(Release Date: August 11, 1976 [UK])
(USA Release Date: June 1977)
Anyway, the titular Joy (whom we knew as "Mr. Houck"... yes, Joy was a man) came up with a lot of ideas for bringing in crowds in his later years. Although the nonagenarian only drove down about once per week, he tended to leave us with orders such as saving money by showing some really old movie prints he had lying around (some of which were directed by his son, Joy, Jr.), you know, instead of running any current releases, which might have cost too much. Another of his ideas was to cover the expansive plate-glass windows with really old posters he also had lying around.
Although there were some good ones, a great many of these were posters for B-Movies, some of which played way back when Mr. Houck owned a Drive-In. The two funniest of these B-Posters were, to us, Rollerball and Land of the Minotaur.
Rollerball looked funny because of the aggressive, yet triumphant face of ol' "Johnathan E.", seeming to say "Let's do it... FOR FREEDOM!", hovering over a bunch of guys roller-skating. Actually that one turned out to be an okay movie. Land of the Minotaur was positively gut-bustingly hilarious in its B-Movie attempts at shock and unpleasantly horrific imagery. This would, of course, only work if you find cartoon images of Bulls with glowing eyes, fiery breath and human-like hands looking like they're trying to play with marionettes, but destroying the stage instead HORRIFIC! I... don't.
Naturally, I had to see this one too. I mean, this is Worlds Greatest Critic.com, right? Sadly, unlike Rollerball, Land of the Minotaur (originally known as The Devil's Men) is not a good movie. People still talk about what a coup it was to get Donald "There's something about that Guy" Pleasence to star in 1978's Halloween, considering his star power and acting chops. But, hell, he agreed to appear in this thing just a blink of the eye before Halloween. And if you think that flick put him back on the map, then I invite you to check out 1979's Jaguar Lives!
Here, the Pleasant One stars as Father Roche, a one-man defender of the good and Holy against those pesky Satanists from the South of Greece. Yeah, all those Southern Greek Satanists really know how to fuck up a history lesson, don't they?
Well, okay, I guess they're not TECHNICALLY Satanists, they're more like... I don't know... Minotaurists, because they all worship a paper-Mache and Silly Putty statue of some Half-Man, Half-Bull that breathes fire through its flared nostrils and... ha, ha, ha... actually MOVES AROUND a lot for a Statue. Well, I'm not sure about the "Half-Man" part (at best, most of these dinks were a fourth or a third of a man), but the BULL in this movie goes on forever. Fuh-huh-huck!
Did I mention this cult's leader, Baron Corofax, is played by Peter Cushing? Yeah and with his Red Satin Robe, he looks like Grand Moff Tarkin dabbling in the Sith Arts! I wonder how many people said "Dude, I have to see that movie Star Wars, because Peter Cushing was FANTASTIC in Land of the Minotaur!" You know, technically they were in US Theatres at the same time. It'd've made one hell of a double bill.
Anyway, Cushing, who looks a tad embarrassed here, and his Bullshit Cult kidnap the teenagers who dare to trespass on their unsacred land (all of which appears to be subterranean) and prepare (slowly) to sacrifice them to the Minotaur-In-A-Box, who just keeps POPPING UP ALL OVER EVERYWHERE... and talking!
I had to wonder if the idea was just to tie them up and talk them to death, it took so damned long. Anyway, two of these erstwhile kidnapped kids are relatively interchangeable blonde beauties Beth (Vanna Reville) and Laurie (Luan Peters), both of whom dare wear short shorts and dare to stuff about a mile of ass each in said short shorts. WOW!
Regardless, it's up to Father Roche, the pious, but sexually frustrated, to save the gang from the Whack-A-Minotaur before they get shish-kebabed! Luckily, Roche has an ally in young buck Milo Kaye (played by Costas Skouras, who is REALLY this film's director Kostas Karagiorgis)! It's a wonder these silly geese get anything done with the Priest's jumping at shadows and Milo's near-constant trend of completely disbelieving anything Father Roche has to say, then suddenly going "Oh, hell, you may be right after all!" Save some time, dummy!
Matters don't improve when it is revealed that worshipping the Minotaur also grants one nigh-invincibility. Not bad for a goofy prop that would envy the mobility of Lost In Space's Robot B-9! How the hell this thing keeps showing up all over the place is beyond me. I'll admit, though, at one point the damned thing was slightly scary when it zoomed forward to grab (though Lord knows how) one of the actors... mostly because it looked kind of heavy and getting crushed by that thing would incredibly scary. Well, scarier than this movie managed to be. Just imagine being found underneath that nerdy door prize! How humiliating a death!
I wasn't expecting any great technological marvel, but cheese and crackers, what a silly-looking chimera. Not that I'm sure a bigger budget could have saved a movie based on Arthur Rowe's crazy script! Still, one must wonder what it might have been like if they'd had the budget of... oh, I don't know, let's say... Robocop! Yeah, can't you just see that?
"Minotaur Cop! Part Man, Part Bull, ALL COP!"
Man, I smell sequel! "DEAD OR ALIVE, YOU'RE COMING WITH ME... to my underground lair with Grand Moff Tarkin and that General guy from Jaguar Lives!" Now THERE's a hit in the making.
But back to 1976's Land of the Minotaur (from here on to be known as "The Original")... this overlong flick (it clocks in at about an hour and a half, but feels like about twice that) all culminates in a whacked-out ending the likes of which I haven't seen since 1975's The Devil's Rain! Not that I buy into the ridiculously hyperbolic tagline The Devil's Rain sported: "Absolutely the most incredible ending of any motion picture ever!", but if any letter of that corn-ball statement were true, The Devil's Rain certainly wouldn't lose its crown to The Devil's Men!
I came incredibly close to giving Two Stars out of Five for Land of the Minotaur! But I kept finding the concept honestly pretty shocking (especially considering the lack of any real nudity), so I did have to give it a total Dog... or a Turkey, even. Actually, I like that idea even better than the whole Minotaur Cop thing (what was I thinkin'?)! What would we call a Chimera cross between a Turkey and a Dog? Who the hell knows? Maybe we'll find out in the next reel... somebody make a poster of THAT, man!
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