Raw Meat (Gary Sherman / United Kingdom, 1972):
(Death Line)

Gary Shermanís droll opening poses the Britannia of old (brown bowler hat and tweed suit) against glowing strip-joint neon, allying the young American director in London with the Hitchcock of Frenzy. The first victim is a government official, slumped on the Russell Square Station and spotted by a college student (Sharon Gurney) and her American beau (David Ladd), who's got experience finding bodies in subways ("In New York, we call it a holiday when we donít"). The Scotland Yard is represented by Donald Pleasance and Norman Rossington, who excel at keeping the Carry On flag flying but have little luck solving the disappearances proliferating in the cityís underground. The culprit turns out to be a decrepit, pestilent catacomb dweller (Hugh Armstrong), who parrots slurry loudspeaker announcements ("Miiind the dooooors!") and needs a new bride. The intrigue reaches back to the late 1800s, so Christopher Lee drops by for a minute to smile a baroque threat ("Your dainty little footsteps are echoing in places one is well-advised to tread lightly"). Sherman has a trick up his sleeve, the mining injustices of The Stars Look Down transmuted into return-of-the-oppressed horror, filmed richly. The rounded corridors of the tube terminal give off a subtle distortion while obviating the need for wide-angle lenses, an unbroken tour de force uses dripping water, moans and heartbeats to score seamless tracking and panning around the cannibalís lair -- a cabinet of tragic horrors gradually illuminated. How come no British film had looked at the countryís upstairs-downstairs caste system and noticed the false bottom with the rotting Victorian troglodyte underneath? Maybe it took a visitor from the land of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to exhume it and point it in the premonitory direction of the Hammer Studios collapse and the rise of Thatcher. With June Turner, Clive Swift, and James Cossins.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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