For decades, rumors have circulated to the effect that the London Underground has played host to far more than mere tracks, trains, and a near-endless number of travelers. Deep within the winding tunnels of this sub-surface labyrinth, bizarre and terrible things – many of a wild man variety – are rumored to seethe and fester, and possibly even feed too. And British authorities are doing all they can to keep the lid on the chaos and carnage that threatens to spread deep below the streets of the nation’s capital city. According strictly to the wild rumors, of course! And then there’s the matter of London’s underground monsters in the world of on-screen entertainment.
Such examples include (A) the 1967 production of Quatermass and the Pit, a film in which bizarre, mutated and diminutive ape men – who were the subject of advanced genetic experiments, undertaken millions of years earlier, by visiting Martians – appear in the London Underground of the 1960s in the form of spectral, manifested, inherited memories; (B) “The Web of Fear” – a Dr. Who adventure that surfaced in the following year, 1968, that sees the doctor and his comrades doing battle with robotic yetis on the Underground; (C) An American Werewolf in London – a 1981 film in which the beast of the title feasts on a doomed, late night rail traveler; and (D) Reign of Fire, a 2002 production starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey that revolves around literal fire-breathing dragons bursting forth from the old tunnels of the Underground and decimating the UK and, eventually, the rest of the planet, too.
Some of the older tales of creature-like entities prowling the tunnels under London were incorporated into a less well-known piece of horror-fiction. Its name is Death Line. In the United States it was given the title of Raw Meat. Made in 1972, it stars horror film stalwarts Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasance, and relates the saga of a collapse, in the latter part of the 19th Century, at a then new station being built at Russell Square. Which happens to be a real station on the London Underground. Unfortunately, when the disaster occurs, a significant number of workers – both men and women – are killed. Or, rather, they are presumed killed. And, when the company funding the project goes bankrupt, all efforts to try and dig out the bodies and give them a decent burial are quickly, quietly, and conveniently forgotten.
Had the plans gone ahead, the company would have learned to its horror that the workers did not die. Instead, they found themselves trapped underground, and forced to make new lives for themselves in their permanent, sub-surface home – which they do by living on just about anything and everything, and anyone and everyone, that dares to cross their path or stumble upon their darkened abode.
And as Death Line tells it, some eight decades on, the final few offspring of the original workers are still valiantly clinging on to life. Their existence, however, is a distinctly poor one. Afflicted by a host of genetic abnormalities caused by in-breeding and a lack of regular nourishment, their minds are reduced to truly primitive levels and their bodies are overwhelmingly diseased and corrupted. As for their only source of food, it comes in the form of the occasional, unfortunate user of the Underground who, if the circumstances are in their favor, they can secretly grab, kill, and devour.
Death Line is an entertaining and odd film that seldom gets the airing it deserves, and it’s one that leaves the viewer with much to think about and muse upon when it comes to the matter of wild people living among us. And below us.