Devil's Men (The) AKA Land of the Minotaur (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (5th February 2022).
The Film

This offbeat horror film, starring genre icons Peter Cushing (The Revenge of Frankenstein, Star Wars), Donald Pleasence (You Only Live Twice, Halloween), and Luan Peters (Twins of Evil, Doctor Who), and featuring a score by the legendary Brian Eno, tells of a Satanic cult, led by Cushing, that is abducting tourists for ritual sacrifice Ė and only Pleasenceís priest can save them.

An eccentric, bloody cult shocker, The Devilís Men (also known as Land of the Minotaur) makes its world Blu-ray debut, presenting both the original and US cuts of the film in a new 2K restoration from the original negative, and accompanied by new and archival extras, including a feature-length Super 8 version of the film.

Video

Powerhouse Films have got their hands on one of the oddest of UK horror films made in the 1970s, the decade in which UK horror had a last hurrah having been revitalised by the success of Hammer since the '50s. It's yet another one of those pretty standard heroes versus satanist yarns and feels like an inferior variation on The Devil Rides Out (1967). In this one Donald Pleasance is the savant hero and Peter Cushing the villain and both do a good job with a substandard script with poorly written female roles and uneven direction (Kostas Karagiannis isn't good at directing many of the actors).

An international co-production with UK, USA and Greek financing in the mix with loads of questionable creative and casting decisions like casting a popular greek actor, Kostas Karagiorgis, as an American hard boiled detective from New York. Why not just make him a Greek detective as him being American has no appreciable impact on the story? The film seems to be a mix of production sound and overdubbing with Pleasance and Cushing providing their own voices and everyone dubbed is obviously speaking English.

Lovely locations, some nicely staged cult sacrifice sequences and the odd beautifully framed shot of the Greek scenery notwithstanding this film is a misfire. It does have a great gets-under-the-skin electronic score by Brian Eno and some funky prog tunes over the credits which give it a lift. The pace is uneven and the mid section os flabby. It does pick up considerably as the story moves towards it's conclusion but will never be anyone's favourite 1970s Peter Cushing or Donald Pleasance film. An agreeable timekiller for horror junkies but others need not indulge.

IMDB says this was shot in 35mm using spherical lens and matted to 1.66:1 during theatrical exhibition and that's what we have in this rather splendid new restoration carried out by Powerhouse Films. From the booklet:

The Devilís Men was restored at Final Frame Post, London. The filmís original 35mm camera negative was scanned at 2K. Restoration work was undertaken to remove dirt and unstable frames. The filmís mono audio was remastered from the original 35mm optical soundtrack element.

This is an excellent transfer. I still have the old 2005 DD Entertainment DVD which was presented in 4:3 letterboxed 1.66:1 and looked good for the time and for a letterboxed transfer. This new 1080p24 transfer, not surprisingly, blows it away allowing the rich colour values to shine through. Flesh tones are warm and there's plenty of vivid red in the occultists robes which kick out nicely. The greek scenery has lots of greens, beiges and browns and looks pretty sweet and inviting. Skys are a rich light blue. The solarised end credits swathed in red and green look perfectly balanced as the raucous end title track blares out.

Black levels are very satisfying with plenty of shadow detail, no unintended crush. Contrast has plenty of bright highlights and ensure that the dynamic range of the image effective making the image pleasingly detailed and balanced. Detail is strong although best in closeups. Grain is always present being courser in optically processed shots and during the credits but fine everywhere else. I couldn't see any print damage. Fidelity in Motion's encoding is excellent as always making sure that we get a seamless, film like experience at home. The only flaw is the slightly ragged looking opening French credit card which seems spliced in from a different source with a slight jump as it merges with the main restoration ('A').

Both the UK and censored, shortened US edit use the main restoration and are seamlessly branched. The US version mainly removes nudity to get an MPAA PG-certificate. The complete Super 8 version of the film is a great companion to the restoration because it shows just what film collectors had to put up with back in the day to watch films at home. There's tons of print damage throughout, crush, blown-out highlights and it also looks like a centre crop from the hard matted 1.66:1 original so feels zoomed and tight with image loss on all four sides it's also missing the black screen after the end credits which accounts for the running time differences ('E').

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.66:1 / 94:24 (uncut UK version), 85:41 (PG US version), 93:20 (uncut Super 8 version).

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A glorious, generally pretty strong mono track found on a low budget British horror film of the period although there is some minor distortion occasionally when sounds get loud like in the satanic ceremonies but not in any way that'll annoy anyone. Dialogue is always clear albeit some of the dubbing sounds slightly canned. It doesn't have a huge range or depth but the score is well served and doesn't hinder clarity.

The usual excellent hard of hearing subtitles are provided ('B').

Extras

Audio commentary on the UK theatrical version by journalists David Flint and Adrian J. Smith (2021)

Two old pros and fans of the film pack this track with absolutely loads of value covering it's origins, the financing, the score, the cast, Pleasance's Irish accent, the connections to Island of Death (1975), Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977) ... there's lots of savour and the track makes one appreciate the film's modest charms all the more. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0

"The John Player Lecture with Peter Cushing: Conducted by David Castell at the National Film Theatre, London on 21 January 1973" plays as an alternate audio track over the UK theatrical version (91:39)

Cushing was always an agreeable interview subject and great raconteur, keeping audiences amused and enthralled as he does here in this invaluable recording. The sound is rather flat but then again in was never intended for commercial release. There are lots of laughs in this warmly nostalgic track and Cushing's modesty and gentlemanly candour are a pleasing listen. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.p mono.

"This Life and the Next: Frixos Constantine on The Devil's Men" 2022 featurette (7:48)

Brief but enjoyable interview with the chummy producer who regales us with some nice anecdotes and stories about his work on this film. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Land of the Minotaur Trailer (2:34)
Land of the Minotaur TV Spot (0:32)


Vintage promos presented in 1080p24 1.66:1 (former) 1.33:1 (the later) with lossy Dolby Digital 1.0 sound on both. The trailer is in vintage shape with minor damage and speckling. The TV spot is cleaner but softer.

The Devil's Men Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (26 images)

Decent HD still gallery.

36-page liner notes booklet by Andrew Graves, an archival interview with star Donald Pleasence, extracts from original promotional materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Chunky hardcopy companion with a thoughtful new essay on the film with some other worthwhile goodies for fans to savour.

Packaging

Clear BD Keepcase.

Overall

This fun but undeniably lesser entry from the heyday of British horror is still enjoyable and given the royal treatment in this absolutely essential new release from Powerhouse Films who've had it lovingly restored from the original camera negative. Image and sound quality are about as good as can be shy of UHD BD and extras are topnotch and superb. Speaking personally, this is definitely going to be on my best of the year list come January 2023! Get it bought!

The Film: C Video: A Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: A-

 


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