Arguably, the 1970's were the greatest decade for horror movies. Less strict censorship laws allowed creators to flex their gruesome muscles in a bid to shock and frighten their audiences. Graphic violence was delivered in spades, and previously taboo subjects were explored. This is the decade that gave us genre classics as The Exorcist, Suspiria, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and countless others. How does Raw Meat stack up against these powerhouses?
Our movie opens with a candy-colored montage of the seedy side of London. A Poirot-looking chap is prowling about the red light district looking for love in all the wrong places. He winds up in a tube station, where he propositions a streetwalker, only to be kicked in the groin and mugged by her. Whoops. He is approached, much to his dismay, by a POV shot with some bad ideas. His unconscious body is found by poorly dressed couple Alex and Patricia (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) who find a bobby to help him out. When they return, the body is gone without a trace. The next morning, Scotland Yard's Inspector Calhoun (the inimitable Donald Pleasence) learns that the body in the tube station was a high-ranking government official, and that several other people have disappeared in the very same tube station! A hunt for the official is on (much to the chagrin of an MI5 agent, played by Christopher Lee in the most ridiculously obvious cameo EVER) and our bumbling detective discovers an urban legend about a group of miners, both men and women, who survived a cave-in, and ate their dead to survive. Wouldn't you know it, the legend is true, and there are two survivors of this group of cannibal miners, a man and a woman. The woman dies, leaving the man heartbroken and alone. His hunt now becomes twofold: he needs to keep finding food (those hapless missing persons) and a new mate!
Raw Meat suffers mostly from its polarity. It wants to be both a classy, thought-provoking movie, but it also wants to be exploitative trash. I found this duality to be peculiar at best. We're given an emotional glimpse into our cannibal, distraught and confused over the loss of his mate. He tenderly lays her down in a pseudo-crypt, stroking her face and softly weeping. He then goes out to hunt, burying shovels in heads and impaling victims on pushbrooms (yeah, you heard right) which left me feeling a bit confused. The whole film's plot was a bit hard to swallow as well. Could people truly degrade to hunting humans for food after 80 years underground? Plus, the Christopher Lee cameo seemed a bit too forced. Every shot of Lee is dead-on, almost like saying "Look, we’ve got Christopher Lee!" Not that the movie's bad at all. Donald Pleasence is, as usual, amazingly solid. His Inspector Calhoun is quite likeable, accomplishing quite a bit in spite of his bumbling. There's also some great gore in the movie, with one beautiful Argento style camera pan giving us an eyeful of gnawed limbs and skinned carcasses.
MGM has churned out another beauty with this one. Colors are perfectly bright and clean (especially in the neon-soaked opening scenes) and black levels are spot on. There's a little bit of expected film dirt and scratches, but no artifacting or grain that I saw. Audio was a solid mono mix, and asides from the occasional dialogue fuzziness, did its job well. Also worth noting is the opening song, with its heavily distorted bass, sounding like satanic lounge music. Extras are virtually nonexistent, with the exception of the original theatrical trailer. Not a huge loss, as MGM has put this out for about 10 bucks at most retailers.
While Raw Meat may not hold a candle to the more "important" horror releases of the 1970's, it establishes itself as a fun and pretty spooky movie. For ten dollars, you get more than your money's worth. Just make sure you mind the doors.