Coming from Powerhouse Film as part of their Indicator Series is the Greek production The Devil’s Men. Released in 1976 and featured a few big names, admittedly at a difficult point during their careers, this was originally released in the US The Land of the Minotaur.
Riding on the swash for the 70’s satanic horror movement The Devil’s Men is a curious offering that has been ignored for years. This might be director Kostas Karagiannis best known, international work and his only foray into mainstream horror. Karagiannis would be best known for indigenous comedy movies, notably 7 other films with The Devil’s Men’s hunky mop headed hero Kostas Karagiorgis.
The film follows a variety of characters as they visit a small town on a Greek island and promptly disappear. Donald Pleasence plays a priest who is determined to get to the bottom of the disappearances, harassing the police who are not taking them seriously. Eventually he joins forces with Karagiorgis, a private detective from New York and the scrumptious Luan Peters. The three leap into action.
The story is a mess, loaded with plot holes and obvious gaffs. Instead the film relies on the leads to keep things moving and some fairly fun set design to maintain interest. Hampering this is Cushing’s apparent boredom. A year before he found a new audience in Star Wars he delivers a cold performance rambling through some of the gibberish he is charged with delivering. There is a little more fun to be had when Pleasence and Cushing are on the screen, on opposite sides, quibble and bicker making for the more enjoyable moments.
There isn’t much depth to the story. The odd line adds a little to the narrative. Cushing’s reasons for being exiled on the Greek island, the relationship between Pleasence and Milo and the history of archaeological digging in the area are not explained. Why these rituals are happening to appease the Minotaur and why there is a need to try to sacrifice every out-of-towner passing through. Perhaps I missed an all important line that explained it. The locals benefit from the apparent bulletproofing some receive during the climax, but given the state of the village, the locals are hardly rewarded with riches.
There are a lot of remarks about Pleasence’s unconvincing Irish accent, I found nothing discernible about the accent, and felt it was a Northern Irish accent. Perhaps reviewers are not fully aware of the sheer number of differing lilts in both Ireland and Northern Ireland and expect the Leprechaun from Lucky Charms cereal as the one true accent.
Elsewhere in the cast we have Luna Peters, whose role is a little bland featuring three closeup scream moments and required saving by Karagiorgis and Pleasence every twenty minutes. Peters is entirely game and is making the most of her screen time. Having appeared with David Niven in Vampira (Old Dracula,) Dr Who and cult classic Twins of Evil it’s a shame we didn’t see her in more. Aside from the doomed fifth St. Trinians movie that is rarely mentioned we only got a few guest spots from Peters following this.
A young girl playing the Grocer’s Daughter, credited only as Christina, adds a enjoyably creepy mute role to the film. Eerily functioning in the background around the town as our heroes blunder around trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances.
Karagiorgis is strangely cast as the hero in a role that is pivotal to the film and it feels uncomfortable. Swaggering around in cowboy boots and a beaten up, rented Cadillac, Karagiorgis does not possess much charisma on the screen to bolster the role. Instead he becomes annoyingly sceptical of the goings on, especially when Peters is repeatedly attacked.
One thing of note is that Karagiannis is a director known for films such as The Rape Killers and Porno Games. It might come as a surprise that the nudity in the film is shot with some skill, does not linger and is far from gratuitous. This helps elevate the film from a cheap grindhouse experience to a more serviceable late night horror flick.
I’m honestly glad to have seen The Devil’s Men, however, I honestly cannot say I would have no desire to revisit it in the future. I appreciate the work Powerhouse have put into bringing the film back and there might be a wealth of folks who dig this type of 70’s horror or seeing the careers of Pleasance and Cushing as they navigate the cinematic trends of the time.
The last line of the film suggests a sequel with Pleasence, Peters and Karagiorgis taking on another foe in the future. This didn’t happen and I’m fine with that.