“I work to serve God — to rid the world of all evil.”
After falling in love with a bewitchingly beautiful barmaid (Olivera Katarina) in a European village, a count (Udo Kier) apprenticing as a witch-hunter to a lord (Herbert Lom) is distressed to learn that not only the town’s local witch-hunter (Reggie Nalder) but Lom and his team are deeply corrupt, arresting and torturing townspeople either for financial gain or sadistic satisfaction.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Historical Drama
- Witches and Wizards
Infamous for garnering a “V for Violence” rating at the time of its release (and for offering vomit bags to audience members) this English-dubbed West German horror film is merely “torture porn” wrapped in the guise of a respectable historical drama a la The Conquerer Worm/The Witchfinder General (1969) or The Devils (1971). Handsome, wide-eyed young Udo Kier displays exactly one expression throughout the film, and it’s humorously ridiculous to hear “sensual music” on the soundtrack every time he sees or interacts with feisty Katarina (who is no great actress, but is appropriately lust-worthy and has fine screen presence).
The film’s message — that witch-hunting was deeply corrupt and driven by impulses far removed from religiosity — is well-taken (and likely true), but again, simply a vehicle for scene… after scene… after gratuitous, gory scene… of medieval torture (think stretching racks, Chinese water torture, rape, tongues ripped out, etc.). Naturally, this kind of flick has its fans — but for all other film fanatics it will make for tough viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine cinematography and use of outdoor sets
Nope. Appropriately listed as Trash in the back of Peary’s book.
3 thoughts on “Mark of the Devil (1970)”
The actual date is 1969 for this one (on the print). I believe it did have some festival screenings in Germany in late 1969.
I saw this a number of years ago at the Bradford Media Museum with writer-director Michael Armstrong in attendance. He gave a very interesting screen talk about this troubled production and over dinner at Omar Khan’s we (Ben Halligan, Tony Earnshaw, Stanley Long) chatted about it; the big topic was how the sound equipment got lost so the film had to have the soundtrack created in post production ala Italian films of the time.
It was the brain child of producer-actor Adrian Hoven who wanted to direct it but the backers wanted Armstrong due to his connections to Michael Reeves and Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General (1968). Mark of the Devil was a riff / cash in on the Reeves film; one of many made around that time.
I found it to be surprisingly effective on the big screen with most of the performances being adequate or better (Lom, Nalder). I also loved Michael Holt’s contrastingly sweet score as it counterpoints the tragedy nicely. This 2012 screening was illicit and of the uncut version; at the time it was only sanctioned by the BBFC cut – minus a few seconds here and there. It’s now had a beautifully restored uncut Blu-ray release here. By today’s standards it’s pretty tame and nowhere near as as nasty as something like Hostel (2005) or Saw (2004) … or any of the other contemporary “video nasties” from the late ’70s / early ’80s like Cannibal Holocaust (1979).
A decent horror exploitation film was mostly good historical detail (so I’m told).
In agreement with the initial assessment. Stick with ‘Witchfinder General’ (same story, done more effectively) and / or ‘The Devils’ (which has similar aspects).
I saw this on its release. A rewatch did little for my ‘appreciation’ of it.