Mark of the Devil

Mark Of The Devil AKA: Austria 1700, Burn Witch Burn, Hexen, Satan 
Directed by Sergio Cassner as Michael Armstrong 
Starring: Herbert Lom, Oliveria Vuco, Herbert Fux, Udo Kier, Reggie Nalder 
1970, Germany

Highly entertaining but at the same time hauntingly violent, Mark Of The Devil is an excursion into witch hunting in the 17th century. The movie features many of the favorite and ghastly tortures of the time carried out upon those deemed to have committed blasphemy towards the church or sinned with the devil. In actuality these sinners are in most cases innocent people who refuse to sell their land to the church or are victims of the church, an institution this movie helps you to detest.

In Mark Of The Devil an incessant little cretin known simply by the name of Albino (played by Reggie Nalder) terrorizes the community ordering executions and tortures of witches and others he deems fit of Devil Worship (this may include the torture of women for not giving into his sexual whims). Soon, the town plays host to Count Cumberland (Harry Lom) who arrives to give some sort of moral order to executing "witches". The always fun to watch Udo Kier (of Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood Of Dracula fame) plays Cumberland's apprentice Christian but unfortunately his rich Austrian accent is dubbed over with a dull English voice. Christian follows Cumberland's rules to their fullest and has complete faith in him. Kier soon meets and falls in love with a young free spirited woman accused of witchcraft and eventually finds out Cumberland is an impotent crook as bad or worse than Albino, executing people for their possessions and riches.

From the beginning of the movie we get the idea that Albino is the much hated villain and Lom's character will in fact be an honest and lawful lord. Once we see Cumberland in action we find out these assumptions are false. The use of change of character is fun because for a little while you actually like Cumberland but his character becomes deceiving. In the torture department we get such good old fashioned fun as lashings, the rack, burning at the stake and a memorable scene where a tongue is ripped out of a screaming victim. The downfall of Mark Of The Devil is the weak conclusion, normally I'd enjoy this type of ending but for once I'd like a good old fashioned one. The music score is particularly good, very harmonious, the intro reminds me of Riz Ortolani's score for Cannibal Holocaust. I'd definitely rank Mark Of The Devil up there as a classic exploitation piece, fun and wholesome family entertainment at its finest. Every review says it but if you didn't know it there were sick bags offered to movie going patrons of the film in its debut opening in theatres. Followed by a couple of sequels.

-Richard Taylor



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