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The Devil's Men (1975)

Well, this is refreshing. This web site has, at the time of writing, been in existence for four years, and during that time I've watched, taken notes on and written about hundreds of films. When the site first started, there was a tendency to be a bit harsh on the British horror product (due mainly to a certain amount of naivety on my part) - but I was beginning to think that recently, watching wave after wave of badly-lit, stodgily-written and woodenly acted movies had dulled my senses somewhat. Over the past year or so, I seem to have been able to see the good in some frankly not-great films. Perhaps it's my general sunny disposition, wanting to see the good in everything. Perhaps I just want to justify spending 90 minutes watching yet another sub-standard flick. Anyway, that's all academic now, because I've stumbled on The Devil's Men (aka Land Of The Minotaur). And it's crap.

There's really no justifying it in any way, shape or form - The Devil's Men is a waste of good videotape, from the moment the thundering Euro-clag music ushers in Peter Cushing and his demonic mob, to the appallingly bad heavy metal song playing over the end credits. Even a generous dose of female nudity (featuring Luan "Golly Jeez, what's going on?" Peters, no less) fails to save it (although it dulls the pain).

But perhaps the hardest thing to stomach is Cushing himself. This could be the one time when a film has been let down by the man. It's fair to say that it looks like his heart wasn't really in it, but that in itself comes as quite a shock - through his hundreds of other appearances he's never been less than the consummate professional. Donald Pleasence manfully steps into the breach, but he's battling with a ludicrous script full of inconsistency and loose ends, which is enough to deal with without wondering why Pete's mind appears to be on other things.

Cushing is Baron Carofax, formerly of Carpathia, who's busy running a Satanist cult on a Greek Island. Pleasence is Father Roche, an Irish Priest who's just about the only person on the island who isn't involved with the cult. Foreign students keep going missing (they're being sacrificed to Carofax's Minotaur god) and Roche is desperately trying to get someone - anyone - to believe his story about devil worship and human sacrifice.

So much so, that he keeps badgering a Private Investigator friend of his in New York (a chap called Milo - you know you're onto a bad thing when the film's main love interest is a dead ringer for Father Ted) to come over and check it out. When a group of young archaeologists turn up and get killed / disappear, Roche finally gets his mate to put some clothes on and jump on a plane. Meanwhile, Lori,the girlfriend of one of the archaeologists (Peters, the "Australian hayseed" from Fawlty Towers) has turned up too, looking for her beau.

To be fair to the film, it looks like the version I saw has been hacked to pieces - the archaeologists talk of "the secret entrance to the tomb Roche warned us about" (he didn't), and there's a lot of reference by Milo to Roche's preoccupation with "demons" when he hasn't even mentioned the word. But you could overlook these inconsistencies if the plot whizzed along and gave you the occasional moment of interest. As it is, we get people going shopping, villages emptying and then filling back up again, great emphasis being placed on children's toys which are then ignored, and an extremely annoying running "joke" about how fast Milo drives.

The whole thing is remarkably uninvolving, although there is some fun to be had with Pleasence's over-the-top auditioning for his future role in the Halloween films, with his "I believe the devil has taken control of this village," and his "We are up against a force that no traditional weapon has the power to destroy! There is one force that has the power to stop them, otherwise they would have ruled the world from the beginning!" (Eh?)

What that is, I'll let you find out - but put it this way, it's nice to see the tables turned on Cushing for a change. Even an explosive finale a la City Of The Dead can't save things. And what's worse, someone at the time must have thought it was ripe for a sequel, if the closing lines are anything to go by…

Last updated: February 22, 2010

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