On LAND OF THE MINOTAUR

An appreciation of the underrated British/Greek horror film

Released in 1976 in the U.S. by exploitation house Crown International to a moderately successful box office take and generally pitiful reviews, director Kostas Karagiannis‘s earthy and surreal horror mood-piece LAND OF THE MINOTAUR has been pretty easy to find on home viewing formats, popping up in rough looking pan and scan VHS versions and dodgy DVD releases in North America and in equally ugly (but thankfully uncut) editions in the UK. Scorpion Releasing even let it loose a few years back as a split disc with Norman J. Warren’s TERROR, uncut and in widescreen under it’s original title (THE DEVIL’S MEN) with little to no fanfare and that cut has been itself bootlegged to death.

Still, despite its exposure, I’ve sadly yet to hear anyone else seriously champion LAND OF THE MINOTAUR’s virtues.

So, with that, allow me to do so.

On the outskirts of a remote, inland village in beautiful, picturesque Greece (Aris Stavrou’s photography is stark and eye-filling), something secret, insidious and palpably evil lurks, sucking every too-curious young tourist into its maw and swallowing them whole. As the ever-expanding list of the curious missing travelers increases, an eccentric local Priest (the great Donald Pleasence) begins to suspect that a cult of mountain dwelling, black hooded, Minotaur-worshiping Satanists have gained a stronghold, sacrificing pretty young people to their titular stone hoof and horned, steam belching deity.

A battle of theological wits ensues between the fraught Father and the ultra-wicked village Magistrate/covert cult leader Baron Corofax (the perhaps even greater Peter Cushing in a rare, full-on chin-stroking villain role) and by the time the smoke clears and the last drop of crudely spilled virgin blood dries, only one of these admirably dedicated and faithful men will be left standing.

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On Hammer’s DRACULA Cycle

A brief, critical look at the official Hammer Studios Dracula film series

When England’s Hammer Studios invested some of their capital and produced 1957’s full-color, full-blooded, adult-geared riff on the classic Universal horror film with Terrence Fisher’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, they changed the way we watch horror movies. Filled with sadism, cruelty, sexuality and gore, but classed-up with sumptuous production values and classically trained British actors in lead roles, CURSE was an international hit and launched a successful (and really, rather wonderful) series of Hammer Frankenstein pictures.

But it was with their next picture, 1958’s HORROR OF DRACULA (known in the UK as simply DRACULA) that they found their first real deal iconic franchise and shone a light on their most memorable horror movie star, Christopher Lee, who was under wraps as the cataract-eyed monster in CURSE, but here was given free reign to terrify and seduce an entire generation of fright fans.

Here’s a brief, critical look at the strange, beautiful, bloody and often, bloody frustrating series of Hammer horror films starring the King of the Vampires.

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