Mark of the Devil. Film Review

Director: Michael Armstrong
Screenplay: Michael Armstrong
Starring: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Reggie Nalder, Olivera Katarina
Running Time: 97mins
Format: Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD
Certificate: 18
Reviewed by Guy Adams

One’s enjoyment of MARK OF THE DEVIL depends entirely on how much plot you like with your screaming. Armstrong claims the movie is a critique of the atrocities carried out during the religious panic of the witch trials, a viewpoint that would have a little more weight if the movie was something more potent than old men being horrible to blondes for an hour and a half. I would suggest it’s as much a critique of violence as the director’s ESKIMO NELL was a critique of nipples.

All of which is fine, I’m not beyond grisliness for grislinesses’ sake as long as the violence is there to instill fear, placing the wincing audience on the edge of its seats and keeping them there. It serves a purpose. I’m not sure the violence in MARK OF THE DEVIL serves anything except to fill time, which is why it will never so much as offer a match to the emotional bonfire that is Michael Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

Herbert Lom is reliably dour, Reggie Nalder sneers as hatefully as ever and Udo Kier hovers over it all as the ethereal beauty he certainly was. Still, the overall experience is empty and disappointing. You can only watch a woman being tortured for so long before it all becomes strangely dull, which is hardly the effect aimed for if you’re offering a critique.

Arrow’s disc offers a lovely restoration of an uncut print. Those blood-streaked bodies fair glisten in HD.

The special features go some way towards making the disc a worthwhile purchase. There’s a commentary from Michael Armstrong that discusses the troubled production; a feature on the controversial distribution company, Hallmark releasing, who famously issued a sick bag to audiences attending the movie; interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schoner and Herbert Lom and a featurette on the locations used.

Most interesting is the fifty minute documentary ‘Mark of the Times’ in which Armstrong discusses the rise of a new wave of seventies British horror alongside Norman J. Warren, Kim Newman, Peter Hutchings and the ever-engaging David McGillivray.