Monday, January 13, 2014

Land of the Minotaur (1976)



Given the popular fascination in the md-’70s with all things paranormal—ancient astronauts, ESP, witchcraft, and so on—the notion of a horror flick involving a monster from Greek mythology must have seemed reasonable at the time. Despite its misleading title, however, Land of the Minotaur is not a creature feature. Rather, it’s a thriller about nefarious Satan worshippers, so the only offbeat elements of the story are the location (Greece) and the object at the center of the Satanists’ temple (a minotaur statue with gas jets blazing fire out of the nostrils). The inconsequential story begins when a trio of attractive young archeologists visits their friend, Father Roche (Donald Pleasence), an Irishman who lives near an ancient ruin in Greece that’s supposed to contain a hidden temple. The young adults find and sneak into the temple, only to be captured by cultists under the control of Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing). Then, aided by a private detective (Costas Skouras) and the girlfriend of one of the missing youths, Father Roche tries to find the hidden temple before the hostages are sacrificed. Director Kostas Karagiannis films Land of the Minotaur unimaginatively, relying on silly zoom-ins to closeups of eyes whenever he wants to suggest intensity (which is often). He also fails to effectively define chronological and spatial relationships, so it’s frequently difficult to discern what’s happening onscreen. The wretched storytelling is compounded by goofy imagery. Besides the minotaur statue, which seems more like a party decoration than a fearsome icon, the movie features cultists in shiny silk costumes that look like bathrobes from Liberace’s closet. Nothing that happens in the movie is surprising, the suspense scenes are inert, and the over-the-top finale—complete with exploding cultists—feels like it’s happening in a different movie. (Only the music has any measure of credibility, with composer Brian Eno—of Roxy Music fame—infusing the soundtrack with creepy electronic pulses.) Worst of all, the stars are wasted. Cushing is relegated to just a few scenes of reciting occult claptrap. Meanwhile, Pleasence—cast against type as a heroic character—is hamstrung by an Irish accent he can’t quite master.

Land of the Minotaur: LAME

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