on 17 May 2015
In 18th century Austria a group of witch hunters torture and kill townsfolk for there money and possessions until they start to turn on themselves and the townspeople discover what they are doing.
Michael Armstrong's 1970 graphic but fascinating film isn't any easy watch. Despite not being liked apparently by any of his German crew Armstrong has managed to create a very intriguing and fairly damning (it was all done in the name of the religious state) supposed true story. The director wanted the violence to be very strong and unflinching and in this was successful, tongues are ripped out, women burned alive, men beaten to within an inch of there lives and much more, the torture scenes are graphic and bloody and many have an air of cruelty around them however this is not a negative, the picture needed these scenes as they create an atmosphere of dread and to tell its story of just what "good people" do. The writing, also done by Armstrong is excellent with the story unravelling at all the right times leading to a good mass revenge sequence, the performances are another strong point, Herbert Lom as the head of state witch hunter is excellent and the striking Reggie Nalder is very convincing, but the entire cast do a great job in their roles, apart really from Udo Kier who gives quite a blank distant performance. The gorgeous Austrian countryside gives this grim tale a much softer setting and the real torture equipment takes the violent scenes to another level. The final scenes of the townsfolk marching to their revenge is brilliant and infuriating because of what happens to certain people but is none the less effective ad thrilling.
Yes this is a very strong, brutal film but it most certainly is not a disgustingly nasty or unwatchable one, in fact despite the violence you may find that it's far more interesting and compulsively watchable than you might think. Luckily this was only put onto the Section 3 list here in Britain as it could've easily been a full DPP Video Nasty.
Set in early 18th-century Austria, the story is about a Witchfinder (Herbert Lom) and his young apprentice (Udo Kier). The two travel the countryside, terrorising people suspected of devil worship. When the Witchfinder goes too far by trying to rape a local girl, his apprentice rebels.
The overwhelming majority of the film looks very fresh and very vibrant. Clarity and depth are also very pleasing. The opening credits are a bit rough -- some wear marks and printed dirt spots are noticeable -- but then depth quickly improves. Colors are stable and always appear natural. There are no traces of problematic degraining corrections. However, in different parts of the film the grain could be slightly overexposed or underexposed. The major fluctuations can be traced back to the different elements that were accessed during the restoration, but time has also contributed to the unevenness. There are no traces of problematic sharpening adjustments. There are no serious transition issues and overall image stability is good. However, occasionally light shakiness (within the frame) can be spotted throughout the film (a good example can be seen around the 00.08.27 mark as Vanessa walks away). There are no large damage marks and debris, but some tiny scratches and flecks remain. Lastly, there are no encoding anomalies to report in this review. All in all, there is room for minor improvements, but the film has a very solid organic appearance. (Note: This is a Region A/B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you need to have a native Region-A, Region-B, or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
on 9 April 2007
This is a horror movie very much in the vein of movies such as Witchfinder General and Blood On Satan's Claw but it goes even further in terms of its scenes of graphic torture and violence.
The inimitable Reggie Nalder plays local witch finder Albino who pretty much rules the roost doing as he pleases, accusing various people of practising witchcraft and administering gruesome tortures and punishments, until Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) arrives with his assistant and protege Christian (Udo Kier) to take over.
One of the ladies on trial for witchcraft just happens to be the woman that Christian is in love with so he is torn between following his mentor and trying to save her from certain death if she is found guilty.
This love story plot element really runs secondary to a series of pretty nasty scenes involving genuine instruments of torture. People are stretched on racks and have their fingers and thumbs broken in thumb screws and, in perhaps the film's most famous scene, one woman has her tongue torn out with a pair of tongs.
Although these scenes are strong and uncomfortable to watch the film on the whole lacks the punch that Michael Reeves's far superior Witchfinder General has. For me, the acting is far better in Witchfinder General and the plot is far more involving.
Despite all the onscreen violence and carnage, there is some humour and irony to be found in Mark Of The Devil. Lord Cumberland (as in the sausage) is a good name for a character who is impotent and it is ironic that Udo Kier's character, who is drawn into the practice of dishing out punishments and supervising the various methods of torture, should be called Christian.
No review of this movie would be complete without mentioning Michael Holm's beautiful, if often inappropriate, music score. The main theme running through this film is a haunting Mantovani-esque love theme which contradicts the frequent nastiness taking place on the screen. I do not know why, but it seems to be a general rule of European horror films that the more bloody and brutal the film is then the lovelier the music has to be!
This DVD presents the film in widescreen format and is generally a decent enough print. However, I have two problems with this version, released by Anchor Bay. Firstly, although it is a much more complete version than the one released by Redemption Video in the 1990s, it is not an uncut version. It seems that certain scenes in this film still cause a bit of a problem for the film censors in Britain. I have heard that the version released in the USA by Blue Underground is uncut though. The second problem I encountered was with the sound. Occasionally I found that the sound was a bit wobbly in places but this did not occur too often and certainly not enough to spoil my overall viewing of this film.
There are a few extras on this disc including an interesting documentary where director Michael Armstrong gives us an insight into the problems he had making this movie and of his clashes with executive producer and actor Adrian Hoven. So, all in all, not a bad package for horror fans although I was slightly disappointed that no vomit bag was included - cinema goers were treated to this free gift when the film was first shown. How about releasing Mark Of The Devil 2 on DVD? - Over to you Anchor Bay or any other DVD company.
on 23 July 2013
This was one of those late 60s/early 70s euro-horror flicks that resembled the likes of Blood on Satan's Claw and Witchfinder General. It appears to be the one that every cult movie fanatic is drawn to, mostly due to the commotion and general hype caused by both the promotion of the film (handing out barf bags at the cinema, using other traits like the 'v' for violence gimmick - listed as the films classification on the original poster)and the lurid acts of violence/mutilation depicted. It is by no means 'the most horrifying film ever made' as the advertisement suggests but the scenes of violence are pulled off reasonably well - there is a fair bit of gore if that's what the viewer is searching for. Having said this, they may wish to brace themselves as the film mostly consists of the story, the characters and the style - it is a historic piece with some impressive production values as far as costume and location are concerned. This is odd for exploitation cinema but not entirely uncommon - some movies are invested in more than others and thats just the way it works. I did enjoy this one, go on...at least give it a watch (Blue Underground DVD - Highly Recommended).
on 11 March 2014
Mark of the Devil created quite a bit of controversy in its time and remained heavily censored in the UK up until its recent, uncut Arrow Video release. It was directed by Michael Armstrong, who directed the earlier British horror flick The Haunted House of Horror. It's obviously influenced by the classic Witchfinder General, and outdoes that film with its depictions of sadistic torture and rape. It has the superb Herbert Lom in the main role as the misogynistic witchfinder, Udo Keir as his troubled young assistant, and Reggie Nalder as Lom's equally nasty rival witchfinder. The rest of the cast are made up by faces that are unfamiliar to me, but they all do a fairly good job. The film looks very authentic with great use of sets, costumes and genuine implements of torture. I'd recommend the Blue Underground DVD as it's fully uncut, and comes with some nice extras. I'd also recommend Arrow Video's fantastic Blu-ray release, which, as usual with Arrow, is jam-packed full of interesting extras. If you're a fan of 70s horror, pick it up!
on 30 May 2014
REVIEWED VERSION: 2014 Arrow Video UK Blu-Ray (also includes DVD)
Director: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven (uncredited)
Cast: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katarina, Reggie Nalder, Herbert Fux, Johannes Buzalski, Michael Maien, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schöner
Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier), an apprentice witch hunter arrives in a small Austrian town, where witch finder Albino (Reggie Nalder) is practicing his own brand of justice. His unfounded accusations which always lead to executions have caught the attention of Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) who is dispatched there to establish some "real" law and order.
Albino, taking offense in the two stepping on his toes, officially indicts Christian's love interest Vanessa (Olivera Katarina) to get back at him. As the charges against Vanessa become official, Christian has to watch helplessly as she stands trial...
THE PROS & CONS
MARK OF THE DEVIL is one of the best German movies. Unlike most German movies, that feature horrible acting, the actors and actresses in MARK OF THE DEVIL are all top-notch: a young Udo Kier playing the naive witchfinder's apprentice, Herbert Lom as the Witchfinder General is a class of his own, as is Reggie Nalder as the local witchfinder. My personal favorite was Herbert Fux as the executioner, a brilliant performance! Gaby Fuchs should also be mentioned as her role is very degrading, but she is very convincing.
Excellent directing job by Michael Armstrong, who also wrote the script.
Due to conflicts between Armstrong and producer Adrian Hoven, which led to Armstrong leaving, Hoven finished the film, directing roughly two thirds of the final film.
HEXEN BIS AUFS BLUT GEQUALT (Original German title, which roughly translates as "Witches tortured bloody") was made to cash in on the hugely successful WITCHFINDER GENERAL, made only two years prior. I found MARK OF THE DEVIL to be of equal quality, rather than a cheap copy of the Vincent Price classic.
Although marketed as a horror movie, MARK OF THE DEVIL really isn't one. Causing much uproar in some countries (being banned in Germany 32 years after its release) this movie has scenes of extreme violence and torture that even can compete with some of today's films in the torture porn genre, still there is much more to it!
It has quite the censorship history in England as well: it was cut by approx. 4 mins. for the cinema release and rated X. The 1993 VHS version suffered a total of approx.4 1/2 minutes of BBFC snips. In 2003 most of the previous cuts were waived for the Anchor Bay DVD release, but the BBFC still took offense in a particular scene of "sexualized torture" which led to this version being cut by 38 seconds. In 2014 the BBFC finally waived the last cut.
MARK OF THE DEVIL is more than "just another torture porn". This one's actually got a story! And a gripping one, too. You care for the characters. It critically examines the inquisition and all its insanity and the violence shown is never simply exploitative, but necessary to show how decadent the so-called witchfinders were. Another important message this film clearly brings across is that these men were anything BUT religious, often committing their deeds simply to satisfy their sexual desires.
I can only highly recommend this masterpiece of the history /inquisition genre, although it is intense and requires some nerve to watch.
Previous DVD releases in the US and UK only contained the (badly) dubbed English language track, this Arrow release now also contains the superior German audio track with optional subtitles and is well worth the upgrade, I know I'm glad I upgraded!
Now how about MARK OF THE DEVIL II?
Feature running time: 97:22 mins. (uncut)
Rating: Unrated (MPAA) / 18, uncut (BBFC) (rerated 2014)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 / 16:9
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono, German LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English (for German audio) and English SDH (optional)
Extras: DVD version of the film, booklet on the film (43 pages), Reversible Sleeve with different artwork, Audio Commentary by Michael Armstrong, Mark of Times Featurette (47:37), Hallmark of the Devil Featurette (12:12), Interviews with: Composer Michael Holm (24:19), Actor Udo Kier (10:46), Actor Herbert Fux (23:06), Actress Gaby Fuchs (10:26), Actress Ingeborg Schoner (9:05), Audio Interview with Herbert Lom (4:40), Mark of the Devil: Now and Then Featurette (7:06), Outtakes (3:03), Gallery, Theatrical Trailer (3:27)
Region: Blu-Ray: A & B, DVD: 1 & 2 (NTSC)
Picture quality: 5/5
Audio quality: 4/5