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Death Line aka Raw Meat (Blu-ray Review)

Blue Underground is bring the 1970s cult horror exploitation film Death Line (Which was also known as and sold under the title Raw Meat) to Blu-ray in a suped up edition. The film stars Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee, legends of the genre, and deals with the darkest depths of the subway tunnels. A 2K transfer and restoration by Blue Undergound has been done for the release and the disc is chock full of brand spanking new extras, including interviews and a commentary track to go along with a nice little booklet. You can pre-order using the Amazon link following the review to make sure you have yourself a copy of this new Blue Underground masterwork (Seriously, their stuff can turn into a rare collector’s item real fast) on your doorstep or in your mailbox when it releases on June 27th.

Film 

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.

I feel like this film may be the grand daddy film of the “something evil lurks in the subway” movies. There was one years ago with Franke Potente I remember called Creep, among many other or other movies that may have diverted to a subplot or beat like this. This movie is a little all over the place, but had enough to keep my enjoyment level there for this cult film.

First off, the film’s visual language and exploitation factor were enough to keep on this ride most of the time. I will admit boredom in some areas, but its an 87 minute movie, so it never was too long in the tooth. There are some classic practical splatter effects to go with gross make up to make things fun. Also, some of the lighting and overall set designs are very cool and translated quite well. Nothing ever truly scared, but you could see the effort and its effectiveness it could potentially have on a genral audience.

My draw to this was that it had Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee in it. Now, neither are the main characters. Pleasence is close, as he’s constantly rounded back to, but Lee is a bit more brief. However, each of them, like always, gives it their all and look to be having a bit of a blast with their silly roles (Tell me Lee isn’t charming when he first shows up and has that mustache). Overall, they were the only people I truly liked, banking purely on the fact I like the actors, but they kept me  with this thing in those in between down times.

Death Line aka Raw Meat is a nifty little bit of a mesh between a detective movie and a gorehound pscyho murder movie. Its full of exploitation, but also scene chewing and some mystery. I’d never seen the film before, but it was fun enough that I’m looking forward to giving it another look. Its rather competently made and any time I can go back and watch Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee chew scenery back in their hey day is a real joy and a plus for me no matter the movie (Well, as long as the word fu and manchu are nowhere to be found).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Blue Underground brings Death Line to Blu-ray with a 2K transfer and restoration of the original camera negative. And to no surprise, its really impressive. Details shine right through on this crisp picture. Also, there is no sign of dirt/specs, scratches or other damages to this print. It looks pretty terrific. Its a full, bold and solid image that is strong and one of their most promising efforts to date.

Depth: Solid separation of foreground and background here. Nice dimensional work that keeps the actors looking free and distant of the environment. Movements are cinematic and smooth with no real sort of jitter or blurring distortion with quicker movements witnessed.

Black Levels: Blacks are impressive, deep and saturated. Dark scenes, especially the tunnels, carry some really good shadow and shading work with no details eaten up. No crushing was witnessed on this viewing either.

Color Reproduction: Colors are full of browns and natural colors, but when red, yellows and the like show up, they do carry a striking and bolder appearance.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a natural appearance and are consistent from start to finish on the film. Stubble, wrinkles, scarring, gruesome make-up effects and more come in good detail on medium, close-up and even some far away shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Surprisingly, this one is clean. Good job

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Death Line features an impressive little 2.0 track. It has its limitations, but overall gets the job done. It does have a bit of the sound quality of its era, but nothing distortive at all, just a crisp rendering of how it probably sounded theatrically. Its impressive how loose, free and balanced the score of the film, the vocals and the sound effects are from one another.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are really crisp and clear, lacking any real sign of aged analog distortions. Its also very loose and free of meshing with score and effects.

Extras 

Death Line comes with reversible cover art featuring the poster for the alternate title “Raw Meat”. It also comes with an 18 page booklet that features pictures, art and essays by Michael Gingold and Christopher Gullo.

Audio Commentary

  • With  Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman, Producer Paul Maslansky, and Assistant Director Lewis More O’Ferrall

Featurettes

  • Tales From The Tube (HD, 18:51) – Interview with Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman and Executive Producers Jay Kanter & Alan Ladd Jr. While sitting on a couch, they discuss the production history on it via financials, casting, shooting anecdotes and effects.
  • From The Depths (HD, 12:41) – Interview with star David Ladd and Producer Paul Maslansky. Sitting across from one another, this mainly goes over Ladd’s preparation for the role and his thoughts on the script.
  • Mind The Doors (HD, 15:36) – Interview with Star Hugh Armstrong. The actor talks about how he got into acting, what its like to play such a deranged character like this and goes into the psyche of his character.

Trailers

  • Death Line Trailer (HD, 2:05)
  • Raw Meat Trailer (HD, 2:09)

TV Spots (HD, 1:54)

Radio Spots (HD, 2:01)

Poster & Still Gallery (HD, 2:13) 

Summary 

Having never ridden the Death Line before in search of Raw Meat, I found it quite a quick little entertaining bit of underground horror with two of its legendary figures. Blue Underground certainly feels this is a gem as they’ve given it some royal treatment, making it one of their best and most complete releases to date. Not only is it loaded with brand new extras for this release, but the restoration work and new transfer are pretty impressive. Those into vintage horror,  classic gore pics, exploitation and either Donald Pleasence or Christopher Lee should look into adding this to their collection.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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