Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 22nd, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: West Germany, 1970
Directors: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven (uncredited)
Writer: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven
Cast: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katarina, Reggie Nalder, Herbert Fux, Johannes Buzalski, Michael Maien, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schöner, Adrian Hoven
BluRay released: September 29th, 2014
Approximate running times: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono German
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region A & B / Region 1 & 2 NTSC (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: A wiitchfinder named Albino finds himself in the crosshairs of more prominent witchfinder named Lord Cumberland, who calls into question Albino’s methods for exposing those in league with the devil.
Though witchcraft has served as the premise of countless films, it was not until the release of Michael Reeves Witchfinder General that another more brutal sub-genre would emerge. And in this sub-genre all of the films would take place during the eighteenth century and they would all feature in a prominent role a witchfinder character. Another things that would become synonymous with this genre was its graphic deception of torture towards those who were accused of being a witch. Besides the aforementioned Witchfinder General, a few other key films in this sub-genre include, The Bloody Judge, Cry of the Banshee and Inquisition.
There are two main narratives which run throughout Mark of the Devil. One involves a love story between a bar maid named Vanessa and Lord Cumberland’s apprentice Count Christian von Meruh. And the other revolves around the rise and fall of Lord Cumberland. And these two narrative eventually intersect when Christian is forced to choose between his love for Vanessa or his devotion to Lord Cumberland his mentor.
Outside of what characters reveal about other characters, this is the extent to this film’s back-story. Basically the majority of the characters are defined by the reputations and their motivations are always crystal clear? With that being said, there are only a few characters that exude any sympathy in this film.
Of course the thing that most are quickly drawn too when thinking about this film are is shocking moments of torture. And rightfully so, since it is in this area that this film resonates the most. There are beheading’s, death by inferno, torture racks, branding flesh with hot irons and ripping out the tongues of those who refuse to confesses their sins. Needless to say that these moments of brutality have not lost any of their potency.
Performance wise the entire cast are great in their respective roles, especially Herbert Lom (Count Dracula, The Secret of Dorian Grey) in the role of Lord Cumberland. He gives a towering performance that dominates the film. And even his arrival in the film announces his importance. Other performances of note include Reggie Nalder (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) in the role of Albino and Gaby Fuchs (The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman) in the role of Deidre von Bergenstein, the young woman whose tongue is ripped out by Lord Cumberland’s men. Ultimately Mark of the Devil is a well-made melodrama that handles the subject of witch hunting with the utmost zeal.
Mark of the Devil comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Flesh tones look accurate, colors look nicely saturated and appropriately vibrant, most notably the color red. Details generally look crisp, black and contrast levels look very good throughout. There are no issues with compression and grain looks natural.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and a LPCM Mono mix in German. There are no issues with distortion or background noise. And though both audio mixes sound clear and balanced throughout. It should be pointed out that the German audio mix sounds more robust of these two audio mixes. Also incldued with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 27 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a stills gallery, interviews with actors Udo Kier (10 minutes 45 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in German with English subtitles), Herbert Fux (10 minutes 45 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in German with English subtitles), Gaby Fuchs (10 minutes 26 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in German with English subtitles), Ingeborg Schöner (9 minutes 4 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in English), composer Michael Holm (24 minutes 19 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in English) and an audio only interview with actor Herbert Lom (4 minutes 40 seconds) and outtakes (3 minutes 3 seconds -1080 Progressive Widescreen), a much larger selection of outtakes can be accessed highlight ‘Outtakes’ and press right (39 minutes 2 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen).
Topics covered in the interviews with the actors include how they got involved in the film, the role that they portrayed, working with Michael Armstrong, the barf bags that which were given out as part of this film’s American theatrical release, they also discuss other members of the cast and what is was like to work with them, their thoughts on the final product and its unflinching depiction of violence. Topics discussed by composer Michael Holm include how he became involved with this film, his score for the film and other projects he has worked on.
Other extras include a documentary about the company that released Mark of the Devil in the USA titled ‘Hallmark of the Devil’ (12 minutes 12 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen). A featurette that shows how locations in the film look appear today (7 minutes 6 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a insightful documentary about British horror cinema from the 1960’s and 1970’s titled ‘Mark of the Times’ (47 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) that includes comments from filmmakers Norman J. Warren and Michael Armstrong, screenwriter David McGillivray, professor Peter Hutchings, film critic Kim Newman and Brett Cameron.
More extra content includes a reversible covert art, a forty four page booklet with cast & crew credits, three essays about the film, the first one titled ‘Vicious and Disgusting’ written by Adrian Smith, the second one titled ‘Fuck You! I Made 200 Movies!’ written by Anthony Neild and the third one titled ‘The Face That Laughed at a Thousand Trips’ written by David Del Valle and information about this films transfer. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with director Michael Armstrong and moderator Calum Waddell.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary with Michael Armstrong include, the film’s score, what is was like to shoot a film in Austria, witch-hunting and the research he did for this film, the cast, audience and critical reaction to the film, the depiction of violence in this film, working with producer Adrian Hoven, an alternate ending that has since been lost, the American theatrical release and his thoughts on the final product.
Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Mark of the Devil gets a exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.