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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Mystery > Thriller > Suspense > Murder > Crime > British > Exploitation > Torture Porn > Death Line (1973 aka Raw Meat/MGM/Blue Underground Blu-ray w/DVD)/Union Furnace (2017/Metropol Blu-ray)

Death Line (1973 aka Raw Meat/MGM/Blue Underground Blu-ray w/DVD)/Union Furnace (2017/Metropol Blu-ray)



Picture: B & C+/B Sound: C+/B+ Extras: B/C Films: B+/C-



Here's two horror genre films from two eras, the older being a highly underrated classic, the latter not certain what it wants to be...



Death Line


Issued in a cut-up version in the U.S. called Raw Meat (via American International), Gary Sherman's Death Line (1973) is one of the most truly terrifying horror films ever to come out of the U.K., even if he and the producers were actually from the U.S., making this another winning hybrid from both countries (more or less) in a film that eventually became a highly influential work, more of a practical genre classic than a cult classic and too many still have not caught up with it. Blue Underground has done it again with a highly restored version with a bunch of great extras finally doing justice to a film that is a must-see for all serious movie and horror fans.


At first, all seems normal in London 1973, with people going about their way, the counterculture towards the end of its full swing and the personal issues lingering as the likes of the Cold War (and Vietnam) drags on, with the U.k. incidentally involved just the same. One night, a seeming respectable gent (actually well dressed as he frequents the red light district) starts looking for a hooker for hire and thinks he finds one in the Underground subway system. That suddenly does not work out when he turns around and is brutally murdered.


The shocking murder out of nowhere is investigated by an intense inspector (Donald Pleasence) who is determined as he is cynical, vowing to find out the truth but no expecting the ugly truth in store for all. As the murders continue, British Intelligence even starts to wonder what is going on and sends one of their best (Christopher Lee) to make inquiries to the inspector. They do not hit it off, but more immediately involved is a young man (David Ladd) who is just trying to get on with his girlfriend (Sharon Gurney) while still sticking to his morals and political feeling about the bad side of England's casts system and how things need to change before they become worse (as these murders will prove, 7 years before the arrival of Thatcher) while people are still socially aware and to trying to change things for the better.


The script is not terror interrupted by polemics, but horror occasionally punctuated by their dread and that just makes the creepiness (the kind we saw a year before in Hitchcock's last great film, Frenzy (made a year before, making his return to England) joining a cycle of highly underrated, remarkable horror films that did not even have the largest budgets, but delivered like few other films in the genre since the silent film era. The gore in this film is not all over the place like most horror films today, yet it still tends to be graphic, shocking, gross, effective and one of those horror films that is truly haunting.Alan Ladd Jr., co-produced this before moving on to run Fox and then launch his own remarkable production company. He always did have a knack for great filmmaking and this is yet another prime example.


Death Line stands the test of time and most of its many imitators since never came close. See it now!!!


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is a hugely welcome upgrade from past video releases (including MGM's old hard-to-watch DVD) in an image that rarely shows the age of the materials used and far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film, even when I wished for even more detail and depth. Originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor print (now VERY valuable if you have one), you can see in many places how good it must have looked in such copies. Director of Photography Alex Thompson, B.S.C. (Alfred The Great, Alien 3, Year Of the Dragon) pulls off remarkable shots all the time with incredibly palpable atmosphere throughout, from daylight shooting, to nighttime shots to hard-to-nail underground work. The film is creepier for his efforts, making it all the more chilling and thanks to Blu-ray, you can see the depth intended and despite some flaws, you can now experience the look and feel intended pretty much throughout. My rating does not include some stunning demo shots that I would rate higher.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is passable for the format, better than previous DVDs too, but no match for the Blu-ray, though I could easily argue that it will take a 4K 2160p release to really deliver this one fully. I cannot imagine it looking much better in either format provided here.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on the Blu-ray is the best the film has ever sounded, but I was a little disappointed there was not more clarity or transparency in the recording. That is sadly why the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVD version is almost as good and ties rating-wise. Dialogue is smart and sharp, while the music score by Jeremy Rose and Wil Mallone impresses throughout, also adding to the film's effectiveness.


Extras include an illustrated booklet with informative text featuring new writing by authors Michael Gingold and Christopher Gulloyet, while the disc versions add a very enjoyable feature length audio commentary track with Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman, Producer Paul Maslansky, and Assistant Director Lewis More O'Ferrall, three solid featurettes in Tales From The Tube - Interview with Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman and Executive Producers Jay Kanter & Alan Ladd Jr., From The Depths - Interview with Star David Ladd and Producer Paul Maslansky and Mind The Doors - Interview with Star Hugh Armstrong, plus a DEATH LINE Trailer, RAW MEAT Trailer, RAW MEAT TV Spots, RAW MEAT Radio Spots and Poster & Still Gallery.



Union Furnace


The new indie thriller Union Furnace (2017) is no doubt inspired by films such as Rob Zombie's 31, Saw, The Strangers, and a handful of other films. It also tries to go out of its way to make a bold statement about sadism and torture, yet never is quite as gritty as it tries to be. A mixture of low production value, not enough tension in scenes that should have it, really fake looking blood, and mediocre acting, Union Furnace wants to be a thriller but is lacking the thrills.


Union Furnace stars Keith David, Mike Dwyer, Katie Keene and Seth Hammond.


Set in a small town that seems normal, there lurks a crook named Cody (Dwyer) who meets a mysterious stranger that offers him a unique opportunity to play a game and win a fortune. To play his game, however, you must wager your own life in the process. Of course, Cody decides to give the game a go and finds himself trapped amongst a cult of mask-wearing sadists and another player - both of which will do anything they can to survive. The masked people find new and inventive ways of torturing their victims as they tempt their fates. Who will survive?


Presented in sharp 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 track, the film looks surprisingly good for an indie with some interesting color correction (it doesn't mind stealing the green color schemes of Saw) and detail on characters. The sound mix is mixed nicely and nothing particularly struck out as off.


Special Features...


The Making of Union Furnace


Theatrical Trailer


Color Bars



- Nicholas Sheffo & James Lockhart

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