Devil’s Men, The (1976)

The-Devils-Men-1976

Half man . . . half beast . . . trapped in a world forgotten by time!

Tourists visiting a Greece archaeological site are being abducted by a strange cult, intent on providing their God – the Minotaur – with sacrifices when the tourists enter the forbidden chamber. Anxious priest Father Roache enlists the help of an old private detective friend to find out what has happened to them.

 

A rather lacklustre devil-worshipping flick, The Devil’s Men should really be a lot better than it turns out given some of the names involved, the setting and the obviously cool inclusion of the Minotaur god. It looks strangely out of place in 1976, caught between the pinnacle of Hammer’s glorious Technicolour carnage of the 50s and 60s and the 70s which were caught in the midst of a wave of occult and Satanism films thanks to the success of The Exorcist. The Devil’s Men comes off as a poor cross between both of the genres, delving into Devil worshipping nonsense but maintaining a low-key very ‘old school’ British vibe.

It sticks quite rigidly to the popular 70s horror themes involving the occult and Satanism and this doesn’t really work in its favour as it’s nothing you won’t see in any better flicks (notably something like The Devil Rides Out). There’s a sacrificial chamber complete with burning torches. There’s chanting and recitals. There are hooded cultists. There are bloody sacrifices. You’ll see exactly where the film is heading right from the get go and you’re right, all the way up to the rather unsatisfying finale inside the chamber. The trouble is that it takes an eternity to get there. Director Costas Carayiannis hasn’t got a clue about pacing and fails to generate any sort of excitement, suspense or tension throughout the majority of proceedings. Films about the occult should never be this boring as there is a gold mine of material that he could have included to keep things interesting.

It’s your basic good versus evil film with Donald Pleasance playing the role of Father Roache for the forces of good and Peter Cushing relishing another nasty role as the sinister Baron Corofax leading the cult. The two men share a few great scenes with each other but apart from that, this won’t be too high on their list of favourites. Pleasance struggles with an Irish accent but is his usual slightly-oddball self. Cushing, whilst good in his sporadic appearances, gets little more than a cameo role and he is total cruise control – not a bad thing considering Cushing’s cruise control was infinitely better than most people’s full speed! I’m sure that the holiday to Greece to film was the thing which attracted both men to starring. The other cast don’t particularly thrill either, with Costas Skouras making a bland hero and Luan Peters and Vanna Reville providing little more than looking extremely hot in some really short and very tight pants. They’ve all been dubbed by American actors by the looks of things.

This film was re-titled The Land of the Minotaur for its US release but don’t expect any men in monster suits or stop motion effects – the only Minotaur you’ll see here is a concrete statue which breathes fire and continually repeats the line “Those who enter the forbidden chamber of the Minotaur must die!” I’d have been happy to see a cheap-looking guy in a suit running around here but alas that’s not the case. The inclusion of the Minotaur clearly seems to have been a ploy to create a kick-ass sounding title and suggest that the creature would come to life. The reality is that the script could have substituted any manner of mythological or Satanist names and it would have served the same purpose.

 

The Devil’s Men isn’t a complete dud because it’s still got enough going on to warrant a watch for fans of cult horror and Cushing completists. Unfortunately it’s just too bog standard and generic to really go anywhere with the material and actors present.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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