Mark of the Devil is a 1969 West German horror film released in 1970. The German title, Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält, translates as “Witches Tortured to Death”.
The movie is most remembered for its US marketing slogans devised by Hallmark Releasing Corp. (Don’t Look in the Basement) that included “Positively the most horrifying film ever made” and “Rated V for Violence”. Meanwhile, vomit bags were infamously given to moviegoers.
The film is based upon a script by Michael Armstrong (The Haunted House of Horror; The Black Panther; House of the Long Shadows). The production was made to cash in on the success of the Michael Reeves’s 1968 classic Witchfinder General and helped initiate a spate of films that exploited witch hunting – for further details see Burn, Witch, Burn! Witchfinders in Horror Cinema article .
“Current prints of the film all end rather abruptly. For some reason, the original ending, which featured the dead returning to life, has vanished and cannot be found (although stills exist showing what it looks like). This might not be such a bad thing: a supernatural conclusion would have damaged the story considerably, and the brutal manner in which the film now finishes is strangely in keeping with the cold tone of the movie as a whole.
Mark of the Devil started life as a project by ex-matinee idol Adrian Hoven, who had written a screenplay entitled The Witch-Hunter Dr Dracula, which featured the Count as a vampire witchfinder. Hoven’s producers, Gloria Film, refused to let him direct, and Armstrong was brought in. He immediately rewrote the script (using the pseudonym Sergio Cassner), much to the anger of Hoven, who ended up with a small part in the movie and directed his own scenes after a number of shouting matches with Armstrong.”
The success of the film led to a sequel, and this time Hoven did direct. Starring Erica Blanc (Devil’s Nightmare) and Anton Diffring (Circus of Horrors), the film was little more than a lurid rehash of the profitable elements from the first film (i.e. the torture of half-naked women), without any of the intelligence or power.
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…
Special Edition Contents:
High definition digital transfer
Newly created and exclusive content including interviews with cast and crew!
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film and more!
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“The acting is mostly solid and does not suffer too much from the dubbing of the dialogue. Then, of course, there’s the completely shameless, but basically successful way in which the filmmakers try to manipulate the feelings of their audience, almost forcing you to play along even though you know you’re being played.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“One of the signature examples of 1970s exploitation at its most grueling. It’s been over 40 years, but it still retains a few squirm-inducing moments to leave its Mark on modern audiences.” Cool Ass Cinema
“While picturesque Alpine vistas and historically authentic locations do lend a sheen of respectability, Mark of the Devil is at heart a pretty sleazy movie. The nudity and gore is purely exploitative. Problem is, there isn’t really enough of either on hand to satiate horndogs and/or gorehounds. Armstrong deliberately passes up numerous chances to pile it on.” Eccentric Cinema
“Mark of the Devil isn’t without its faults–it’s a little unfocused and quite episodic, as the witch hunters basically bounce from one set of suspects to the next, with Kier’s growing distrust and awareness serving as the narrative backbone. Each scenario is more absurd than the last, though, which gives the film a nice sense of escalation and provides a logical progression.” Oh, the Horror!