Sunday, 10 April 2011

Land of the Minotaur (1976)

Land of the Minotaur might be a cheap and cheesy satansploitation flick but it does star Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing. And in any case I have absolutely no problem with cheap and cheesy satansploitation flicks. Although this one is perhaps a combination of satansploitation and pagansploitation.

A group of young amateur archaeologists (although they really look more like hippies than archaeologists but it was the 70s) are keen to explore an ancient temple site in Greece. The local parish priest Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) is an old friend of theirs and tells them where to find the secret entrance to the ancient tombs but warns them not to go exploring in the because it’s full of satanic influences. It’s never explained why the village priest is an Irish Catholic but one assumes it’s because Donald Pleasence makes a splendid Catholic priest but probably would have been less convincing as a Orthodox priest. And it soon becomes obvious in any case that plot coherence is not going to be this film’s strong point.

Of course once he’s warned them not to go there they just can’t wait to do do. And naturally they fall into the clutches of devil-worshippers.

Father Roche is anxious to find his three young friends and soon finds himself with two allies - the girlfriend of one of the missing archaeologists and a Greek private eye named Milo. The police don’t seem anxious to help and the mysterious Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing) seems a bit too interested in these events. Father Roche has however armed himself with a plentiful supply of holy water and a heavy-duty crucifix and he’s ready to take on the servants of Satan. In this case Satan’s minions are devotees of the ancient Minoan cult of the bull god, the Minotaur.

You know where the story’s going after this and there are no major surprises.

This could be seen as just another third-rate ultra-cheap satansploitation movie but it does have a few features that make it worth a look. Most obviously it has Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing. It has some nice Greek locations. And while the idea that pagan cults were all just devil-worshippers might be rather dubious it is cool to come across a horror movie featuring a minotaur. It also boasts an interesting an effective electronic score by Brian Eno.

Technically it’s competent if not very exciting although there are one or two effective moments.

This is the first movie I’ve watched from the 32-movie Drive-In Cult Classics boxed set. It’s another offering from Mill Creek Entertainment so they’re all public domain titles. The picture quality on this one was fairly reasonable. It’s a bit soft and a bit grainy but it is widescreen and it’s worth bearing in mind that when you’re paying 62 cents per movie (32 movies for $20) you don’t have too much to complain about. This appears to be the US version of the film which was slightly cut. The uncut UK version, with the title The Devil's Men, was released on DVD but you’re going to pay a lot more for it and it’s not really a movie I’d bother spending big bucks on.

Not a very good movie but watchable popcorn entertainment.

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