Death Line Blu-ray Review
If you go down to the tube today, you're sure of a big surprise.
Death Line Film Review
The 70s cult slasher horror Death Line elicits some modestly unsettling thrills, with Donald Pleasance stealing the show and a brief cameo by Christopher Lee thrown in for good measure.After a strange disappearance at the Holborn tube station, the spotlight falls on a young student couple who were the last person to see the man - unconscious; they presumed drunk - with Pleasance's dogged and idiosyncratic tea-addict inspector perplexed by the odd occurrence on his watch.
Death Line starts of innocuous enough, but it's not long before things take a grisly turn, with tales of a Century-old collapsed underground tunnel which trapped men and women and, if they survived, likely turned them into cannibals. Needless to say Director Gary Sherman, having subtly introduced the possibly scenario, doesn't hold back in his depiction of it in all of its bloody, gory, glory.
An unlikely marriage of Brit crime drama and mutant cannibal horror.
Shot surprisingly stylishly - or perhaps unsurprisingly, given it was by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Alex Thomson - and afforded a grungy soundtrack which thankfully knows when to shut up and let the silence fuel the tension, Death Line somehow manages to elevate itself above its seedy 70s low budget horror counterparts largely through these elements, and the diverting presence of a dialled-up-to-11 Donald Pleasance.
Pleasance revels in his part, chewing furiously at the scenery as he repeatedly demands tea, repeatedly gets disgusted at finding tea bags in his cup, and treats everybody around him like either a fool, or a suspect, and facing off against a bit-part, but very welcome, Christopher Lee as they have their very own little class war in the background. It's an odd affair, to be sure, trading in an unlikely marriage of Brit crime drama and mutant cannibal horror, a la The Hills Have Eyes, with a fair bit of Italian giallo thrown in for good measure.
Death Line Blu-ray Picture QualityNetwork's UK Blu-ray released proudly pronounces this a 'brand new HD restoration', but it would be surprising if this wasn't a port of the exact same 2K remaster that US labelled Blue Underground (an apt studio name) pulled from the original negative for the US release over a year ago.
Either way, the film gets a surprisingly strong - source material limitations notwithstanding - 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation of the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Likely the best the film has ever looked.
The pushing-50 vintage - for the most part - doesn't show on this fine little restoration, brining new life to Pleasance's dishevelled Cockney Columbo, lapping up the dirty underground locales before focussing all-too-closely on the blood and guts of the horror. The police station looks a mess, the garish pub has the worst decor you've ever seen, but it all gives plenty of fodder for the well-detailed image to focus in on.
Sure, there's some signs of digital sharpening around the edges on a few shots - for the most part absent through a hint of reliably consistent grain - and the one (perhaps late-stage) scene of Pleasance and Lee facing off is particularly bad, and really quite soft in comparison to the rest of the film, but, for a film this bathed in darkness, it looks surprisingly good. Black levels do drown out absolute detail, but intentionally so, with little crush as we explore the shadows of the underground. It's a strong remastered effort, and likely the best the film has ever looked.
Death Line Blu-ray Sound QualityIt does a solid job with the material.
The accompanying Lossless LPCM 2.0 track is also a strong enough affair, enjoying the various accents, screams and shouts, and lending them priority across the rest of the elements, with room made for familiar underground train noises, clacking footsteps on the floor echoing through the tunnels, and rather grisly horror noises. The score - despite a prolonged, somewhat intrusively grungy opening title track that seems to go on forever - is otherwise practically non-existent, which gives the near-silent horror sequences an added degree of tension and helps avoid dating the piece too badly although, conversely, it limits the material the track has to disseminate. Nonetheless it does a solid job with the material.
Death Line Blu-ray ExtrasThere's an interview with actor Hugh Armstrong and a Trailer and Gallery.
Death Line Blu-ray VerdictIt's an odd affair, to be sure.
Network's UK Blu-ray release of the 1972 Brit slasher horror Death Line (also known as Raw Meat in some territories) affords the cult film surprisingly good, likely 2K restored, video and a solid audio track, but loses all of the extras that adorned the US Blue Underground release from over a year ago. As a result, completists will probably prefer to import, although those intrigued might find the likely cheaper price of the Network release hard to resist.
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