Mark of the Devil (1970) - As a Yut I can remember being at the Drive-In movies a couple times, I have a very strong memory of watching "5 fingers of Death" and I have a memory of this film "Mark of the Devil", in my head they were a double feature but I really doubt that since they came out a couple years apart. In an effort to revisit the movies of my youth I recently watched Mark of the Devil. It opens with this strange camera effect like they were shooting through the bottom of a clear bottle. We see the local witch hunter, Albino (Reggie Nalder) sending his thugs after a caravan of priests and nuns, they capture rape and in general do bad to them. The next scene is a results scene as 2 women and a man are publicly tortured. Albino accuses them of witchcraft and doing sinful things and requires them to confess. They cut the fingers off one woman and then tar and feather the man. They then burn the other woman at the stake and of course she curses them all. It really is to establish the place and time as somewhere between the 15 and 18th century during the witch hunts. We get a scroll narration talking about just this and how 8 million people were executed during the period. Then setting up the movie we are to see.
We follow Vanessa (Olivera Katarina) from the crowd scene back to the tavern she works at. As we pass people in the streets we hear bits and pieces of the soon to arrive Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) the big wig witch hunter who is coming to check out the town. Already at the Tavern are sitting Christian(the great Udo Kier) and Jeff Wilkins (Herbert Fux) the assistant to Cumberland and his executioner respectively. When Albino comes into the tavern there is a bit of a confrontation with the new comers. He does not want to give up the power he has to Cumberland when he arrives. There is a multi level conflict here, Christian sees Albino as a backwards thug abusing his power. He is training with Cumberland who he sees as a noble man doing the work of God to remove the evil from the world. The power he has over Albino is to demand the paperwork for all the executions that have taken place and he exercises this power. It leaves the illiterate Albino on the ropes, his assistant has to work to create the falsified paperwork quickly. In this Christian acting for Cumberland can attempt to set this backwoods thug straight.
Albino hits on Vanessa and when she spurns his ugly assface he accuses her of being a witch. Christian stops him and then in the time from when Cumberland arrives and the accusation there are scenes of Christian and Vanessa spending time together and him falling for her. He can not be near her all the time though and it is not long before Albino gets his hands on Vanessa, he whips her good and arrests her.
When Cumberland arrives he takes Albino's side against Vanessa, basically saying that the accusation of the local witch finder is sufficient to hold her. Later she will be tortured for a confession. In another case a young blond, Deidre von Bergenstein (Gaby Fuchs) who is also accused says she was raped and impregnated by the Lord Bishop of the area. Cumberlands insists she should admit being a witch but she refuses having been wronged by this Bishop. She will be tortured for confession. What this scene did was to create doubt to in Christian about his mentor Cumberland, he sees the elder purposely not accept the story from Deidre because it would make the church he works for look bad. Christian thought they were seeking truth and is thrown off by the callus approach of Cumberland.
This is the message of this film. It is a history lesson about the witch hunts while expressing that so much of what was going on was either personal, as in the case of Albino. Or personal for Cumberland when we learn he is impotent and at one point can only get off by raping a noble women. That a lot was done to benefit the church as in the case of Deidre who must be a witch because the alternative is that she was raped by the Bishop and that is seen as unacceptable. There is also a story line about Baron Daumer (Michael Maien) a young man who should inherit his fathers fortunes, but since he was too young the church has been holding them. Now of legal age and requesting his inheritance the church has accused him of being possessed by a demon. The torture to remove the demon will probably kill him. Christian again sees the flaws in his mentor when it is obvious the church just does not want to loose the income and power of the holdings. Cumberland says he could free himself of the demon by signing everything over to the church.
Through the story Christian struggles with the morality of what they are doing, will he save Vanessa his love? Will he turn against his Lord Cumberland? Can he save Baron Daumer? When the film gets to a climax it is so anticlimactic that I was amazed. After sitting through this really boring if somewhat gory film, I could not believe who got killed who got away and why they bothered to make the movie in the first place.
Back in the day when you went to see this movie they gave you a vomit bag because the scenes of torture were so graphic. In these times of torture porn this movie is almost PG-13, there are a couple of boobs of Gaby Fuch on the rack, there is the rape scene that is not graphic at all and you see quite a few tortures and people burnings but they are not close to what you see in Hostel or the Saw movies. Boy were times different back in the early 1970's. Like many movies from that era this movie takes a long time for the character, in this case Christian to get from point A to B. The movie is long and somewhat boring with lots of torture scenes, he is really slow to give up on Lord Cumberland though. When he finally does for the love of a woman, it ends up being a tragic decision.
Rating (3.2) 5.0 and up are recommended, in the Zombiegrrlz rating system I would say Skip It!