Friday, July 11, 2014

Raw Meat, the Perils of Public Transportation

Before there was "Midnight Meat Train," there was 1973's "Raw Meat" (aka "Death Line").  Both these very gory movies tap into a terrific source of horror....the subway system.  I remember taking the Mass Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to work every day when I lived near Boston. To this day I have nightmares about being suffocated in crowds in dark places.  As a kid, I saw my first rat in a subway tunnel, and smelled odors emanating from grouchy fat people on hot summer days.  In "Raw Meat," cannibalism in the Russel Square Tube Station in London is the atmospheric setting which resurrects our fears of mass transit.
The plot: Two university students, Patricia (Sharon Gurney) and her useless communist boyfriend, Alex (David Ladd), come across an unconscious man named Manfred as they exit the Russell Square Tube Station.  They report this to a constable just outside the station, but when they go back to show the cop, Manfred is gone.  The selfish Alex doesn't care, but Patricia does and reports this to the police.  Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasance) takes an immediate interest in the case as Manfred is a bigwig in the Ministry of Defense. What Patricia and Calhoun don't yet know is that in 1892 a horrible accident collapsed a tube station under construction, and the construction company did not have enough money to retrieve the bodies. Not all of the workers died, instead they lived underground, with plenty of water and enough corpses to feed themselves. Over the years, a race of cannibals lived in secret under the London streets, and one fiend abducted Manfred in order to feed on him piece by piece. (see above photo)
Inspector Calhoun works hard on the case, and is inspired to work harder when an agent from MI5 (Christopher Lee) pays him a visit (see photo below).  The arrogant agent tells Calhoun to stick to petty crime, and leave Manfred to MI5.  Apparently Manfred had some perverted habits and MI5 does not want Scotland Yard prowling into his past.  With lots of hard work, Calhoun discovers the tragic history of the collapsed station in 1892, and finds more victims in the subway.  After finding some of the members of a maintenance crew in very gory fashion, he realizes that some of them are not accounted for.  Meanwhile we get glimpses into the cannibal's lair, containing half eaten bodies, some of which are still alive.  Patricia and Calhoun, separately, attempt to solve the mystery of the missing Manfred.  Unfortunately for Patricia, she gets too close and is grabbed by our monster.  Uh oh.....the fiend has plans for Patricia which are unspeakable, and go far beyond feasting on her.
Will Alex get off his lazy and selfish rear-end and help Calhoun find Patricia?  Will the cannibal community in London ever enjoy the spirit of inclusiveness from an already diverse city?  Donald Pleasance is sensational as Inspector Calhoun. His dryness and cynicism are perfect for the role.  Norman Rossington as Sgt. Rogers, Calhoun's partner is perfect as his compliment.  Though not a vampire ( I guess he sort of is), Christopher Lee as a government spook is menacing and sly as usual.  If you find yourself in the subway, remember to "mind the doors," and don't wander off by yourself.  "Raw Meat" will serve as a fitting metaphor to what can happen to us all in taxpayer funded mass transit.   


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