Land of the Minotaur (1977)


aka The Devil’s Men

USA/UK/Greece. 1976.


Director – Costas Carayiannis, Screenplay – Arthur Rowe, Producer – Frixos Constantine, Photography – Aris Stavrou, Music – Brian Eno, Art Direction – Petros Coporallis. Production Company – Poseidon Films/Getty Picture Corp


Donald Pleasence (Father Roche), Costa Skouras (Milo Kay), Peter Cushing (Baron Corofax), Luan Peters (Laurie Gordon), Gelsomnia (Beth), Fernando Bislani (Sergeant Vendris), Bob Behling (Tom Gifford), Nikos Verlel Verlekis (Ian)


In a small Greek village, a Minotaur-worshipping cult is snatching tourists as sacrificial victims. A group of students searching for their missing friends combine with the local priest to put a stop to the cult’s activities.

This Greek-shot production was an entry in the 1970s fad for occult films that began with Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and hit its peak with The Exorcist (1973). Land of the Minotaur is one of the worst films to emerge from the occult fad – and believe me there were a whole heap of bad exorcism films made during this period. Around the same time, the Hammer Films inspired Anglo-horror cycle was at the peak of its popularity and Land of the Minotaur was clearly also attempting to tap into this, even though at the time that the film was made the Anglo-horror cycle was well winding its way to an end. To this extent, stars Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence, two mainstays of the Anglo-horror cycle, have been imported – indeed, are the only recognisable names present. Both give perfunctory performances, clearly having only turned up for the paycheque and/or a trip to Greece.

Land of the Minotaur is a shoddily made effort on all counts. The film takes place at a snail’s pace and director Costas Carayiannis seems to lack any ability to generate even the most rudimentary suspense or shocks. The dialogue is incredibly dull and so flatly inflected by most of the cast that there seems enough room left between each line to run a Top 40 song. There is an uncustomarily bad score by cult ambient electronicist/musician Brian Eno of all people, which sounds like industrial machinery starting up alongside a hive a bees buzzing in the background. Donald Pleasence with his on-again, off-again brogue and ramblings about the Devil make one wonder what planet he hailed his performance in from. Aside from Peter Cushing, who maintains a level of minimal professionalism, the rest of the cast give bad performances.

Finally, Land of the Minotaur fails even as occult nonsense – for all the idea of setting a film around the Minotaur, there is no use made of it in its mythological sense. In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was born half bull and half human. King Minos built the Labyrinth to house it, where it was famously encountered by Theseus. Youths were reportedly sacrificed to The Minotaur in The Labyrinth but for all that the creature represents in the film, it has no more function than a devil icon on an altar of Satanists. The film could be about a cult of Donald Duck worshippers for all the difference that the Minotaur makes. There is nothing that ever happens throughout that does not feel like every single idea in the film has been appropriated from somewhere else – the sole novelty of the film is the Greek setting and the use of the Minotaur in lieu of the usual occult/devil worshipping activities that went on in these films. The rest is just nonsensical claptrap.

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