Color, 1976, 94 mins. 24 secs. / 85 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Costas Karagiannis
Starring Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Cortas Skouras, Luan Peters
Indicator (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), Scorpion Releasing (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Odeon (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), BCI (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Simply Meda (UK R2 PAL) (1.85:1)
By the mid-'70s, it seemed almost every other horror film pouring out of a western country besides the U.S. had Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, or some combination of the three; no exception to this rule is the oddball Greek shocker, The Devil's Men (released in the U.S. in theaters and on home video from Crown International in truncated PG-rated form as Land of the Minotaur, which pits the latter two actors against each other in a barely disguised knockoff of The Devil Rides Out spiced up by its unusually scenic locations.
On a remote Greek island, young tourists are disappearing thanks to a secret cult devoted to the Minotaur, a beast whose smoke-breathing statue demands human sacrifices -- as seen in detail in the pre-credits sequence. The wily Baron Corofax (Cushing) is largely to blame for this situation, but when the latest fresh meat (including hot pants-wearing Peters) is next in line for the slaughter, Milo Kaye (Skouras) and fellow fighter of evil Father Roche (Pleasence) unite to put a stop to this mythical madness.
Though usually ranked in the lower tiers of '70s Euro horrors, The Devil's Men offers some fun thrills during sequences of the hooded cultists stalking their prey. Of course, the pairing of Cushing and Pleasence is worth seeing, too, even if Cushing is given relatively little to do apart from showing off his flashy red robe. One big plus is the eerie, potent music score by the legendary Brian Eno (the same year as Sebastiane!), which pumps in plenty of atmosphere even when the film itself comes up short. Then there's the catchy, insane rock theme song "Lady of Lies," which is only heard in the European version and is nearly worth the price tag all by itself. It's not quite "The Green Slime," but darn close.
First released on DVD in the U.K. as part of DD's "Masters of Horror" collection under its original title (4:3 letterboxed), this film made its American DVD debut as Land of the Minotaur when presented by BCI in its shorter Crown cut, widescreen and anamorphically enhanced. The transfer seems to be taken from an okay print, though the contrast is a bit harsh and print damage is evident throughout with incredibly awful audio to boot. A subsequent UK standalone release followed from Odeon as well as a pairing with Blood Mania from Code Red (squished out from 1.66:1 to 1.78:1 with squashed-looking actor faces), but a better option came with the double feature from Scorpion on DVD co-billed with a significantly more flamboyant title, the madcap witch romp Terror (another Crown release), directed by Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave), which has since been reissued from Indicator and Vinegar Syndrome. The Scorpion improves right out of the gate with an uncut, anamorphic transfer of The Devil's Men correctly framed at 1.66:1. The film still isn't much of a visual dazzler, but the improvement is obvious and the extra little helpings of topless nudity and bloodshed help make it a much more lively experience than the TV-friendly slog most Americans had to endure for decades. No real extras per se on that first film, but both titles are bookended with hosting sequences (and an intermission in between) featuring horror hostess Katarina Leigh Waters, which makes sense as this is part of her "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" line. Once again she's on her most comfortable turf here talking about British '70s horror (or in one case, British-Greek hybrid horror), and her enthusiasm makes for pleasant viewing.
In 2022, Indicator gave the film its worldwide Blu-ray debut in the U.K. and U.S. as a region-free release (4,000 units combined as a limited edition split between the two territories) featuring a radically improved 2K restoration from the original negative. Anyone who wrote this film off before should give it another shot as it looks shockingly good here with significantly more image info visible than past releases, far superior contrast and detail, and more convincing color timing. It also sounds a lot better, too, with a solid DTS-HD MA English 1.0 track (with optional English SDH subtitles). A very informative and sometimes quite amusing new audio commentary by critics and authors David Flint and Adrian J. Smith goes a thorough job of covering the film including its odd financing (a combination of U.S. money and, believe it or not, the famous Getty family in America), the state of international horror filmmaking at the time, the release history and alternate versions, the careers of Pleasence (including his odd Irish accent) and Cushing whose roles were originally supposed to be swapped, the joys of watching Cushing brandish a shotgun, and more. Also playable with the film is "The John Player Lecture with Peter Cushing," a 92-minute audio recording of a discussion with the actor and David Castell at London's National Film Theatre. It's very witty and packed with stories of his career starting with his early inspiration from Tom Mix movies through his progression to becoming a performer on the big and small screens in Great Britain including Hammer and beyond, as well as sojourns with Hollywood stars. In "This Life and the Next" (7m48s), producer Frixos Constantine looks back at the film including director Costas Karagiannis, the script, the decision to hire Eno, and the cast (some of whom were more pleasant than others); his accent is very thick which makes a few bits hard to make out, but it's worth a listen. Also included is the sanitized Super 8 version (93m20s) which still runs a lot longer than the American one, plus a Land of the Minotaur TV spot and trailer promoting this as "the most terrifying film of 1977" (which will come as a surprise to The Hills Have Eyes, Suspiria, Rabid, Shock, Rituals...). Finally the disc rounds out with a 29-image gallery of international photos and poster art (including a couple of shots not in the actual film), while the insert booklet features a new essay by Andrew Graves, an archival interview with Pleasence, highlights from the PR campaign, and critical reactions.
Scorpion Releasing (DVD)
Code Red (DVD)
Updated review on February 6, 2022.