Land of the Minotaur 1976 – once called ‘Peter Cushing’s worst film’ – is reviewed by DAVID SAUNDERSON
TITLE: Land of the Minotaur AKA The Devil’s Men
DIRECTOR: Kostas Karagiannis
CAST: Donald Pleasence, Peter Cushing, Luan Peters, Kostas Karagiannis
Land of the Minotaur is described as “Peter Cushing’s worst movie” by American film critic Roger Ebert.
I’ve not seen all of Peter Cushing’s films, though I’m not sure he’s wrong. Land of the Minotaur is a stinker.
That being said, it’s always enjoyable to watch Peter Cusing and Donald Pleasence in any film. So I do not regret picking Land of the Minotaur to celebrate Donald Pleasence’s 100th birthday this week.
Land of the Minotaur – Horror, greek-style
Land of the Minatour is an attempt at Greek folk horror. You could easily call it a mix of The Wicker Man, The Devil Rides Out, a bit of The Witches, and maybe even Dracula. Chuck in the Ernest Borgnine from The Devil’s Rain and you get a bit of an idea of how derivative this film is.
Donald Pleasence stars as Father Roche, a Irish priest living in Greece, who has befriended young people visiting from across the world. He warns them to stay away from the ‘evil’ archeological sites the area for which the area is noted. But, of course, they can’t stop themselves and end up missing, and Father Roche has to go save them.
Peter Cushing turns up as a Carpathian nobleman, Baron Corofax, who explains that he’s in exile from from his homeland, hence why he is living in Greece. We discover that the Baron is the head of a cult worshiping the Minotaur, the mythical half-man, half-bull monster, from Ancient Greece. For some reason, Corofax and his cronies are sacrificing the visiting young people at the altar. Sp Father Roche, and his sidekick, the private eye Milo Kaye (played by the film’s director Kostas Karagiorgis), have to battle corrupt city officials and other cultists to save the young people.
The Minotaur, in question, is actually a stone statue with gas burners blowing fire out its nose. It’s not scary.
But by the end, there does seem to be supernatural goings-on. But this aspect seems to pop out of thin air, as one might expect the threat was actually natural.
The moussaka hits the fan
Land of the Minotaur wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t a hot mess of misjudged editing, weak plot points and lack of story development. It lacks the enjoyment of European horrors of the time.
Cushing and Pleasence probably saw this as an excuse for a working holiday in Greece, which is fair enough. The film doesn’t feel very Greek though, as none of the signs are in Greek. It could be anywhere.
Peter Cushing is known for making the best of a bad lot, and within a year was back to his best as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (1977). Same goes for Donald Pleasence, whose role may well have been an audition for Dr Sam Loomis, also a Van Helsing type, in Halloween (1978).
Should you watch Land of the Minotaur? Yes, so you can say you’ve seen it because Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence are in it.