Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Land of the Minotaur (1976)

... aka: Devil's Men, The
... aka: Devil's People, The
... aka: I maska tou Diavolou

Directed by:
Costa Carayiannis (Kostas Karagiannis)

A pair of teenagers disappear in a small Greek village. Despite the local police sergeant's insistence he butt out, Irish priest Father Roche (Donald Pleasence), who knows the teens aren't the first to disappear there, starts looking into things. He sends a letter off to his private eye friend Milo Kaye ("Costa Skouras" / Costas Carageorgis) in New York City asking for help. While he waits for a reply, three archeology students; Beth ("Gelsomina" / Vanna Reville), her boyfriend Ian (Bob Behling) and their friend Tom (Nikos Verlekis), show up in their van for a visit. Tom has found a golden bull's head figurine nearby, so everyone wants to do some excavating in the area. Over dinner, Father Roche tells them about the disappearances in the village and refers to the area as "Land of Evil" and "The Devil's Territory." Thinking he's discouraged them from going he goes to bed, but the students unwisely decide not to heed his warning. They sneak out late that same night and camp out near a castle and the ruins of an old Pagan temple.

The next day, Beth goes into town to mail a letter and pick up breakfast while the two guys explore. The men find a secret entranceway into an underground cave, discover two corpses down there and then hear an ominous voice telling them "Those who enter the forbidden chamber of the minotaur must die!" In the village, Beth bumps into Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing) and his chauffeur Max (George Vivas). Since we already saw the Baron heading over a cult of pagans sacrificing two people in the pre-credits sequence, we know she's in trouble. Needless to say, Beth, Ian and Tom never make it back to Father Roche's home. Tom's girlfriend Laurie Gordon (Luan Peters) flies in to meet up with her friends and discovers they're missing. After some more nagging, Milo finally flies in, too. The three go to the village, get rooms at the inn and decide to try to get to the bottom of things.

Everyone in the village behaves strangely. The local police sergeant ("Fernando" / Dimitris Bislani) doesn't want them snooping around and tries to keep an eye on them. The innkeeper's young daughter is a creepy mute who wanders around and just stares off into space. A frantic woman (Jessica Dublin) keeps trying to warn them about something but she getting run off (and is later found dead). While visiting the Baron's castle, Father Roche notices that a baby is playing with a 4000 year old Pagan toy with a symbol for human sacrifice on it. And hooded cult members keep terrorizing Laurie (and peep in on her taking a bubble bath). Roche eventually comes to the realization that the devil has taken possession of the entire village. After Laurie turns up missing and the Baron pulls a shotgun on them and tells them to leave town, Father Roche arms himself with a crucifix and holy water and storms into the temple for the explosive finale.

What a huge waste this turned out to be. There's Cushing and Pleasence on hand in major roles, high production values, an excellent shooting location, a fine score from Brian Eno, some cool props (including a great stone minotaur that shoots flames out of its nostrils) and great sets... and this thing still sucks. The culprits? Annoying direction and a terrible screenplay. Because the director is intent on showing us everything, the film is incredibly predictable and the opening sequence itself ensures this never builds up the slightest bit of intrigue. There are constant annoying zoom shots into eyeballs any time someone says something important. And the characters are unlikable and annoying. With his gray shaggy hair and thick black eyebrows, our "hero" Milo is not only an eyesore, but an obnoxious douche bag whose skepticism about what's going on and "I only deal in fact and reason" cliché detective mantra reaches absurd proportions. After Laurie escapes some cult members who chase her through the woods, he tells her it was "Probably just a cow loose in the woods or something." And when Laurie acts upset that everyone in the village has disappeared and the power has been shut off, he slaps her in the face (!!)

Even Pleasence gets a little annoying in this one, constantly nagging Milo about his bad driving, snapping at Laurie when she says she isn't religious and even bitching "Did you have to push me so hard?" when Milo saves his life shoving him out of the way of a car trying to run him over! The Laurie character is barely even defined and constantly left alone until she's finally abducted. The film also believes that paganism and satanism are the same exact thing.

It was filmed in Greece and all three stars of the notorious bad taste Greek shocker ISLAND OF DEATH (1975); Behling, Dublin and Jane Lyle (who pops in long enough for a gratuitous nude scene); have small roles. There's a rock title theme song sung by Paul Williams (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE). British actor Emlyn Williams was the assistant editor. The uncensored version I watched was titled The Devil's Men. The easier to find cut version that's missing some violence and all of the nudity (the same one released to U.S. theaters) is Land of the Minotaur. Under either title, it's not good.


No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...