Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Ebot Presents: Deadline (1972)

Welcome to the first in my new series of reviews, where I take a look back at some of the examples of British films that have come out over the years. Now, believe it or not the definition of what is and what isn't a British film is actually something of a vague issue, as there is some debate as to what British cinema actually is as there is normally a lot of European or American influence in the films in one way or another.

For example, in the Eighties due to the tax breaks that the government had for filmmakers at the time, it wasn't unusual for a lot of Hollywood blockbusters to be at least partially filmed in or produced by a studio in the UK, like the 1989 Batman film for example, or Alien.

But for the purposes of this series, I'm defining it as a film that has a combination of the following factors.
- It has to be based in the UK.
- At least some of the cast has to be nominally British.
- The production team have to at least partially from the UK.
- It has to be based on a story, novel etc. from here.

These factors should hopefully widen the range of things I can cover, as there is so much range in what is listed as a British film that it's only fair that as many of them get covered as possible.

The poster lies, Alan Moore is not in this film!
SO, first up, we have the 1972 horror film, Deathline! Or Raw Meat, if you're from the States.

This allegedly classic piece of Brit Horror was directed by the American director Gary Sherman, whose other bodies of work mainly seem to consist of made-for-TV films and only one or two actual films, one of which is the 1988 film Poltergeist III, which he directed, wrote and produced.

The plot of this film consists of an American college student and his girlfriend teaming up with a policeman, played by veteran horror actor Donald Pleasence, investigating what turns out to be a cannibal loose in the London Underground. And of that plot sounds familiar, it's basically the same as the 2004 film Creep, though the director of that movie said he'd never seen Deathline, but instead based it on An American Werewolf in London's Tube scenes instead.

It should probably be noted that the poster doesn't really have anything to do with the film itself, and the only accurate thing seems to be that villain has a beard, though not one as bushy as the one seen there. Certainly no scary blonde woman dressed in what appears to be a really big purple curtain.

 - Recap: The film begins with what appears to be the cameraman waking up from a binge, to find himself in a porn shop in Soho, only to pass out again when he sees what appears to be John Steed from the Avengers admiring the merchandise. The cameraman manages to wake up again just in time to see the world's most stereotypically British man walk out of the porn shop and make a break for it down the street in an attempt to escape the opening credits and the soundtrack, which sounds like the soundtrack for almost any given film from the early Seventies. The man and his magnificent moustache wander Soho some more to admire the numerous sex shops and porn stores, for what must be the first four minutes or the film, before finally deciding to go home via the Tube.

Once on the platform, he suddenly and openly solicits what he presumes if a prostitute. Blimey, people in the Seventies weren't exactly discrete about this kind of thing were they? The woman doesn't take kindly to being sexually harassed by a member of the Ministry of Silly Walks, so she knees him in the junk and runs off. The man seems mildly stunned by this, possibly from what we've seen thus far this may have been the only time someone other than himself has made physical contact with him all night.

Surprise over being kneed in the groin turns to dread though, as the cameraman appears to have returned, only this time with heavy breathing. Ah, this must be the monster for the film. But before we see what happens to Bowler Hat, we cut to the heroes of the film, American student Alex and his English girlfriend Patricia, riding home on the Tube.

They get off at the stop Bowler Hat was on, and upon finding him collapsed at the foot of the stairs off the platform, Alex tells Pat to ignore him because he's probably just a drunk. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. Pat and her awesome yellow boots attempt to check the guy for a diabetic bracelet or something, just to make sure, but once Alex finds a card in the guy's wallet promising him a free drink in any of 100 bars in the city, he stands firm by his "guy passed out on the steps of an Underground station" theory. Pat says that she can't smell any booze on him, and that the guy, who apparently is an OBE, might be sick or have had a heart attack, Alex responds by saying that they'll just tell someone on the way out. Wow, they're really not doing a good job making this guy likable in the film thus far. He tries to justify his callous attitude to those in distress with the line "Patricia, in New York you walk over these guys!" which makes him seem even worse, but Pat manages to bring him around with the fact that he isn't in New York right now. He says that he's going to get help, and that she should stay with the guy , but she decides to come too.

Getting into the lift up to street level, Pat verbally prods Alex into telling the lift operator about the man on the platform, who in turn tells a policeman about the guy downstairs. Alex complains at length about having to show the policeman to where the guy is, taking time to mock his girlfriend while doing so, while the policeman politely states that it's probably best just to check the guy isn't actually dying or something. But when he and Alex get back to the staircase, they find that Bowler Hat has disappeared...

Later that night, Patricia wakes up Alex, saying that she's worried about Bowler Hat and is wondering if he's alright. Alex stares at her for a few moments before hugging her and saying that they saw a sick man on the subway and tried to help him, what more could they do? Pat replies with "Worry?".

The next day, we open at a police station, where we meet the real hero of the story: Inspector Calhoun, played by Donald Pleasence. He breezes into his office, which appears to have both a dart board and an open fire place in it, and demands tea. When a policewoman responds to his cries with how they've run out of tea bags, Calhoun acts with dismay over the fact that that's the kind of tea he's been drinking. The woman then asks if he still wants some, to which he responds with a definate Yes. Back to actual police business, he talks to his partner Detective Sergeant Rogers, played by Norman Rossington, about what's happened in their district during the night, which leads to him hearing about the Tale of the Mysterious Vanishing Bowler Hat Man. Calhoun suggests that the man might have just fainted, and just got onto the next train when he'd recovered, but Rogers said that that can't be the case as Alex and Patricia had arrived on the last train for the night. Hearing the actual name of the vanishing man, Calhoun remembers that he's apparently some important guy in the government, working for the Ministry of Defence or something, while attempting to fish the teabag out of his cup with a pencil. He tells Rogers to go and investigate the disappearance and interview the students, while also finding a connection to several over people who have mysteriously disappeared from the same tube station over the years. Ooo, spooky.

Rogers goes to interview the students about what it is that they saw, only to find that Patricia is out. You can tell that it's Alex's apartment as it has a huge-ass picture of the Stars and Stripes on one wall. Alex continues his whinging streak by complaining about having to go down to the station to be interviewed, asking why he can't just be interviewed right here, but Rogers says that although that would save him a trip, the Inspector would prefer it if he made the effort. Alex grumbles and fetches his coat.
Back at the station, Calhoun is interviewing the policeman who was at the Tube station with the students, and is asking him angrily why he didn't bother to look around properly, to which the copper replies that since Alex was so reluctant to help he just assumed that he was a troublemaker and left it at that. The arrival of said troublemake causes a break in the interview though, and he's lead in to Calhoun's office, where amusingly, it seems that none of the darts he'd been throwing appear to be in the board, just stuck in around it. Calhoun immediately starts laying into Alex, picking apart his story in a way that makes Alex's somewhat flippant reaction to the situation something of a bad decision on his part, as it make him look either like a liar or an idiot. Alex is equally abrasive to the Inspector, but when Pat confirms what the policeman said, he allows Alex to go. The student seems rather annoyed at Calhoun implying he was looking through Bowler Hat Man's pockets for something to pinch though, but he's told to go back to his school, as there's probably a protest march he can join. Also he has to get his hair cut. Heh, I like Calhoun, he's an amusing jerkass compared to Alex's annoying jerkass. Having gotten confirmation that the man did in fact vanish from the Tube station, and that he was a man with a lot of top secret information in his head, Calhoun is now set on finding the guy as it happened in his part of the woods. This is despite it technically coming under the jurisdiction of MI5, who are responsible for that kind of stuff within the UK.

Back at Alex and Pat's flat, she's in the process of leaving him (good for her). She says she can't stand to live with a man who can just step over someone like they were a pile of old clothes. He says that they saw a drunk man in the station, tried to help him and suddenly they're suspects. The irritated Pat says that it was their duty to help the guy and to help the police find him, and then the scene changes back to the police station with a cut so abrupt I think I got whiplash, OW!
At the station they've managed to grab a historian or expert in the London Underground, who explains that there's an abandoned Tube station just along the line from the one where people have been disappearing from. He explains how at the end of the 19th century, a group of eight men and four women were buried alive while digging the tunnels near the station, and the company that had hired them had gone bankrupt as a result of the disaster, so no one was able to dig up the bodies. This naturally caused something of a scandal. The historian explained that some of the old tunnelers think that they might possibly have survived the collapse, as there are air pockets down there as well as plenty of water from the numerous underground waters that are in the city. Rogers points out though that they still wouldn't have any food though, but the historian says that he doesn't expect that they would have had much trouble for food, as he expects that every time one of the trapped tunnellers died, the others ate them. Cue shocked looking Calhoun.

Meanwhile, back in the underground we are treated to the sound of a steady drip of water, while a rat nibbles at a lump of gore that's been splattered on the floor of a tunnel. M'kay. The camera pans slowly over the gore, maggots, what seems to be some guy's arm, before going to the body of Bowler Hat Man, and numerous other bodies, that lie in various states of chewed decomposition. Lumps of stuff even seem to have been arranged on the walls in what seem to be decorations. Ick. There are also the sounds of what appears to be an old woman in some kind of pain or distress, which actually seems to be the case, as a rather lumpy and inbred looking woman is lying on a make-shift bed while another equally lumpy looking man strokes her hand. The camera then pans back from the two tunnellers, and out of their home, down a tunnel and into the abandoned and previously mentioned British Museum station, all while the sound of the Victorian miners accident echoes still through the halls...

Back on at the Tube Station of Many Disappearances, Pat has finally managed to get free of Alex and is going forth to make a new life for herself elsewhere. Hooray. Unfortunately for her, it's the District rather than the Circle Line train that's arrived at the station, so she's going to have to wait there alone until the right one shows up. Yeah, you can probably see where this is going. Back in the cannibal cave, the male one is attempting to make the female one feel better. Unfortunately he's attempting to do this by feeding the blood of Bowler Hat Man to her. This doesn't seem to work, and we're treated to both a close-up of Cannibal Man's sore covered face and then another abrupt cut to a posh looking office or sitting room.

It turns out to be the home of Bowler Hat Man, which Calhoun and Rogers have gotten into to investigate his disappearance some more. Calhoun reacts with disdain at the various expensive things on BHM's walls, and after breaking open a locked drawer in one of his tables over the fact that he apparently owes a tailor £620 for a suit, when he himself never paid more than £20 for one. Rogers snarks, "Some might say you were robbed, sir." Calhoun then helps himself to some of BHM's booze, while Rogers inspects his bookcase, finding that some of the books are false. Shuffling them about reveals that there is a secret room, which has a TV with a camera feed leading to BHM's bedroom. The cop's semi-illegal search comes to an end though, with the arrival of an MI5 agent played by the one and only Christoper Lee! Who is also dressed like a member of Silly Walks and is wearing a false moustashe. It seems that he's met Calhoun before, and despite the policeman's protests that the case is his because it happened in his jurisdiction, Agent Lee calmly and smugly points him out the door and tells him to take it up with his superiors. He then tells them to consider the case into the missing BHM closed, as well as never opened, and basically threatens him if he attempts to take it further, least he becomes a missing person himself.

Back at the apartment of Alex, Pat has made the horrible choice of going back to the tosser (boo) complete with a bottle of wine to apologise (appropriate considering what Alex has spent most of his time doing, but boo!). Meanwhile, in the cannibal cave, the female one seems to have finally died, and it begins a surprisingly sad scene of the male cannibal trying to revive her, while looking genuinely distraught over the loss of his... wife? Daughter? Mother? Sister? Daughter/Sister? She's pregnant anyway, and, sobbing, he puts her in either a bed or where the cannibal folk keep the remains of their relatives, as the surviving cannibal shuffles off crying. Aw, now I feel bad about making fun of the film. For possibly the first time in his life, the cannibal wonders around his station, seemingly confused as to what he should do or where he should go. He then falls to his knees, cries some more, before starting to scream and smash a shovel against a wall. The cannibal then starts climbing out of his station with a mad(der) look in his eye, shovel in hand, while a sinister chord begins to play...

Back on the Tube Station of Doom, some caretaker guys have shown up to so some work there. One goes off to have a look at the fuse box, when suddenly the lights go out. The two of the guys call out for their friend Gerry, who comes around a corner... with the cannibal's shovel embedded in his head. The cannibal comes around the corner too, and seeing the other two workmen, launches himself at them too. Compared to most horror films, the workmen actually manage to do pretty well against the cannibal, even wrestling him to the floor and bashing him with a broom handle, though sadly one gets impaled and the other guy is choked to death. After killing the three guys, cannibal man drags them all back to his hole, presumably meaning he's one of those people who eat lots when they're upset.

Shortly afterwards, we're treated to a glimpse of Calhoun's private life, where he's in a single bed, alone, with a half drunk glass of booze on the bedside table. A phone rings, and Calhoun answers it, annoyed. And he's suddenly at the morgue, apparently the body of one of the workmen has been found. The pathologist explains how they've found two men, with one of them having apparently been taken with the killer. He also comments on how the murderer seems to be unusually strong, having been able to shove a broom handle through someone. But despite this grim turn up for the books, Calhoun is happy, as murder as police business and it just so happens to be in the location of a different crime he'd been banned from investigating, haha!

Back with the students, Pat is eating some breakfast, while Alex is getting ready for a class. He says that he's got to go to work at a bookshop afterwards, and he asks if he can pick anything up for Pat, and she responds with a book about poltergeists. The scene then cuts briefly to the cannibal guy, who is carefully refilling the lamp he has from oil skimmed from his own water supply. He then clutches the ear that the workmen beat earlier, and curls up on his bed sobbing again. And suddenly we're back with Alex again at the Book Shop, where he's being visited by DS Rogers, who asks him for a copy of the Karma Sutra. After finding that they do stock the sex manual, though only in paperback, he then says that the Inspector wants to see him. Alex puts up some resistance, but when Rogers asks Alex's boss if he wants to come he doesn't really have a choice in the matter.

Calhoun, meanwhile, is dropping in one the pathologist once again, who tells him that the missing third workmen may not have initially have murdered the other two as they thought, as they seem to have discovered a fourth different type of blood, which appears to have a whole lot wrong with it, the least of which is severe vitamin deficiency and a lack of platelets. Calhoun tells the other guy to keep him informed, and goes off to meet Alex. He basically has asked him along to confirm that it was the BHM he saw, and asks him to identify him from a bunch of official function pictures and that there was no one else on the platform. And with that out of the way, he's free to go on his irritating way, while Calhoun has learnt to fish out his teabags with a spoon instead of a pencil. Hooray!

Pat meanwhile is at the book shop, asking Alex's boss where here's gone and asking him to leave a message for if he comes back. Alex's boss asks her if everything is okay between him and her, and she seems puzzled by the question and says yes. Boss Man just said he'd been wondering, and Pat walks off. Back underground, Cannibal Man has dragged himself out of his depressed stupor, only to hear the hitherto alien noise of the BHM's pocket watch. He gingerly picks it up, and after cleaning it a bit, he lays on top of his wife's body. The camera then pans across the fairly large amount of skeletons in the same room as the wife, all with some kind of shiny trinket on top of it, silver chains, bits of wire, jewellery and the like. This kind of emphasises just how alone the cannibal guy is now, and he promptly bursts into tears again.

Later on, Pat and Alex are at their restaurant, and she's musing about how there doesn't seem to be anything in the papers about the missing BHM guy, which she'd expect if he was as important as it appears, leading her to wonder if the government put a D Notice on the story. Alex asks what that is, and she explains that that's something the government puts on stories they want to suppress and ask people not to publish it. This causes Alex to tutt and say that it reminds him of home. Pat's also confused as to why he was on the Tube if he was as wealthy as he appeared, as someone of his position should have been able to be driven around or something.

Back at the police station, Calhoun gets phone call from the pathologist again with some more information about the mystery blood. It seems that it belongs to someone infected with Plague, news which Calhoun greets with a deadpan "Sweet Jesus." The doctor explains though that the strain that the sufferer has though isn't actually that harmful to people other than himself as it's restricted to his blood, and the only way that he'd be able to infect someone else with it would be to go around biting people. Calhoun mumbles something in reply, causing the doctor to tell him to go home and get some sleep as he sounds strained. This just gets more angry muttering from the Inspector, when Rogers shows up again. He seems surprised that the Inspector is around still, and manages to convince him to come down to the pub with him, which he does.

Around the same time, Alex and Pat are coming out of their film, and are heading along to the Tube station, where they're trying to make sure that they don't miss the last train. Understandably Pat is worried about this, but Alex says that he'll protect her and even offers to get off a stop early and walk if she's really that bothered by it. Meanwhile, Calhoun and Rogers are getting drunk at a pub, having gotten thoroughly fed up with how the whole thing is going, so they decide to get drunk and eat sausages. Anyway, the students arrive at the Tube Station of Despair, but Pat ends up left alone when Alex hops on the Tube to grab the books she'd left behind, and ends up being whisked away to the next station. But, literally moments after Pat told Alex to always watch his rear, she's grabbed by Cannibal Man.

Meanwhile at the Pub, Calhoun and Rogers are engaged in the most worthy game for skilled detectives like them: pinball! Unfortunately they can't finish their game though, as the landlord wants to close up as it's past closing time and it's a criminal offence to sell booze after hours. Plastered Calhoun tries to get around it somehow, but it doesn't work. A little later Alex arrives home at his flat, and realising that she isn't there, he runs around all of the places where she might be, the chip shop, the launderette etc. but to no avail. He gets to the Tube station, and beings shaking on the gates to try and get someone to open it for him. Luckily there's a policeman walking past with a great big bushy beard, who tries to help him out. Ohh, not so funny when it's someone you know who is in trouble, is it Alex? Anyway, his attempt to push the policeman away only results in him being dragged down to the station for his trouble. Ha!

Pat awakes underground on a big fleecey blanket, unfortunately she's right next to a half chewed arm, which naturally freaks her out a lot. Her attempts to move away from the rest of the larder just results in her being backed up against the door, which kind of hides her from the cannibal as he peers through to look at how dinner's doing. Pat, to her credit tries to make a break for it, even smacking him in his damaged ear, though she only gets knocked to the ground and kicked in the bum for her trouble. Well, that automatically made her more proactive in her escape attempts than roughly 80% of all slasher film characters.

At the police station the next day, the policeman apparently couldn't be bothered to put him in a cell, so despite him being charged with attempted breaking and entering at a public premises, he's just fallen asleep in a chair in Calhoun's office. Alex yelling at Calhoun to find Pat don't go down that well, as it's kind of apparent that the Inspector is kind of hungover at this point. It's at this point that Rogers shows up with Pat's handbag, which apparently a cleaner at the station found, leading to him to loudly state that that means that she WAS there. Calhoun, who is reading a report of Alex's attempt to break into the station, says he believes him, but his shouting really isn't helping anything, so he just tells him to go away. Alex stomps off, slamming the door while doing so so Calhoun spills tea on himself, and Rogers, who is carrying the handbag around without gloves points out that there's blood inside it. Calhoun tells him to take it down to the forensics guy and gets back on with drinking his tea and calling a contact in London Transport...

Alex arrives at the station where Pat Pat disappeared, and after the train has gone, he tries to go down onto the track so that he can look around for where she's gone. A member of the London Underground stops him though, thinking that he's trying to jump onto the track to commit suicide, saying that he can't solve his problems by giving them to other people. And Alex returns to being an unlikeable prick again by grabbing the elderly guy by the lapels and screaming at him to tell him if there's another way out of the station except for the stairs. Meanwhile, Pat is woken up by rats starting to chew at her in her sleep, and her screams cause Cannibal Man to appear, who then squashes the rodents with his shovel. He then throws her out of the room while he stomps, squashes and bites the head from the rest of them. He then carries Pat over to the bed where his wife used to be, but her cries and moans appear to remind him of his dead wife and he's unable to murder her as planned. So instead he covers her with a blanket and starts fussing over her instead. Oh well, seems a step up from Alex anyway. Cannibal Man tries to hug her, which just makes the now utterly hysterical Pet even worst, so CM tries speaking to her instead. And he manages to, with a lot of work, speak the only phrase that he's every heard "Miiiind th' Doorzz!". He beams at being finally being able to say a word of English, but Pat smacks him in his bad ear again and runs off while he's rolling on the floor in pain.

She makes a break for it down the tunnels, but CM has a lamp and can tell where she is from the echoes. So he sets after her, still yelling "Mind the doors!. Meanwhile Alex has also gotten into the same part of the Underground, and is looking around with a flashlight to try and find Pat. He eventually manages to find and make his way into the abandoned station that belongs to CM, where he finds Bowler Hat Man's hat! And further wandering causes Alex to find the workman that CM kidnapped. And while he's messing around doing that, CM manages to find where Pat is hiding. Oddly CM just seems more confused as to why she ran away than anything, even asking her "Mind the Doors" in a way that seems to make it like he was asking why she'd run away. Pat meanwhile isn't having anything to do with the sore-covered, drooling crazyman and smacks his hands away, until just outright tries raping her in frustration. She manages to smack him in the ear again though, which causes him to scream in pain loud enough that Alex hears and comes to her rescue. CM hears Alex too, and appears to run off, only to jump out at him from out of the darkness of a side tunnel. Alex beats the crap out of CM, working out that he has a bad ear, and then stamping on it to make it even worse. Pat stops him before he just openly bashes CM's head in with a flashlight though, and CM goes and hides in a doorway to get away from this crazy person that broke into his house and beat him up.

They run off, and arrive just in time to meet Calhoun coming from the opposite direction. Alex points the way back to CM, and Calhoun, Rogers and the historian from earlier explore CM's home, until they find him huddled over the body of his dead wife, looking thoroughly miserable and thne dies shortly afterwards. The police find the corpse of BHM, and the movie ends with Calhoun leading the students back to surface while he goes to call for more men to search the place, as well as to inform MI5 that they've found their missing minister. And the credits just before another yell of "Mind the doors!" comes, presumably from CM's ghost.

- Review: I was actually pleasantly surprised by this film, it's by no means high art but it's nowhere near as low brow as the American poster suggests. Donald Pleasence seemed to be having a lot of fun playing Inspector Calhoun, who seemed a far cry from his usual roles in such far as this, for example as Dr Loomis in the Halloween films series. The film manages to be funny, scary and atmospheric in all the rigtht places, and top marks have to go to Hugh Armstrong, who played the cannibal, for taking a role that probably could have been kind of flat and making the character kind of sad and pathetic as well as scary. In all, a fun film, a whole lot better than the more recent Creep, that's for certain.

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