Land of the Minotaur

Certificate: 15
Running time: 88 mins
Director: Kosta Karagiannis
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Peter Cushing
Genre: Horror
Country: USA

High on a hill sits a castle, surrounding the castle are grounds of great archaeological importance and under them sits the church of the Minotaur where hapless passersby are sacrificed to the horned God.  Released under the somewhat uninspiring title The Devil’s Men in 1976 this film could have done better box office business had it been billed as Peter Cushing Vs Donald Pleasence as two of the great horror titans face off for the battle of humanities hearts and minds.

When his three house guests slip off in the middle of the night to the grounds of Baron Corofax’s (Cushing) castle Father Roche (Pleasence) has little choice but to go after them before they are served up to the Minotaur.  But will he be able to thwart Cushing and his minions before Ian, Beth and Tom are burning in the fires of hell for all eternity?

There’s a lot to like in Land of the Minotaur, even if most of it is unintentional.  Whether it’s the little known fact that all female archaeologists run around in Daisy Dukes or Father Roche’s roaming Irish accent or Cushing’s uppercase ACTING (yes, acting darling!) you’ll never be short of something to enjoy in this, the Greek package holiday of the cinema world.

Donald Pleasence is action priest (again).  Seemingly he spends more time in a dog collar than a submissive in a Fem-Dom movie but he brings to the lead gravitas, a commanding screen presence and an Irish accent that at times are very Belfast and at others are only one good clanger away from Awk, they’re always after me Lucky Charms.  Yet he has a sincerity in his performance that’s captivating and honest even though he must know that this is not going to be anywhere near his career show reel.  He’s clearly an idol of Kostas Karagiorgis who plays Milo under the pseudonym Costa Skouras while directing under another (Kostas Karagiannis).  The same, sadly, can’t be said for Cushing.  Where Pleasence brings all his vigour, physicality and skill to the film Cushing seems to almost wish himself anywhere but inside the clothing of Baron Corofax.  Phoning in a wooden and flat performance he leaves us wishing he’s taken it more seriously so we could take it less.  There are fewer things more insulting than having someone sneer at how you spend your money, especially when it goes towards their luxurious existence.  Costa (or is it Kostas?) does a good job in the supporting role, as does Luan Peters (Laurie Gordon) even if she does run like a girl doing an impressive of a boy doing an impression of a girl running.

The direction is quite strong and the location shoot adds an extra level to the mise-en-shot that would otherwise leave Land of the Minotaur with the same uncomplicated visual palette as The Corpse Grinders 2 but it’s the art director who should really take a bow.  The colour palette of the film enthused through the costume design of “the devil’s men” (and women) is magnificent.  The cloaked figures cut a striking presence on screen and the richness of the colours are reminiscent of early twentieth century colour footage, bringing to mind the first colour images from the Nuremburg rallies that give the film an added dimension.  

The problem with Land of the Minotaur (yes, for all its short comings there is really only one problem) is that the script is flat.  Each moment that should be spiked with adrenaline lacks pace and tension before the film fizzles out with a soft spoken apology rather than a bang.  Not even the Daisy Dukes can save the script, and it’s a sad, sad day when DDs don’t come to the rescue.


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