MGM let loose over a dozen horror films in one day a while back, and we rejoiced. While the majority of the films were borderline at best, there were some gems amongst the lot, and Gary Sherman's 1973 cannibal shocker, Raw Meat, sits near the top of the heap.
Alex and Pat (Ladd and Gurney) discover an unconscious man in a London subway station, and report it to the authorities. When they return to the spot in which the man was last seen, his body is gone, and it is revealed that he was an important political figure. Inspector Calhoun (Pleasance) sets about finding the man, only to be warned off by MI-5 agent, Stratton-Villiers (Lee, whose in the film for approximately one minute!), citing the investigation as a sensitive issue and that the case should be considered closed. However, when it becomes apparent that this station is a sort of "Bermuda Triangle" of the London Underground, Calhoun investigates the previous disappearances, confident it will lead him to the missing OBE.
His research uncovers a tale of a tunnel collapse in 1892 that left several men and woman trapped beneath the city, literally a stone’s throw away from the area in which dozens of missing persons had been documented since. Meanwhile, Alex and Pat get separated on the subway when Alex steps back on the train to fetch Pat's books, and is caught inside as it rolls off. Pat is then abducted, and taken to the lair of the subterranean killer; the mutated last descendent of the victims of the tunnel incident from nearly a hundred years before! Alex goes to Calhoun for help, but the inspector is already up to his neck in bodies and red tape, so Alex decides to venture into the tunnels alone!
Raw Meat (previously released in the U.S. as Death Line), is a great little shocker that really pushed a lot of buttons upon its initial release. The film's as gory as they come, and filled with some truly stomach churning imagery, especially the lingering tracking shots of "The Man's" lair. It's literally littered with human remains in various states of decay, rats, maggots, and just about every other disgusting thing imaginable. It's so over-the-top that much of it was cut from the film in previous releases, but MGM was kind enough to reassemble the film and release this unrated version it in all its original gory glory.
While Raw Meat is certainly bloody, it's not particularly violent (most of the deaths occur either off-screen, or under the cover of darkness), nor is it all that scary. It is, however, fun, and Donald Pleasance is simply fantastic as the loopy Calhoun. He seems to have had a blast playing the character (or, knowing Pleasance’s reputation, was just so disgusted he was in such a role that he'd decided to play it as if he were off his medication).
The DVD features a magnificent 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that handles the film's extremely dark aesthete wonderfully. The audio's a bit muddy (being a mono track and all) but it's serviceable, and only get's distorted when the film's super bassy and swingin' theme song kicks in. As for extra material, you basically get a trailer that looks like it's taken an acid bath, but this is a bargain priced disc, so one shouldn't expect too much.
Raw Meat is a touch slow moving at times, and the "scary" mutant looks a bit like Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull chasing people around with Silly Putty on his head, but it's heart's in the right place, and it's a great lazy afternoon watch. Check it out, and keep your barf bag handy!