Well, this wasn't exactly the kind of mutant cannibal picture I expected. Or, hoped for. They sold this thing as a type of "underground man-eating society" kind of film. Instead, the filmmakers only provide us with one mutant (his mutant wife dies relatively early) picking off one or two subway passengers. Pathetic. The only saving grace in this thing is a fun performance from Donald Pleasance. If that's not enough for you, I'd think about catching the next train.
It's a shame because the movie gets off to a well enough start as we're presented with a seedy side of London; a side of strip clubs and sex shops. Perverts row. "This is the Queen's exclusive striptease" reads one of many neon signs. Actually, the opening title sequence reminded me of Taxi Driver only this came first. The premise is pretty intriguing: Victorian era workers are trapped in an underground cave-in. They live for generations beneath our (Londoner's) feet fucking each other (apparently female workers were trapped as well) and eating anyone from above that ventures too close. By present day, they've become slightly mutated (as evidenced by weird puss leaking growths on their heads), super horny, and generally pissed off. Oh, and they're all dead except one guy and his soon to be expiring wife. It's not until a perverted government official, after a night carrousing through seedy London, disappears that the police actually take notice.
Unfortunately, this is kind of a dull, suspenseless picture. The viewer knows immediately what's killing and eating people. Far too much screentime is devoted to an american student and his british girlfriend. Predictably, the last part of the film involves her being taken by the cannibal with her boyfriend following them and the cops following him. Earlier, I metioned one saving grace. Well, there are actually two. Donald Pleasance is saving grace #1 as Inspector Calhoun, a man more obsessed with tea than solving a murder. He also has a low opinion of americans apparently, telling the student at one point to "hurry back to school. There might be a protest march for you to join." His back and forth banter with Seargent Rogers (Norman Rossington) account for several humorous moments.
Saving grace #2 is a tremendous long take (about ten minutes without a cut) in the cannibal's underground lair. I'm not sure what it reminded me of (Texas Chainsaw, Rope, that scene in Goodfellas, etc), but I'd be surprised if it's ever been topped. It's for this shot that I'm recommending the film. Accompanied by a silent score (except for the "drip drop" of water) we are taken into the lair of the cannibals and shown a vision of something akin to hell (mutant sleeping quarters, victims in various states of decay and also their body parts). The brilliance of the scene is when the camera seemingly takes us away from the lair and towards the surface....only the surface is so fucking far away. It's an amazing shot.....that's unfortunately drowning in mostly boring shit.
I cringed everytime the american and his girlfriend appeared. Terrible actors. Some of the violence and gore were effectively done. There's a unique broom handle through the chest scene. The cannibal goes Ozzie Osbourne on a rat. Oh, and I must add that this is probably the second nicest dressed cannibal I've ever seen (after Hannibal). I think he even wore a tie. The filmmakers actually managed to create some sympathy for him. Perhaps, it was the constant drooling or the head wound. Quite simply, he just wanted to capture the british girlfriend so he could rape her over and over again and spawn a new race of cannibal mutants. Yep, they actually managed to make me feel for the guy. Also, towards the end, he kept muttering "hold the door" or something like that ad nauseum. Not sure what that was about.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the pretty inexplicable cameo by Christopher Lee as MI-5 agent Stratton-Villiers. He shows up for about a minute to warn Pleasance and Rogers away from the case of the missing government official. Could they possibly be covering up the existence of cannibals? Perhaps, they don't want anyone to know about the governement abandoning city workers over a century ago? Who the fuck knows? He's never heard from again.
This movie was once called Death Line. I think there's one brief scene on board an actual train. Since no one died in that scene, I'm glad they dropped that title.