Kim Newman will screen and talk about Gary Sherman’s 1972 British horror film, Death Line (aka Raw Meat), one of the first British horror films to compete with the wave of stronger, more politicised American splatter movies that came in the wake of Night of the Living Dead.
A series of disappearances on the London Underground Railway are traced back to the inbred, cannibal descendants of navvies trapped by a cave-in during the building of the tunnels. A human monster (Hugh Armstrong) who looks like a scabrous tramp haunts the Piccadilly Line, picking off and eating the odd commuter, trying to keep alive his diseased wife. Tea-drinking copper Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) is called into the case with his sidekick sergeant (Norman Rossington) when the latest victim (James Cossins) turns out to be a high-ranking civil servant fresh from a neon-lit sleaze spree in Soho, and has to cut through bureaucratic red tape (represented by Christopher Lee in a bowler hat). Meanwhile, down in the tunnels, the last of the monsters lives out his pathetic, horrid leftover life, expressing himself through the only words he knows, ‘mind the doors’. It includes a wonderful, apparently improvised drunk scene from Pleasence and a breathtaking 360º pan around the cannibals’ dripping, dank, corpse-strewn underground lair.
Less makeshift than a lot of its rivals from the 1970s, it has solid, witty dialogue, a memorably funky music score and the sort of urban legend premise that people will swear is based on truth rather than new-minted for the movie. American writer-director Gary Sherman also made the cloying New Seekers ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ ads, and used his share of the fee from that to finance this gutsy, gritty debut. The discussion will highlight the film’s political subtext, transgressive use of cannibalism as metaphor and for shock value, black humour, performance styles, relationship with American and other British films on similar subjects (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Frightmare) and exploration of London lore and locations. The Horse Hospital is just round the corner from Great Russell Street Station, so attendees who come by tube will pass through the film’s main setting before and after the class.
About the instructor:
Kim Newman is a novelist, critic and broadcaster. His fiction includes The Night Mayor, Bad Dreams, Jago, the Anno Dracula novels and stories, The Quorum, The Original Dr Shade and Other Stories, Life’s Lottery, Back in the USSA (with Eugene Byrne), The Man From the Diogenes Club, Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles and An English Ghost Story under his own name and The Vampire Genevieve and Orgy of the Blood Parasites as Jack Yeovil. His non-fiction books include Nightmare Movies, Ghastly Beyond Belief (with Neil Gaiman), Horror: 100 Best Books (with Stephen Jones), Wild West Movies, The BFI Companion to Horror, Millennium Movies and BFI Classics studies of Cat People, Doctor Who and Quatermass and the Pit. He is a contributing editor to Sight & Sound and Empire magazines (writing Empire’s popular Video Dungeon column), has written and broadcast widely, and scripted radio and television documentaries. His stories ‘Week Woman’ and ‘Ubermensch’ have been adapted into an episode of the TV series The Hunger and an Australian short film; he has directed and written a tiny film Missing Girl; he co-wrote the West End play The Hallowe’en Sessions. Following his Radio 4 play ‘Cry Babies’, he wrote episodes for Radio 7’s series The Man in Black (‘Phish Phood’) and Glass Eye Pix’ Tales From Beyond the Pale (‘Sarah Minds the Dog’). He scripted (with Maura McHugh) the comic book miniseries Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland (Dark Horse), illustrated by Tyler Crook; it’s a spinoff from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series. His official web-site is at www.johnnyalucard.com. His forthcoming fiction includes the novels The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange and Angels of Music. He is on Twitter as @AnnoDracula.
About the Miskatonic Institute:
Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is a non-profit, community-based organization that started in Canada, founded by Kier-La Janisse in March of 2010. The school currently has branches in Montreal and London, with Miskatonic London operating under the co-direction of Kier-La Janisse and Electric Sheep Founder/Editor Virginie Sélavy.
All classes take place at the historic Horse Hospital, the heart of the city’s underground culture. Individual class tickets are £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concessions and will be available 30 days in advance of each class.
The next course dates are 14 May and 11 June. For the full details of the courses please check the Miskatonic website. For all enquiries, please email Miskatonic.london[at]gmail.com.