Deathline AKA Raw Meat (1972)

“Mind the doors!”

Deathline is further proof that the Seventies is arguably the coolest decade British horror movies ever had. Plot paragraph …

James Manfred, OBE, has gone missing! Crikey! He was last seen in Russell Square tube station by a couple of students including a Yank called Alex Campbell (David Ladd). Very suspicious if you ask me, not the disappearance, just the students being there. Could his disappearance have anything to do with some old underground legends of a long ago disaster that was hushed up at the time? I wonder …

Deathline wears its British Seventies horror tropes proudly on its sleeves being a bit cheap, a bit dirty, a bit shocking, a bit depressing, and a bit camp. All in all it’s a diamond that’s a bit rough around the edges.

Leading the way is the wonderful Donald Pleasence (everything he did was awesome) as Inspector Calhoun of Scotland Yard, ably assisted by his long sufferent subordinate Detective Sergeant Rogers, played by the equally wonderful Norman Rossington (A Hard Days Night).

With a supporting cast of Hugh Armstrong (Beastmaster), James Cossins (The Lost Continent, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb), Clive Swift (Frenzy), Ron Pember (The Glitterball), Colin McCormack (tons of Brit TV), James Culliford (Quatermass and the Pit), June Turner (Within these Walls), James Woolgar (tons of Brit TV), and some bloke called Christopher Lee, Deathline is one of those movies where everyone makes old Brits like me go, “Ooh, where have I seen them before?” If you’re not British, or don’t have a hankering for old skool British character actors this might be a bit too niche for you.

Fear not! There is a chance that the lead may still be enough for you. Donald Pleasence has tongue firmly in his cheek with his rambling, witty, police Inspector who occasionally shows the layers of deeper thought going on beneath his apparently bumbling exterior. Christopher Lee only has one scene but it’s a wacky little affair with Donald Pleasence and well worth seeing it is too, if only to see Lee’s manly, bristling mustache in action! This scene was written specifically at Lee’s request as he wanted to both help out the film-maker and appear onscreen with Donald Pleasence, so that’s nice.

Talking of the film-maker, at the helm of this cracker was Gary Sherman who horror fans will love for Deathline and 1981’s Dead and Buried and not love quite so much for 1988’s clunker Poltergeist III. Ah well, win some lose some.

For the early Seventies the gore and violence is front and center and top drawer. We have John Horton to thank for that. John worked on Doctor Who, 2001:A Space Odyssey, a couple of Monty Python movies and a fistful of some of the finest Britcom of the age (The Goodies, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Are You Being Served, and Ripping Yarns). Also of note is the cinematography by the late Alex Thomson who worked on Excalibur, The Keep, Labyrinth, Alien 3, Demolition Man, and and Cliffhanger.

Despite the slim budget and the creaky plot Deathline is quite unlike anything else out there. While some may scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about, for those of a certain taste or age Deathline stands alongside Pete Walker’s Frightmare and Antony Balch’s Horror Hospital as a must-view example of quirky, distinctly dark comedy from the halcyon days of British horror.

Two word review: Bloody Tourists!

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