I’ve just watched a horror movie, originating from West Germany in 1970, written and directed by Michael Armstrong (“The Haunted House Of Horror”), titled “Mark Of The Devil”.
In an unnamed European village the local witch hunter Albino (Reggie Nalder – “Dracula Sucks”, “Fellini’s Casanova”) lords over the local population, with a nasty zeal. He is able to accuse of witchcraft and sentence to death anyone that he sees fit without fear of reprisal.
Count Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier – “Suspiria”, “Blood For Dracula”) arrives in the town to announce the imminent arrival of his mentor, the Royal-approved witch hunter Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom – “Return Of The Pink Panther”, “The Dead Zone”) to take over from Albino.
Christian demands that Albino hand over all the paperwork for previous witch trials as evidence. There is no such paperwork, so when Albino notices Christian’s attraction to local girl Vanessa Benedikt (Olivera Katarina – “Goya”, “Kiss Kiss Kill Kill”) he accuses her of witchcraft.
When Lord Cumberland begins to hear the cases brought before him Christian has no choice but to accept the charge against Vanessa, as he believes Cumberland’s mantra that God will prove the innocence of anyone accused who is not guilty.
As the story develops Christian witnesses a girl claiming to have been raped by a priest dismissed as a blasphemer and later a family of puppeteers who are clearly innocent for all to see accused and imprisoned, leading Christian to begin to question the quest that Cumberland and he have been engaged upon…
Given the tag line “positively the most horrifying film ever made” and publicised as being “the film first rated “V” for violence”, this film followed directly in the footsteps the 1968 movie “Witchfinder General” which was based on the real-life character Matthew Hopkins and his reign of terror in the eastern counties of England during the 1640s.
Although it can be seen as relatively tame by today’s torture porn standards, “Mark Of The Devil” uses some quite extreme violence – physical and sexual – for its time. There are scenes of rape, a bare-breasted woman being tortured whilst stretched on the rack, numerous wounds inflicted by a variety of blades and even a tongue being ripped out, so this is not a movie for the squeamish.
Underneath all that, however, the film examines the motivations that may have been behind some of the accusations of consorting with the devil that were levelled in that era – sexual, the appropriation of belongings, etc. – as well as the less than Christian attitudes and deeds of those claiming to be doing the Lord’s work.
Not as essential as the aforementioned “Witchfinder General”, this is nonetheless a very effective film at depicting the pain and suffering encountered during the horrific witch trials that did take place, and so is recommended for that reason…