Land of the Minotaur


Year 1977

Peter Cushing as  Baron Corofax
Donald Pleasence   as Father Roche
Robert Behling as Tom
Luan Peters as Laurie
Costas Skouras as Milo
Nikos Verlekis as Ian
 
Director - Costas Karayiannis  
Screenwriter - Arthur Rowe

Is this one a stinker? How can it be with both Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence in it? If not for them though, this one would have stunk to high heaven.

The premise is simple enough and used often in low budget movies of the 70s. Na´ve visitors come to a sleepy little town that is home to evil incarnate. Happens every day, or at least every other movie in the 70s.

To tread over the same ground, beaten down by the likes of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist you'd best bring something new to stir up the dirt a little. In this case, the producer brought Greece, or at least a Greek island.

Now I can see this. A producer says, "I've got cash and need a vacation. Where shall I go? Honey? How does Greece sound to you?" Presto changeo, you've got Greece! (Bonus points to anyone who can identify the phrase "Presto changeo, you've got bugs!" Ah, the good old days of advertizing. Notice the "z" instead of the "s" to show I write in American English. These are all clues, people!)

So, you've got your good priest, your evil priest, and a spare godlike entity looking for work. Everybody knows the minotaur was a half-bull/half-man creature that lived in a labyrinth, right? He might have been more than half-bull. But he was mortal and not a demiurge or anything.

History of greek mythology to the contrary, there is too a cult that worships the Minotaur. Otherwise, this movie wouldn't make sense. If you can't find a reference to this cult anywhere, make up your own Wikipedia entry.

For some reason, this cult requires sacrifices of the human kind. Every tourist that comes to town is captured and killed. That would explain the lack of any souvenir shops in the movie. It doesn't explain why tourists keep arriving in the town.

So, one couple arrives and is killed during the opening credits. A second couple, supposedly looking for archaelogical cult relics (just paint a target on your forehead and carry a sign reading "Blood for the Blood God") arrives a little later. The couple includes a cute girl in very short pants and everyone including the priest seems to be drooling over her (I wonder what went on off-screen). Since they're snooping around where they shouldn't, the locals decide that they have to go, too.

Short Shorts before the Cellulite

Take another look at the image and notice the shoes. Nothing says 70s like those nosebleed inducing shoes. She's five foot five in the shoes and five foot nothing out of them.

Once she's gone missing, the priest decides to get involved. At least I think he does. As Father Rocco ("Roche" is French and northern Italian for "Rocco") Donald Pleasence does this Irish brogue accent. It guess it's because Rocco is such a popular Irish name as in "What's all this blarney your handing me, Rocco?" or "Charlie Bronson had a rope...uh, Rocco."

A few words about Donald Pleasence's performance. Was he drunk? He's either leering at the girls, cracking goofy adlibs, or forgetting his written lines. Because he's Donald Pleasence, he can get away with it, but it's still necessary to mention this unusual interpretation of his character.

When Father Roche gets involved, he gets involved! He calls his power hitter private detective friend Milo (Costas Skouras) to come help. Milo? I've heard of Philo as in Philo Vance (Philo Kvetch anyone?) I've heard of Dirk Pitt. But Milo? Isn't that a dog's name? But Milo, a narrow shouldered, muscle tone deficient guy with grey hair and black eyebrows comes at the priest's beckoning.

Maybe this guy Skouras is hot stuff in Greece. Maybe Phil Donohue is worshipped over there as well. Maybe somebody thought they'd give a grip a chance at the big time in front of the camera. I dunno.

As long as I'm going on about the flaws, let me continue. About half of the movie takes place at night, but it's obvious that it was filmed during the day using shadows and either a camera filter or a sheet. The only clean outfits the townsfolk wear are the capes for the rituals. Then there's the priest's secret weapon, a guy from the United States who's supposedly a rugged private detective. In truth he is a narrow shouldered, ill muscle toned Greek guy with grey hair and black eyebrows. Not exactly the hero type in my book.

Here's some of the typical dialogue. The elipses are provided to show how halting Donald Pleasence's speech is. It's like he's trying to remember the lines before he says them.


Laurie: What's happened with Tom?
Roche: I think he...I think he's been held...captive.
Laurie: Captive?
Roche: By Satan, Mephistopheles, Lucifer.

Stunning dialogue, I'll agree. At least Laurie is another girl who likes shorts short so the scene's not a total loss. But this next dialogue example is really inexcusable.


Roche: I saw something.
Milo: Maybe you just can't hold your liquor.

Liquor causes visual hallucinations? Really? What do they drink in the land of the Minotaur? Absinthe? Peyote juice? I know that when I drink too much, I don't see things...like furniture. (Ouch! That'll leave a mark.)

It's all good, hokey, grade B movie fun. No blasphemy, although the portrayal of the priest is borderline so. No nudity, although all of the girls wear something to show off their legs. No plot twists. No originality except for how badly dialogue can be uttered. Still, it's got Peter Cushing and it's a typical drive-in style movie from the 70s.


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