Monday, July 6, 2009
Day 152: Land of the Minotaur (1976) - Rank 2/5
Ah, nostalgia. How doth it influence my film selections. I have vivid memories of almost watching this film as a child. My grandmother rented it for my brother and I on a summer afternoon. We picked it up at Roadrunner Video on Southside Drive - a video store that had an unrivaled horror section for the era (it would later be trumped by the still existing Wild and Woolly Video). Fairdale Video aka "The Green House," Bulldog Video (also in Fairdale), and "Premiere Video" (later Red Giraffe) in Auburndale were three other predominant influences on my childhood viewing, but Roadrunner topped them all. Isle after isle of gory horror covers to dazzle and disgust (humorously enough, the horror section was directly next to the Disney section). "Phase IV," "Night of the Creeps," "Kingdom of the Spiders," and the remake of "The Blob" are all video covers that were forever etched into my memory, yet I never watched them until a decade or more later because of parental restrictions. In fact, "The Incredible Melting Man," "The Stuff," "Skeeter," "Slugs," and "Cheerleader Camp" are all films I've never seen, but should, since their VHS covers are also still stuck in my head. I also have vivid memories of staring at the back cover of "Fritz the Cat" when I found it in the "forbidden room" at the video store, a porno area secured only by a beaded curtain, and being positively flabbergasted by what I saw. I should have put it back on the shelf in the Disney section next to "Condorman"...
Anyway, I picked "Land of the Minotaur" because the cover had a kickass, fire-breathing minotaur on it (see poster above). However, within the first five minutes of watching the film, my brother Dan and I were properly spooked. So when I scrolled across it by mistake when Netflixing, I snagged it to see what memories would surface. The film really has no elements of terror. I can see where it would have terrified a young kid, what with the minotaur statue and cult members in blood red hoods. I think the promise of the actual minotaur was too creepy to accept. It's disappointing now, though, because I hoped there would be an actual minotaur, but alas, you get a fire-breathing statue and nothing more.
The plot is utterly confusing, primarily a result of the most bizarre editing. No establishing shots and a lack of exposition for each scene puts the characters of the film in different areas of the village without logic (I also couldn't figure out where this place was supposed to be. England? Scotland? Greece? America?). Peter Cushing plays the pagan baron, and he seems utterly bored with the entire production (hoping the paycheck cashes, methinks). Donald Pleasance is the protagonist priest, a professional exorcist who has lots of teenage friends who stop by to visit with him before disappearing in the realm of the minotaur. How exactly an exorcist can fight worshippers of an ancient religion is left a mystery until he splashes water on Peter Cushing and he explodes in a mass of flesh. His fellow worshippers follow suit in a scene that could be the source of the exploding monk scene in the bad, bad horror film parody "Bloodbath at the House of Death" (a film where Vincent Price is after just a paycheck). But despite lackluster performances from horror icons, an incomprehensible plot and shoddy direction and editing, I will still rank the film at a two instead of a one, for any film that stirs such vivid and odd memories in me deserves a little extra credit.
I couldn't find a trailer, but Watch This Clip and you'll agree that the sense of dialogue and pacing might have inspired Tommy Wiseau to make "The Room."