The Spooktacular Eight # 5: Land Of The Minotaur/The Devil’s Men (1976)

While Greek mythology is arguably the most overrepresented in media (followed closely by Norse mythology as one of the many “free idea buckets”), you don’t exactly think of horror when you think of Greek cinema, as the many monsters from that mythos often are more used in videogames.

But of course, there are exceptions, odd relics that surface when you start digging hard and long enough, and Land Of Minoutar does have the allure of starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, which is enough to have it featured here.

Even if this isn’t the first time the two beloved actors worked together, as The Flesh And The Fiends is from 1960.

And because this is a very obscure film, it has alternate titles, like just “Minotaur” and “The Devil’s Men”, the latter being used for its UK release, and my copy as well.

And yes, despite having quite the star power in the cast, this is a Greek production by a Greek director, Kostas Karagiannis, an incredibly prolific one to boot, as he apparently directed more than a hundred films between 1960 and 1991, according to a very incomplete list on Wikipedia.

You can tell some of the actors are greek as they clearly struggle by speaking in english, not that it matters because the acting is pretty bad all around, really wooden at times, even Cushing and Pleasance can’t do much with the mostly stock characters (the cult leader and priest) they’re given, and Pleasance is giving off huge “Puma Man” vibes of not really wanting to be there, but even so he commits to the role way more than a movie like this deserves, like the true professional he was.

YES, i am technically spoiling things, but the movie itself does that immediatly out of the gate, as intro gives away too damn much and basically kills any semblance of mystery and tension the story could have. So it just becomes a tiresome waiting game, as we know there’s a cult making human sacrifices to the Minotaur in a greek tourist spot, and there isn’t much more, aside from Pleasance’s character trying to investigate what actually happens to people here, and eventually having to ask an archeological student named Luan Peters (Laurie Gordon), and an old friend of his, the private detective Milo Kaye (Kostas Karagiorgis), with powerful Rock Lee-level eyebrows.

The narrative is often made confusing and stilted by sudden scenes of… things, like one character going for a walk and then screaming…. about what you can’t tell because the editor tought it was more important to match the woman’s scream by following it up with an aeroplane screeching tires on the landing pad. Plenty of time where it feels you accidentally skipped some scenes (but didn’t), only to have the movie cut to more quasi-psychotronic shit or have the characters shrug off having almost been killed in an underground cultist temple by a chandelier.

Yeah, no biggie, time to hit the inn where most likely the one who tried to murder you all is waiting to try again, or not quite, even the bad guys operate on a very “so that was that, i guess” level of care or dedication to anything they do.

Just whatever, we still have more than 40 minutes to go.

Not that even the priest and detective seem to act like the old time friends they’re supposedly are, or have the basic precaution of not letting these suspicious people know that the snoopy foreigners are aware something weird is up….in front of the locals very own faces. Then again, these fuckin cultists take their damn time, as they have like 4/5 occasions in where they could easily deal with these foreigners that know too much… but just don’t, makes sense when you consider the protagonists are also pretty damn thick (the detective it’s also pretty unlikeable) in the head as well.

Nothing in this movie is anywhere near believable, just stock cliches after stock cliches, and it’s downright silly and ridiculous from the get-go. and it doesn’t really get much better as it goes on, as everyone looks and act so obviously suspicious, from the shifty chief of police to the silent creepy daughter of a local, most gore laden or interesting scenes happening off screen, and the cultists wearing hoods that make them look like euro-styled Ku Kux Klan members doesn’t help, at all.

The score is composed by Brian Eno, and it’s definitely one of the good things the movie has going for it, which include the decent sets, the greek setting and the cult being based on the local mythos, because it really could have been set anywhere else in Europe, so i’m glad it’s Greece instead of frigging England once again, but it just novelty value at the end of the day, as the plot doesn’t take advantage of that in any way, and it’s played as a bog standard devil worshipping pagan sect.

It’s not the worst movie ever or something worthy of fake hype thumbnail, but it’s pretty bad, boring and essentially a dud, as it comes off as ridiculous and silly, the narrative is slow paced and choppy (thanks to some questionable editing you often can’t tell or make out what the hell that scene was supposed to be and why), there’s barely any gore or satisfying graphic display of carnage and/or blood, and the plot it’s stretched far so the runtime can reach 100 minutes.

It’s not that long, but it’s a slog and it’s all exacerbated by the intro, as it spoils pretty much everything that the movie could have going for it, removing any mystery to the plot, or tension for that matter, you even wonder why even bother.

Also, don’t expect to actually see a minotaur in Land Of The Minotaur, aside from a statue prop that snores flames and talks in voiceovers in its temple-sanctum, complete with his dingus and kinda laughable to look (even if it’s crafted well enough), even if it didn’t have his stone genitalia out and about.

The only thing preventing the movie to be totally unwatchable it’s definitely the pretty good casting combo of Pleasance and Cushing, they don’t interact much until the end, but they do carry the movie, despite its problem, the final act has some creepy atmosphere to it, but it unfolds in such a stupid, stilted, cliched AND nonsensical manner it’s absolutely baffling, the climax especially so.

Even if the latter it’s somewhat entertaining as they clearly spent most of the budget on explosions, and licensing Lady Of Lies by Bambi as the unfitting but indeed groovy ending theme.

I did like the overall concept behind Land Of The Minotaur, but it just doesn’t come properly together to make even a somewhat enjoyable movie. Just a boring, disappointing slog-fest, both cheesy and po-faced, one that not even Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance can save from itself.

Not the worst, but one to keep in obscurity because it’s really not that interesting to even dig it out of the forgotten cinema abyss, as it will make even the abyss itself usher a narcoleptic, bored yawn.

Don’t bother unless you plan a marathon about Cushing or Pleasance.

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