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  Devil's Men, The Minor MinotaurBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Kostas Karagiannis
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Peter Cushing, Luan Peters, Kostas Karagiorgis, Dimitris Bislanis, Anna Matzourani, Nikos Verlekis, Vanna Reville, Robert Behling, Anestis Vlahos, George Veulis, Jane Lyle, Meira, Jessica Dublin
Genre: Horror
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: There's a cult in this remote area of Greece where the villagers seem to be disappearing, and any students who arrive either for tourism or to investigate the ancient ruins there are also vanishing. This is down to the cult, led by local landowner Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing), who needs human sacrifices to appease their Minotaur god embodied in a large statue which breathes fire from its nostrils. But this ghastly practice cannot continue forever, as the resident priest, Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) has sussed them - it's just a matter of getting someone else to believe his claims.

The Devil's Men, also known in a less explicit version as Land of the Minotaur, was a co-production between the United Kingdom and Greece, sort of like the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip only with far less respectable results. The two celebrities brought together in this case were horror icons Cushing and Pleasence, not for the first time but possibly for the least impressive time, as this didn't do either of them any justice, though the latter had more to do in Arthur Rowe's script than the former. For a change, Cushing didn't appear to be giving it his full one hundred percent, as if aware that he had been hired for his name value rather than exercising his talent.

Pleasence adopted an Irish accent for his role, although everyone here was dubbed which gave the film with its Balkans setting the look of one of those imported serials dubbed into English most apparent on the television schedules of the era's British children's programming. Apart from the actual content, of course, which may have had a bunch of people doing their level best to solve a mystery, but also featured a smattering of nudity and gore to wake up the audience lulled into a mood of tolerant boredom by the rest of it. It wasn't only the two chiller stars who showed up to do battle, for there were a few Greek actors too, though most of the interest might well settle on the presence of Luan Peters.

She shows up as Laurie to seek the missing students, one of whom was also a young, blonde woman in denim hotpants, so we could see where director Kostas Karagiannis's heart lay, although the first girl did distractingly resemble Agnetha from ABBA, so there's that. Peters was present to do nothing but provide the sex appeal and get chased around by hooded cultists, while the work of battling the bad guys was down to Father Roche and his sceptical best friend Milo Kaye (Kostas Karagiorgios) who reluctantly arrives from America to assist (he also seems to have smuggled a gun through customs). This being one of those horror movies where the proof of the heroes' suspicions is elusive, it takes what feels like an inordinate amount of time to get to the point.

Although the most interest The Devil's Men might offer today would be for the fans of music pioneer Brian Eno, as he supplied the soundtrack, which unfortunately wasn't his best and sounded like he'd pressed a few buttons on his synthesiser to create a few atonal beeps and left it at that. He didn't even write the rocky theme song heard over the end credits - "Devil's men! Devil's men!", so this wasn't really one to track down unless you were an absolute Eno completist. Back at the plot, Pleasence did his best Max von Sydow impersonation as he clutched a bejewelled cross and found that was the ideal way to fend off the cultists, though even then he is convinced they are Satanists when it's obvious to everyone else the Baron and his followers are worshipping Ancient Greek deities, which should have had a potential twist of novelty but the film does little with it. Anyway, splash a bit of holy water around for an explosive finale and you might rouse the viewer, stranger things have happened.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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