Mark of the Devil (1970)

aka Hexen bis aufs Blut gequalt
Article 3006 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-31-2009
Posting Date: 11-6-2009
Directed by Michael Armstrong and Adrian Hoven
Featuring Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katrina
Country: West Germany

A town hopes the arrival of witch-hunter Lord Cumberland will free them from the tyranny of their local witch hunter, who has been abusing his authority for personal satisfaction. However, the new witch-hunter may be even worse…

One of the tag lines for this movie was “likely to upset your stomach”, and patrons were given barf bags when the movie was shown. Obviously, this witch-hunting / torture film modeled off of WITCHFINDER GENERAL wasn’t going for the art house crowd. The dubbing is often quite bad, the musical score thinks the movie is a romance or a swashbuckler, and the editing makes the movie quite confusing at times. It also does wallow in the exploitative sadism it mires itself into, which is probably the reason the movie was successful enough to spawn a sequel. Still, it does manage to have a storyline as well, occasionally it shows an interesting insight into the witch-hunting mindset, and it’s anchored by a good performance from the ever-dependable Herbert Lom. Apparently, the movie was originally to be directed by Michael Reeves (who probably would have given us something a little better), but when he died, the direction passed Michael Armstrong, who, according to IMDB, was Reeves’ assistant during WITCHFINDER GENERAL, though they list no credit for him; at any rate, I got the impression Armstrong knew a bit about Reeves’ style, but didn’t quite know how to make it work. Also, according to IMDB, the original ending featured the dead rising up and pulling the character of Christian into the abyss, but it was nixed by one of the directors. This ending makes no sense to me at all, given that the character of Christian is the closest this movie comes to a hero. I wonder if this piece of trivia is mistaken, and whether it might actually be Lord Cumberland who was to be pulled into they abyss; if not, it would have been one of the most cynical endings in movie history.

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