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Film / Death Line

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Death Line is a 1972 horror film, distributed as Raw Meat in the United States, directed by American filmmaker Gary Sherman and starring Donald Pleasence, Norman Rossington, David Ladd, Sharon Gurney, Hugh Armstrong, and Christopher Lee.

There's something pretty grisly going on under London in the Tube tunnels between Holborn and Russell Square. When a top civil servant becomes the latest to disappear down there Scotland Yard start to take the matter seriously. Helping them are a young couple who get nearer to the horrors underground than they would wish.

Tropes in Death Line:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: The 'Man' is highly dangerous, but also deeply pathetic given his deformities, inarticulacy, and his obvious grief when the 'Woman' dies.
  • Attack the Injury: Both Alex and Patricia get the upper hand over the 'Man' during fights with him by striking the painful-looking ulcer on the side of his head.
  • Bookcase Passage: While searching Manfred's house, Inspector Calhoun and Sergeant Morris finds a secret room hidden hehind a bookcase in Manfred's library. The room contains a video setup that Manfred used for secretly filming his bedroom.
  • Bowdlerise: Until the 2006 DVD release, UK versions of the film were cut to reduce the graphic nature of the killings of the technicians, the 'Man' biting into a rat, and the 'Man' attempting to rape Patricia.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: The working class Inspector Calhoun briefly adopts a plummy upper class accent whenever he uses any kind of legalistic or artistic vocabulary, and when he calls John Manfred's secretary to inquire as to his whereabouts.
  • Brits Love Tea: Inspector Calhoun's reaction to almost any situation is to demand tea from the woman police constable in his office. He is infuriated to learn that he is being served tea made from tea bags (in line with new police policy) but continues to drink it by the gallon anyway.
  • Broomstick Quarterstaff: One of the technicians attacks the 'Man' with a broom. The 'Man' then kills him by shoving the broomstick through his chest.
  • Cannibal Clan: Features a cannibal clan hiding in the London subway system, the result of an 19th-century dig accident trapping a bunch of male and female workers in the tunnel system. By the time of the events in the film, there are only two exceedingly sickly descendants remaining.
  • Cannibal Larder: The cannibals keep victims in a brick 'pantry' alongside the partially butchered bodies of their previous victims.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Inspector Calhoun and the police arrive after Alex has already rescued Patricia from the cannibal and the cannibal has crawled off to die.
  • Dead Hat Shot: While crawling over the rubble in the collapsed tunnel, Alex finds Manfred's bowler hat abandoned on the rubble. Later Inspector Calhoun finds the bowler and takes it as a sign that Manfred is dead.
  • The Dying Walk: After being fatally wounded in his fight with Alex, the 'Man' crawls away to the room where all of the previous members of the Cannibal Clan have been laid to rest on bunk beds, so he can die alongside the rest of his clan.
  • The End... Or Is It?: At the end of the film, Inspector Calhoun, Sergeant Morris, Alex and Patricia head off, leaving a darkened tunnel. Then the cannibal's voice shrieks out "MIND THE DOORS!"
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Hugh Armstrong does a remarkable job of portraying the male cannibal's inarticulate grief and rage when his mate dies.
  • Finishing Stomp: Alex ends his fight with the cannibal by stomping on his head.
  • Groin Attack: The prostitute James Manfred propositions on the platform at Russell Square responds by kneeing him in the groin.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The audience and Patricia initially suspect that the 'Man' has abducted Patricia to eat her, but it turns out that he wants her to replace his dead mate. They briefly appear to be moving towards a Beast and Beauty connection before he tries to violently rape her.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The 'Man' kills one of the tunnel workers by thrusting a Broomstick Quarterstaff through his chest.
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: We see the initial attack on Manfred from the cannibal's point of view.
  • Inbred and Evil: A Cannibal Clan is hiding in the London underground system, the result of an 19th-century dig accident trapping a bunch of male and female workers in the tunnel system. By the time of the events in the film, there are only two exceedingly sickly, barely-human descendants remaining.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: When Inspector Calhoun starts investigating Manfred's disappearance, Stratton-Villiers from MI5 turns up to tell him there is nothing to investigate. Inspector Calhoun is secretly delighted when the technicians are murdered at Russell Square station, as murders are definitely police business, and that they occurred at the same location as Manfred's disappearance is a happy coincidence.
  • Just Train Wrong:
    • The platform and corridor scenes were filmed at Aldwych station (which was still open at the time, but only used in weekday peak hours) instead of the busier Russell Square. In many platform sequences there is a prominent sign directing passengers to the District Line, which one would not expect to see at Russell Square — this was in situ at Aldwych and referred to the separate but nearby District Line station Temple.
    • Not so much an error as deliberate artistic license, but in the discussion between Calhoun and the transport police detective Inspector Richardson, Richardson says that the City & South London Railway was constructing the proposed line that was abandoned after the cave-in disaster, causing the company to go bankrupt. In the real world, the City & South London was the company that constructed London's first deep tube railway line, but it never had any involvement in construction around the Holborn-Bloomsbury area, and continued to operate until 1913, when it was taken over by the larger Underground Electric Railways of London Company.
  • Last of His Kind: The 'Man' becomes the last member of his Cannibal Clan following the death of the 'Woman'.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Used to depict the cannibals' squalid lair and the pathetic life of the 'Man'.
  • Market-Based Title: The film was released in the USA as Raw Meat, with misleading publicity suggesting that it was a Flesh-Eating Zombie movie.
  • Mood-Swinger: Calhoun constantly switches moods from avuncular to silly to aggressive, by implication deliberately to play a one-man Good Cop/Bad Cop act.
  • The Morlocks: A Cannibal Clan is hiding in the London underground system; the result of an 19th-century dig accident trapping a bunch of male and female workers in the tunnel system. By the time of the events in the film, there are only two exceedingly sickly, barely-human descendants remaining.
  • No Name Given: The two surviving members of the Cannibal Clan are never named (and may not even have names). In the credits, they are identified as The 'Man' and The 'Woman'.
  • One-Word Vocabulary: The male cannibal can only repeat the phrase "Mind the doors" over and over again.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: The last survivor of the underground Cannibal Clan attempts to feed fresh-killed rats to the young woman he kidnapped. Rat skins hung out to cure on the walls of his tunnels suggest he's been living off them himself when he doesn't have human victims on hand.
  • Shovel Strike: The 'Man' buries a shovel halfway down the skull of own of the technicians on Russell Square Station.
  • Signs of Disrepair: The strip club James Manfred visits at the start of the movie has a burnt out letter and reads 'NON S OP STRIPTEASE'.
  • Sinister Subway: The last members of a Cannibal Clan—dwelling in the London Underground since Victorian times—start snatching victims off the platform at Russell Square station.