Film Review: The Devil’s Men (1976)

Also known as: Land of the Minotaur (alternative title)
Release Date: August 11th, 1976 (London premiere)
Directed by: Kostas Karagiannis
Written by: Arthur Rowe
Music by: Brian Eno
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Peter Cushing, Luan Peters

Poseidon Productions, Getty Pictures Corp., Crown International Pictures, 88 Minutes


Any excuse to see Donald Pleasence and Peter Cushing in the same movie is a valid one, even if the picture isn’t anywhere close to being the best that either man has ever done. Still, The Devil’s Men, also known as Land of the Minotaur, is a pretty cool picture to experience at least once if you’re a fan of occult horror or either of these men.

The film deals with a cult, led by Peter Cushing, that worships this speaking minotaur statue in a tomb. They abduct some people in an effort to sacrifice them and appease their weird god. However, priest Donald Pleasence and some allies have other plans and want to bring the evil cult down.

This goes just about how you’d expect from a low budget, smaller studio horror production from the ’70s. It’s slow at times but the cool stuff is really cool and makes the movie worthwhile. Plus, again, seeing Pleasence and Cushing at odds, it’s a treat.

The film was filmed primarily in Greece, which was visually neat and gave it a different aesthetic than just being another standard British horror production. Greece is a beautiful country with a rich, architectural history. And while I feel like the film didn’t fully utilize the country as well as it could have, it still gives the movie a very different feel with a new level of mystery mixed in.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally got around to seeing this picture. I remember trying to buy it for a couple of years and had a hard time tracking it down in the States without paying a pretty penny for it, which I couldn’t justify at the time. Now, it’s streaming for free.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: Dune – Extended Edition (1984)

Release Date: December 3rd, 1984 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: David Lynch (credited as Alan Smithee in the Extended Edition)
Written by: David Lynch
Based on: Dune by Frank Herbert
Music by: Toto, Brian Eno
Cast: Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino, Brad Dourif, José Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Silvana Mangano, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jack Nance, Siân Phillips, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Alicia Roanne Witt, Sean Young, David Lynch (cameo, uncredited)

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Universal Pictures, 137 Minutes (theatrical), 190 Minutes (Special Edition), 177 Minutes (Extended Cut)


“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Paul Atreides

I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed this yet, which surprised me. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite movies, even though most people absolutely do not feel the same way about it.

Granted, I should state that the Extended Edition is one of my all-time favorites, as it fleshes out a lot of story and is more coherent and easier to follow than the original theatrical cut that left those who didn’t read the book, baffled and irritated.

David Lynch, the director, also hates this picture and I find that a bit funny, as I think it’s his second best behind The Elephant Man. In regards to this edition and any of the other versions, he requested his name be removed from the film and it has since been replaced by “Alan Smithee”. Lynch has also refused to do a director’s cut and doesn’t like to talk about this movie in interviews.

Before I saw this longer cut of the film, Dune still had a pretty profound effect on me when I was a kid. While I found it somewhat hard to grasp, the story of a messiah figure rising to challenge the powerful elite in an effort to eradicate their tyranny and corruption still shined through. I definitely got that part of the story and beyond that, fell in love with the look of the film from its truly exotic sets, costumes and cultures. Visually, this is the version of Dune that I still see in my mind when I read any of the books in the series.

The Extended Edition has the same major issue that the theatrical cut did and that’s that this story is kind of hard to follow if one doesn’t know the source material. Although, the Extended Edition isn’t as bad in that regard, as it allows room for more details and character development.

I used to love this film so much that it eventually inspired me to read the Frank Herbert books in his Dune series. Having read the first book and really loving it even more than this film, it kind of opened my mind up to the movie in a bigger way and I saw this as a visual companion piece to the literary novel. But I understand why that probably doesn’t work for most people, who won’t read the first book because it is pretty thick and dense.

Getting back specifically to this film, it still should have been crafted in a way that it could’ve been more palatable for regular moviegoers. I think that this would have been a pretty big deal and a more beloved film had it not come out after the original Star Wars trilogy. People wanted more of that and Dune wasn’t an action heavy space adventure, it was a “thinking” movie and featured concepts that needed more exploration.

I think it’s pretty well directed, honestly, even if Lynch was unhappy with it and the whole experience was miserable for him. It did actually establish his relationships with many actors who would go on to be featured in a lot of his work after this, most notably Twin Peaks.

I also think this is well acted and it was my introduction to Kyle MacLachlan, a guy I’ve loved in everything he’s done, ever since. And beyond MacLachlan, this truly features an all-star cast.

The big issue with this film and adapting Dune in the first place, is that there just isn’t enough room in a single movie to tell this story. I think each of Frank Herbert’s original six novels should be adapted and told over an entire season of a series. It’s really the only way to do it right.

A new Dune adaptation is just a few weeks away from releasing in the United States, though. While the first book is going to be split over two films, I still think that it’s going to be hard to properly adapt it. We shall see and I’ll review that once I’m able to view it.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Opera (1987)

Also known as: Terror At the Opera
Release Date: December 19th, 1987 (Italy)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Music by: Brian Eno, Claudio Simonetti, Bill Wyman
Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, William McNamara, Daria Nicolodi

ADC Films, Cecchi Gori Cinematografica, RAI Italiana, Orion Pictures, 107 Minutes


Dario Argento is a pretty profound director in the Italian genre of giallo. He is also a master of horror. While his later pictures are very hit or miss, mostly miss, during the peak of his run, he made several outstanding and surreal works of live action art. Opera, while not being as great as some of the better known films in Argneto’s long filmography, is still an incredibly effective and frightening picture.

The plot follows Betty, who is pushed into replacing the female lead in an avant-garde version of Macbeth. Betty is reluctant and considers the role to be cursed. Despite her reservations, she takes the part and gives an amazing performance on her first go. Betty is a hit but she draws the attention of a psychotic stalker. The psycho then kills her boyfriend, her costume designer and her agent. Essentially, the killer wants to take away everyone who is close to her in an effort to have her for himself. However, when he kills these people, he typically does it in front of her, as she is forced to watch with needles taped to her eyes, which will blind her if she closes them.

Opera is a mystery and a thriller in the purest sense. You don’t know who the psychotic fan is until the very end. The film also employs an immense amount of vivid gore.

I wouldn’t quite call the film am Italian horror masterpiece, it has its minor flaws, but it is a refreshing experience even though it uses common giallo tropes and follows a similar path to Argento’s previous work. The opera setting and the tone, however, make the movie feel like a more mature outing from the director. There is just something more pristine and refined about Opera.

Many that I have heard talk about this film, often times express displeasure with the use of a heavy metal soundtrack during the gruesome murder scenes. I actually quite enjoy it, as it gives a tremendous feeling of contrast from the beautiful opera world that Betty lives in. It really makes the nightmare come to life in a way that overpowers the senses and can’t be ignored, much like the killings seen through the bleeding eyes of Betty. It takes you out of the film like a shock to the system but that’s the point. It is the horror screaming to Betty and the audience, “Look at me! You can’t ignore it! I am here!”

The use of the birds in the movie was great. Whether it was the use of their eyes as a motif or how they were used from a plot standpoint to expose the killer in a crowded theatre. Their presence added an eeriness to the film, as they also served a real purpose. The climactic scene with the literal birds-eye-view flying through the audience in the opulent cylindrical opera house was magnificent.

Apart from that, Argento captured many wonderful and odd shots in the film. The use of strange angles and incorporating the environment in the way that he did, just magnified the uneasiness of the picture.

In the end, this is one of my favorite giallo films of all-time. It is also worthy of being in the upper echelon of Argneto’s great catalog.

Rating: 8/10