Mark of the Devil title

Tag line : The most horrifying film ever made.

Mark of the DevilBorrowing heavily from Witchfinder General, this European cash in takes place sometime during the 16th century in a remote town in rural Austria. Here, the noted Witchhunter Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) has been summoned to oversee the local witch trials, after the towns current witchfinder, known as the Albino (Reggie Nalder), has been found getting a little too carried away with his work.

The locals hope with the arrival of Cumberland, that future trials will be carried out in a fair and just manner. But it isn't too long before they realise that their new Witch hunter is no less brutal or over zealous in his judgements. As he swiftly starts sentencing the unfortunate souls brought before him to various nasty forms of torture and execution.

Cumberland's young apprentice, Count Christian (Udo Kier), initially believes they are doing gods work. But when a young maiden named Vanessa is accused of Witchcraft by the Albino, for nothing more than rejecting his advances, he begins to have a crisis of faith.

Suspecting the Count to be torturing and murdering his way through the various villagers and noblemen for personal gain, he starts to rebel. But with the villagers beginning to turn hostile towards them, is it too late for him to put matters right?

Filmed by British director Michael Armstrong for a German film crew, "Mark of the Devil" proves to be an even more brutal affair than Witchfinder General, showing even more graphic scenes of torture and execution, as the unfortunate victims are seen being stretched on racks, burned with branding irons, flogged with cat-of-nine-tales and stabbed with various sharp implements in graphic close up before being either beheaded or lowered into a burning funeral pyre whilst still alive.

Though the film is quite graphic, it would be unfair to simply dismiss it as pure exploitation. The film is well acted and does have a number of sympathetic characters and does try to show you the sort of brutally unjust things that went on back then, in which cunning men preyed on the superstitions of locals for either settling scores, or financial gain.

Makes an excellent companion piece to the aforementioned "Witchfinder General".

Overall marks : 6/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • The production company had originally wanted to hire the director of "Witchfinder General", Michael Reeves, but he'd died before production could begin. The job was subsequently offered to fellow British director Michael Armstrong, who worked for the same studios, after the producers saw his film "The Haunted House of Horror".

  • The German title of this film "Hexen bis aufs Blut Gequšlt" translates as "Witches to on the blood tormented"(?????).

  • This was Udo Kier's first colour feature film. He went on to star in numerous European and American horror films. Most notably, Andy Warhol's "Blood for Dracula" and "Flesh for Frankenstein", and cult classics "Story of O", "Suspiria" and "House on Straw Hill". He also starred in "Blade" and the 2007 remake of "Halloween". fans of Rock band Korn may recognise him as one of the military scientists from their music video "Make me Bad".

  • Much of the dialogue used during the torture and execution scenes in the film were actual quotes from genuine historical witch trials.

  • The castle used in the film was actually used for Witchfinding trials during the 16th century and is currently preserved as a museum, which is located in Mautendorf, Salzberg in Austria. The interiors seen in the film were not studio sets, but the actual rooms of the castle. In fact most of the torture devices used in the film were actual period devices borrowed from the museum and not props.

  • Herbert Lom has starred in many horror films, including "Asylum", "Now the Screaming Starts" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue", though he is probably best remembered for his role as the long suffering police chief Inspector Dreyfuss from the original Pink Panther movies.

  • The original scripted title of the film was "The Witch Hunter Dr Dracula", and was written by the producer Adrian Hoven. However Michael Armstrong said the title and script stank and that he would have to heavily re-write it before agreeing to direct. The production company agreed, but producer Adrian Hoven was furious and this marked the start of a long running dispute between him and the director over what direction the film should go in, which eventually ended with Armstrong leaving the set close to the end of the shoot.

  • Producer/co-writer Adrian Hoven finished directing the film after the original director Michael Armstrong left, even re-shooting several scenes, though only Armstrong was named in the credits due to contractual obligations.

  • According to Udo Kier, director Michael Armstrong had originally filmed an ending with the dead coming back to life and pulling his character beneath the ground, but when Adrian Hoven took over he ordered all the negatives of this destroyed as he hated the idea. Stills of this scene were included in an interview with him on the US DVD by Blue Underground.

  • The original UK theatrical release was very heavily cut, shortening most of the torture scenes and the rape sequence. An uncut video was released in the early 80s by Intervision, but this was pulled from shelves when the video recordings act came into effect in 1984. The 1993 video release by Redemption films was cut similarly to the old UK theatrical version by around 4mins. The 2003 release by Anchor Bay UK faired better, suffering only 38s of cuts.

  • Producer/co-director Adrian Hoven appears in the film as one of the children's puppeteers.

  • The uncut version is available on US DVD from Blue Underground and in Holland from Dutch Film Works.

  • A sequel, "Mark of the Devil 2", which starred some of the same actors in different roles, was filmed the following year, which was written and directed by the producer Adrian Hoven. However this was critically panned and regarded as a pale imitation of the original. Michael Armstrong even commented that it was probably how the original would have turned out had he not re-written it.

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