Mark Of The Devil (1970) (Blu-ray review).

April 4, 2015 | By | Reply More

Probably one of the most horrific films ever made, ‘Mark Of The Devil’ now appears uncut on Blu-ray for the first time. Set in Austria in the early 18th century, it is based on the activities of the witchfinders and it is essentially 90 minutes of sadistic, brutal torture. There are no niceties in this film and there’s no let up in the cruelty it displays.

MarkOfTheDevil-bluray

Made in 1969, it was an attempt to follow on from the successful ‘Witchfinder General’ starring Vincent Price made a year earlier, which it far surpasses in the amount of sheer sadism portrayed. All the more gruesome in enhanced Blu-ray, the blood is redder and the screams are more piercing! So bad was ‘Mark Of The Devil’, it was banned in many countries, including the UK, until just recently.

Count Christian von Meruh (actor Udo Kier) acts as the mild-mannered apprentice of the chief witchfinder Lord Cumberland (actor Herbert Lom). The setting is an Austrian castle, a genuine one at that which was once used as a torture chamber and, at the time of shooting the movie, it served as a museum with all the implements available on show. What you see happening actually took place at one time or another in the past which contributes to the intense horror contained in the movie. There are no fictional vampires or monsters to be seen and nothing out of the realms of fairytale stories. The monsters are humans and the actions are examples of inhumanity to man and woman.

The town already contains a witchfinder, a really despicable and illiterate lout, Albino (actor Reggie Nalder). He is a pervert who, along with his henchmen, single out young women to abuse. They invariably end up dead, burnt at the stake only after a long and protracted torture and the details of which are graphically illustrated in the movie. However, he becomes a bit peeved when the big chief witchfinder and his apprentice arrive to push him to the side.

One of Lord Cumberland’s victims is a young man, an aristocrat, who has been proclaimed as a wizard. In order to save himself, he has to confess to dealing with the devil, after which all his belongings and estate will be sent to the church. Essentially, it’s an extortion racket. The man refuses to bend, only to be severely tortured. All sorts of horrible things are done to him, even the lighting of a fire under his seat. Still refusing to bend he’s eventually beheaded.

Another young woman is accused of being a witch. Strangely, all the witches are very attractive women, not old hags as you would think. She was raped by a bishop and when a child appeared, rather than accept the child as his own, she was said to have slept with the devil. In order to make her confess, she is horribly tortured, even to the extent of having her tongue ripped out, all graphically shown in the movie. She is eventually set on fire.

None of the characters are likeable and that includes the young apprentice. They are all utterly distasteful and the entire proceedings of the movie likewise. This is a beast of a film, one which leaves you disgusted, annoyed and shocked. Don’t watch it! It is an assault on your senses. What makes it worse is that the setting is real and so are the torture implements. This is no fantasy, it’s based on fact. Years ago, in every country, people were tortured and killed in terrible circumstances because of corrupt officials and dogmatic religion. This movie brings it all back to reality.

However, if you must watch it, the Blu-ray does come with lots of extra material. Viewing it in German with subtitles is probably better than with dubbed voices and the commentary by the director is quite interesting. Whatever you do, watch it at your peril.

Heaps of extras with the Blu-ray. Notable interest was the commentary by the director, Michael Armstrong, and also a feature length documentary about horror movie directors from the 60s and 70s. The one I liked the most was a short feature on the film’s location in Austria and how it has changed over time. You begin to wonder how such a quaint and beautiful area can become so immersed in horror? Some Blu-ray discs are a bit scanty on extras but this one seems to be generously abundant with plenty to keep you interested.

Rod MacDonald

March 2015

(region 2 blu-ray. pub: Arrow Films. 2 blu-ray disks 92 minute film. Price: £15.99 (UK). ASIN: B00KHRI37S)
cast: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier and Olivera Katarina
language: German
sub-titles: English.
check out website: www.arrowfilms.co.uk

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Category: Films, Horror

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