Mark of the Devil

What was once considered shocking and controversial in 1970 comes off as silly and pretentious in 1999. Check out the lovely insert card inside the DVD of “Mark of the Devil,” the notorious English-German co-production from director Michael Armstrong (obviously an American pseudonym).

markofthedevil“Positively the most horrifying film every made!” exclaims the headline on the insert card. “The First film rated V for violence.” Uh, okay. “Do to the horrifying scenes no one admitted without a vomit bag.” Geez, and I didn’t even eat the airline food. “All ages admitted-Parental escorts encouraged!” Meaning, hey parents, we already know your horny teenagers are going to want to see this crap, so we want you to tag along so we can make more money! Ah, the good old days of William Castle. You remember William Castle. He wasn’t the greatest horror film director, but the man knew how to sell a movie.
Whether he was shocking you in the rear end or dangling skeletons above an audience, Castle knew that audiences were gullible. So welcome to “Mark of the Devil,” a film that’s one part William Castle, one part Herschell Gordon Lewis, and one part Monty Python. It’s a silly mess that plays more like a bad Monty Python skit about the Spanish Inquisition as shot by American International Pictures than a real stab at horror.

The English- German production has been dubbed for American audiences, even though the actors spoke phonetic English. Everyone except for star Herbert Lom sound like they were speaking in a closet. Lom is okay as the devious Count Cumberland, who arrive in a small Austrian town in 1770 to hunt out and punish those in cahoots with the Devil. It doesn’t take much to brand someone a witch, usually just a bad night in the sack. So it comes as no surprise to the locals when Cumberland starts collecting and torturing those branded as witches and conspirators with Satan.

Too bad we can’t get Cumberland to weed out Congress. There’s a lackluster love story between one of the local women and Cumberland’s assistant, played by Udo Kier (“Flesh for Frankenstein,” “Blood of Dracula”), who finds himself torn between what he feels in his heart and his loyalty to duty when the woman is accused of being a witch. Director Armstrong does a competent job of putting the camera in the right place, but the performances are laughable, and the dialogue stilted. The film’s big draw was supposed to be it’s depiction of torture and murder, but by today’s standards it’s tame and actually quite amusing. The gore effects are simply sub-standard, so you never believe what you see for a moment. Obviously the film maker’s were trying for a gross out affair like Herschell Gordon Lewis was churning out here in the United States.

They failed miserably. More costume drama than horror story, “Mark of the Devil” takes itself far too seriously, except for the awful, totally inappropriate musical score that totally misses the mark. What’s with that goofy music? “Mark of the Devil” is the kind of film that would have filled in the bottom of a drive-in triple bill in Arkansas.


VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

For such an awful film, “Mark of the Devil” arrives on video with a pretty decent digital transfer that is a little pasty in moments. The images are surprisingly sharp and vivid, with decent color and flesh tones. The blacks don’t hold up as well, which is too bad because a majority of the film takes place in shadows. Delivered in the film’s original 1.66:1 widescreen ratio, the transfer is clean although the original negative has some obvious wear and tear.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Standard Dolby Digital Mono track is no big deal. It gets the job done, but since the film has been dubbed, the dialogue mix is unsettling. You might as well leave your sound system off and just listen through the television speakers.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ X ] Weak

There’s a lovely little insert card that is a replication of the original lobby card. Even though there are 12 Chapter Stops on the DVD, they don’t count off on your DVD Player display.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ X ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Only rent this one if you’re capable of getting your hands on some hard core hallucinogens.

VITALS: $29.99/Rated R/97 Minutes/Color/12 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#DV10601




HMO: Anchor Bay Entertainment


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