The lure of the impulse buy is a hard one for the film geek to resist. We’ve all fallen prey to those cheap box sets filled with forgotten Spaghetti Westerns, Kung Fu Films, Horror or whatever 35mm print someone found in their garage and was able to license for 3.97. Most of the time these films sit unviewed on the shelf still in their shrink wrap. Cheap License Theater is a weekly trip dedicated to exploring these cinematic backwaters of the not-quite-public-domain.
What’s The Film? Land Of The Minotaur (1976)
Who Licensed It On The Cheap? Drive In Cult Classics Vol. 2
Cool Trailer? Not that I could find.
Worth Watching? That’s going to be a definite no. Land Of The Minotaur is the worst sort of film to write about, one completely devoid of legitimately interesting filmmaking, but not quite dire enough to function as camp either. Land Of The Minotaur is above all depressing, a parade of wasted resources and actors that manages to be no fun at all. Indeed it’s so thoroughly devoid of entertainment value that it’s nearly impressive as some kind of Warholian anti movie.
The film follows a group of bland archeologists who after visiting their friend, a priest played by Donald Pleasence whose Oirish accent comes and goes, disregard his warning and investigate the ruins of an old temple. Wouldn’t you know it said old temple just happens to house an active cult, led by Peter Cushing, that worships a talking Minotaur statue. Two of the friends are captured by the cult, leaving the last to recruit Pleasance and a deeply odd looking private eye to help search for them. What follows is a mystery that can only be described as sub-Scooby Doo, as our trio of fearless heroes search for answers that we the audience already know. It is a profoundly dull series of events and if there are fewer scenes of aimless driving and wandering than in Manos The Hands Of Fate, it is a very tight race indeed.
You might think that it would be impossible to make a film involving Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing and a cult that worships a talking Minotaur statue so eye scouring bland. I once thought as you do, and have paid for it. Cushing and Pleasence starred in more than a few films that wasted their talents, but none spring to mind that were quite so egregious about it. They seem to know it too. Rarely have I seen Cushing look quite so forlorn as the scene in which he is forced to stand in a crimson robe, solemnly receiving orders from a dubbed Minotaur statue with flames shooting out of its head and sporting a giant stone dong, as he tries his best to hold onto whatever dignity he can.
Land Of The Minotaur goes through the usual evil cult genre beats, albeit much slower than usual. You have hooded and cloaked figures, sacrificial daggers, groups of extras silhouetted around bonfires who look like they got lost on their way to Race With The Devil, etc, etc. Also there’s a spooky psychic little girl because apparently there was a fire sale at the Euro Horror Movie Cliché Emporium. All of it shot with a level of skill that vacillates between indifferent and incompetent.
The only notable thing about the film is the score by Brian Eno. Yes, that Brian Eno. No I don’t know either. It’s obviously an early work, but all his trademarks are there, and the very fact that a Brian Eno scored 70’s horror film starring Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing doesn’t have a cult following tells you all you need to know about Land Of The Minotaur.