back to bustin' guys in raincoats while dressed like a prostitute. But then everything gets real depressin' when the inbred cannibal coal miner's lady kicks off an he hasta walk around redecoratin' the place with a shovel blubberin' like Ed Wood after his executive producers told 'im his feather boa didn't go with his stiletto heels. After this recent turn of events, Captain Caveman is P.O.'d, so he heads down to the train station an kills the lights so he can start soul minin' these three sanitation workers with his shovel before confiscatin' a broom an shish-kabobin' the last guy with the handle til he looks like a weenie that's ready for roastin'. Back up topside, Donald gets woken up in the middle of the night an ends up knockin' every piece of home decor he owns onto the floor while he's gropin' around blindly for the phone like a bovine inseminater who hadda stick his arm back inside Bossy to retrieve his missin' watch. It's Rogers, an he wants Donald to come down to the morgue so he can inspect the damage done by the janitor's broom handle an petition the Queen to ban all pointy sticks in the nanny state. Elsewhere, Alex an Patty're havin' dinner an discussin' why Manfred's disappearance ain't in any of the papers an Patty hasta explain that the British press is so full of it that even if they put it in there nobody'd pay any attention so they mainly just focus on Loch Ness Monster sightins an steak 'n kidney pie futures. Back at the station, Donald's runnin' on less sleep than an insomniac on a Jolt cola bender an after the coroner calls 'im up to tell 'im a blood sample they found at the crime scene has the Bubonic plague he gets this look on his face like he ran outta fucks to give about eight years ago an he an Rogers head out to Cheers to grab a coupla dozen pints.
Over at the subway station, Alex an Patty're on their way home from the movies as she realizes at the last possible moment than she's left 'er English/British translation textbook on the train, an when Alex runs back to grab it for 'er he gets shut in like an agoraphobic internet troll with Photodermatitis an tells 'er he'll meet 'er at home next week after the train finally stops an lets 'im off in Liverpool. Cept once the train leaves the station she gets nabbed by the man that time forgot an drug back to the ole home on the mange like an unconscious cave bimbo. Meanwhile, Donald an Rogers're closin' down the bar an refusin' to leave til Rogers can topple the high score in the pinball machine an Donald ends up gettin' P.O.'d at the bar tender for disrespectin' the Queen's rulin' which states specifically that angry cue-ball headed Scotland Yard employees are allowed to drink until fully satiated, or until they blow chunks all over the video poker machine. On the other side of town, Alex finally makes it home, only to find the place emptier'n a trailer park on food stamp day, an so he hauls butt back to the tunnel leadin' to the subway, only to find it locked up like Tommy Chong after they found out he was sellin' bongs on the internet an he ends up screamin' Attica til a cop comes by an stashes 'im in Donald's office for safe keepin'. The next mornin' Donald comes in an Alex starts goin' apeshit an makin' so much noise that Donald's egg head starts to crack from the hangover an he hasta tell Alex to GTFO before his noggin' explodes like a toad stuffed fulla firecrackers, just as Rogers' bringin' in Patty's purse that turned up down in the heumatic tube station. By now, Alex's on the verge of kickin' Donald right in his Scotland Nards, but he decides it'll prolly be easier to find Patty if he's not gettin' clubbed into submission like a seal in Saskatchewan on the floor of Donald's office, an so he hits the subway tunnels on his own. Meanwhile, Patty's finally woken up an is appalled at the four star abominations she's sharin' with Chuck E Sleaze an Bubonic the Hedgehog, an once she starts screamin' like she just reached up an found the wad of Double Bubble she fell asleep chewin' embedded in 'er perm, Red Smellton runs in an starts bitin' the heads off the rats like Ozzy Osbourne. Only she's *still* not happy with 'er accommodations, so he decides to just cut 'er throat an claim self-defense on the grounds that she's about to shatter his nerves like a glass eye at the opera, cept before he can give 'er the razor blade smile he gets a good whiff of 'er hair an decides to ask 'er to go steady instead. Unfortunately, he talks about like Tor Johnson eatin' a peanut butter sandwich an so she can't really understand what he's sayin', an after he slobbers all over 'er like Cujo at a barbecue, she hasta punch 'im right in the skin graft he's got on the side of his head an take off while he gives chase mutterin' somethin' about a common law marriage. Will cut it here since this movie's got enough spoilage without me addin' to it.
Alrighty, well, what we've got here is what you'd call an under-rated gem. Though it should be pointed out that any horror flick made before the year 2000 that has a 6.0 on the IMDB can usually be expected to deliver. It's generally referred to as a low budget title, and while that's probably true, there isn't anything up on the screen to definitively prove that. In fact, I see very little wrong with this one in terms of execution, and if it did have a low budget, it doesn't suffer at all from the usual maladies of being such. And in my experience, Raw Meat seems to be one of, if not the first title to depict what is now the modern interpretation of a horror movie cannibal. All the really big cannibal flicks didn't hit the screen until at least a year later with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deranged. Then you've got The Hills Have Eyes in the late 70s and all the Italian cannibal flicks of the late 70s and early 80s, Motel Hell in 1980, and of course the Silence of the Lambs series which begins in the early 90s. They've been making a comeback in recent years as well, but generally speaking, this is one of the very first, and it's pretty decent to boot. I guess if you wanna get real technical, Sacrifice! (aka The Man from Deep River) came out in 1972 in Italy, but Raw Meat was also released in 1972 in its native country of Britain. And I suppose that if you REALLY want to go there, you could maybe count Blood Feast from 1963, but I don't remember ever seeing the guy eat anybody in that one, so I'm not counting it. There were, of course, cannibals in film before this, but they weren't depicted in the same style as they are today, so this title really is somewhat groundbreaking in the horror genre, and one that more people should check out. Another great thing about it is that despite being British, its not unbearably talky the way many of the Hammer flicks tend to get, and even when it does have to get a little blabber-mouthed, there's usually a great one-liner coming from Donald Pleasence that's amusing enough to keep you from becoming bored. Donald has a lot of hilarious dialog in this one, the writers really outdid themselves. And as far as rating all the acting performances given by Pleasence in his career, I think this one is my favorite. The one problem it has is that it is *really* British, and sometimes it's a little tough understanding everything that's being said, so if you're gonna watch this, don't skimp on the volume. It's also pretty well paced and never seems to drag. I found myself taking a surprisingly small amount of notes because many of the shots take a while to unfold. Despite this, I still wouldn't say it drags, because all the long, continuous shots are accompanied by a great soundtrack and excellent shooting locations that help to create a truly tense and foreboding atmosphere.
Okay then, lets go prospectin' in this thing's brain an see if there's actually a thought bouncin' around in there or if they just got lucky. If you were to narrow the plot down to strictly cannibalism, you could say that its been done before, though even taking that simplistic view and ignoring all the specific details and nuances, you'd have to admit that it was one of the first of its kind. However, that's a rather short-sighted view cause this one not only has a little backstory to go with it, which is generally something that's lacking in the more prominent Italian cannibal flicks, but it also has an unusual and interesting setting that greatly differentiates it from the bulk of cannibal movies. You don't often get an inbred cannibal in the middle of a big city after all, normally you've got a jungle or at least a forest as a backdrop, so this one stands out as being a bit different. The acting is great. Donald Pleasence gets some really choice one-liners in this one and has superb chemistry with Norman Rossington, who's essentially his equally unenthusiastic if somewhat more professional sidekick. Particularly good is the big to-do about the tea Donald's been gettin' in bags unbeknownst to him at the beginning. It's a little unclear whether the young couple or Donald and Norm are supposed to be the central characters, but either way, Donald and Norm seem to have the most screen time, and are the ones that steal the show. The couple is decidedly less interesting, and some of their scenes seem almost irrelevant, but they're not the least bit lengthy and in no way do they bog down the pacing. Anybody who doesn't know Donald Pleasence or Christopher Lee can get bent, but here's who else matters and why: Norman Rossington (House of the Long Shadows, Frankenstein: The True Story), David Ladd (Beyond the Universe), Sharon Gurney (The Corpse), Hugh Armstrong (The Beastmaster), Clive Swift (Excalibur, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1980), James Cossins (Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, The Horror of Frankenstein, The Deadly Bees), Ron Pember (The Land that Time Forgot), James Culliford (Five Million Years to Earth), Gerry Crampton (Willow, The Bride, Night Creatures), Terence Plummer (Jekyll & Hyde 1990, Batman), Gordon Petrie (Psycho-Circus). For any of you boring people out there who not only managed to find this site but to stick with the review; Norman Rossington would probably be better known for playing Norm in A Hard Day's Night with the Beatles, while Clive Swift would likely prefer to be remembered for his role as Richard Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances. Hugh Armstrong is also pretty decent as the drooling, mentally defective inbred cannibal who's lookin' for love in all the wrong places.
The special effects, despite a general lack of gore, are excellent. You've got a whole slug of rotten corpses in the cannibal cottage, a broom stick impalement, slashed throat, shovel embedded in a cranium, rat decapitation, and equally important - good makeup on the cannibal. It's fairly simplistic, and doesn't approach anything like what you'd see in a Wrong Turn movie, but there's some pretty icky lookin' open sores all over the guy, a rough facial appearance, and what looks like some kinda deformity on the side of his head where he's missin' some hair that everybody in the cast seems to like hittin' with blunt objects. So despite having a low body count, the effects are all really good. The shooting locations, particularly the abandoned subway tunnel, are fantastic. Shooting on location almost always comes across better than a set, and this one's no exception. The blocked tunnel where the abandoned miners have been spendin' all their time for the last several decades really looks like a group of people with no choice but to eat their dead live there, and it has all the best elements from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Anthropophagus. The location was a real place, but you'd have to give most of the credit to the prop designers and all the various people who filled it fulla disgustin' crap, cause while the abandoned subway tunnel is interesting, they're the ones that bring it up to a higher level by adding an air of authenticity. Otherwise, not much of interest, just a few interiors and exteriors, though I couldn't help but notice how much the bar in the movie reminds one of the bar from Cheers. So, excellent job by the location scouts and the props department. The soundtrack, despite being pretty simple, is very effective and equally important - appropriate. For instance, when the opening credits were rolling, I was thinking to myself how when we actually get to see something we're gonna be inside a sleazy strip joint, and once we could see what was goin' on, there's a guy walkin' into a sleazy strip joint. But for the most part, the soundtrack consists of exceptionally tense acoustic string instruments, kinda reminded me of the soundtrack in the Twilight Zone: The Movie segment with John Lithgow after he shoots out the window an the Gremlin slimes his face, though maybe not quite that memorable. There isn't a whole lot of variety, but then the soundtrack doesn't actually get a lot of air time unless there's a particularly tense scene involving the cannibal, however when it is actually playing it definitely doesn't hide in the background. Overall, this one's pretty good, and particularly good for a British horror title. I know they've got their legions of fans, but most of the Hammer stuff doesn't do much for me and comes across as rather slow. Raw Meat is not slow, and the humor definitely gives it a boost. Recommended for fans of the cannibal sub-genre (though don't expect anything like what the Italians make) and fans of British horror, it's one of the better ones as far as I'm concerned.