THE DEVIL'S MEN (LAND OF THE MINOTAUR)
Color, 1976, 82m.
Directed by Costas Karagiannis
Starring Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, Cortas Skouras, Luan Peters
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC), Odeon (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), BCI (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Simply Meda (UK R2 PAL) (1.85:1)

TERROR
Color, 1978, 87m.
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Starring John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey, Sarah Keller, Mary Maude
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC), BCI (US R1 NTSC), Anchor Bay (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Rhino (US R1 NTSC)


The Devil's MenBy the mid-'70s, it seemed almost every other horror film pouring out of a Western country besides America had either Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, or some combination of the three; no exception to this rule is the oddball Greek shocker, The Devil's Men (released in the U.S. in theaters and on home video from Crown International in truncated PG-rated form as Land of the Minotaur, which pits the latter two actors against each other in a barely disguised knockoff of The Devil Rides Out spiced up by its unusually scenic locations.

On a remote Greek island, young tourists are disappearing thanks to a secret cult devoted to the Minotaur, a beast whose smoke-breathing statue demands human sacrifices -- as seen in detail in the precredits sequence. The wily Baron Corofax (Cushing) is largely to blame for this situation, but when the latest fresh meat (including hot pants-wearing Peters) is next in line for the slaughter, Milo Kaye (Skouras) and fellow fighter of evil Father Roche (Pleasence) unite to put a stop to this mythical madness.

Though usually ranked in the lower tiers of '70s Euro horrors, The Devil's Men offers a few modest thrills during sequences of the hooded cultists stalking their prey. Of course, the pairing of Cushing and Pleasence is worth seeing, too, even if Cushing is given relatively little to do. One big plus is the eerie, potent music score by the legendary Brian Eno, which pumps in plenty of atmosphere even when the film itself comes up short. Then there's the catchy, insane funk song over the end credits, only found in the European version and nearly worth the price tag all by itself. It's not quite "The Green Slime," but it's darn close... and wouldja believe the credited singer is Paul Williams?

First released on DVD in Britain as part of DD's "Masters of Horror" collection under its original title (4:3 letterboxed), this film made its American DVD debut as Land of the Minotaur when presented by BCI in its Crown cut, widescreen and anamorphically enhanced. The transfer seems to be taken from an okay print, though the contrast is a bit harsh and print damage is evident throughout with incredibly awful audio to boot. A subsequent UK standalone release followed from Odeon, but the real one to go for is the double feature from Scorpion... but more on that in a minute.

Co-billed first on the BCI disc and then again on the Scorpion one is a significantly wilder and more blood-sprattered title, the madcap witch romp Terror (another Crown release), directed by Norman J. Warren (Satan's Slave) and written by frequent Pete Walker scribe David McGillivray. The story begins with that old chestnut about a witch being executed and issuing a terrible curse that will cause all sorts of violent mayhem in the present day, but from that point on the film spirals off in a number of weird and colorful directions. A film crew has decided to shoot a movie around the real-life beheading of the black magic practitioner, and their efforts get them in plenty of trouble after some amateur hypnosis goes terribly wrong. Swords, film canisters, and levitating vehicles play various roles in the gory deaths, which often don't make sense but offer plenty of violent amusement.

Ditching the pointed social commentary of his Walker efforts like Frightmare, McGillivray offers a loose and often incoherent story that doesn't really play to the strengths of Warren, whose narrative shakiness is obvious from his other feautres. However, the director's admitted attempts to ape Suspiria right down to the throbbing, saturated color schemes result in some wonderfully tacky and entertaining effects, with one particularly lurid death scene involving a broken window even prefiguring a similar demise in Argento's Suspiria sequel, Inferno. No one in the cast has much of a chance to impress, but everyone runs around screaming and dying like a pro.

The first DVD release of Terror came from Rhino as part of their unfortunately titled Horrible Horrors series, which shuffled the film off in the most undignified manner as part of a multi-film set of Crown drive-in oddities. At least the open matte transfer looked pretty good. The subsequent UK release as part of Anchor Bay's Norman J. Warren Collection was far more problematic, using what appeared to be the same transfer as the Rhino version but overmatting it so severely to create a new anamorphic version that even the credits got lost offscreen. It also featured those awful, wholly superfluous phony DTS and Dolby 5.1 remixes that were in vogue at the time, but thankfully the mono track remained as an option as well. The BCI version easily bested them with a clean, colorful presentation with far roomier anamorphic framing. Note that the 16x9 presentation of both films is mentioned nowhere on the packaging, for some reason. No extras either.

That brings us to the 2012 double bill from Scorpion, which improves right out of the gate with an uncut, anamorphic transfer of The Devil's Men correctly framed at 1.66:1. The film still isn't much of a visual dazzler, but the improvement is obvious and the extra little helpings of topless nudity and bloodshed help make it a more lively experience than the TV-friendly slog most Americans have had to endure for decades. No real extras per se on that first film, but both titles are bookended with hosting sequences (and an intermission in between) featuring horror hostess Katarina Leigh Waters, which makes sense as this is part of her Katarina's Nightmare Theater line. Once again she's on her most comfortable turf here talking about British '70s horror (or in one case, British-Greek hybrid horror), and her enthusiasm makes for infectious viewing. The real extra sauce lies with Terror, which has the Anchor Bay UK extras (now out of circulation on the original source) ported over, dropping only the very lively Warren/McGillivray commentary track which will make completists hang onto that British cardboard coffin edition. The biggest bonus is easily "Bloody Good Fun" (or at least that's what it was called on the UK box, though the title card and US packaging say otherwise), which features Warren, McGillivray, producer Les Young, exec producer Moira Young, and several of the cast members (including The House that Screamed's Maude, Courage, Aubrey, and Elaine-Ives Cameron) talking about the making of the film, from its undisguised Argento borrowings to the zero-budget effects work. You also get a couple of snippets of deleted footage (one of them another bit from the recurring sex comedy film-within-a-film scenes, called "Bathtime with Brenda" here), the very similar American and French theatrical trailers, and bonus previews for more titles like Double Exposure, The Devil within Her, and Nothing but the Night.

Updated review on 3/6/12.