Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Bites
Originally hailed as the “first film rated V for violence,” this German flick has sparked quite a bit of controversy in its time. Barf bags were handed out at the theatres that showed it (Don’t believe me? See for yourself.). Shortly after its debut, Mark of the Devil was banned in over thirty countries, including its country of origin. The film is an honest account of the witch trials– complete with scenes of torture, burning, and rape– and as such, anticlerical themes are impossible to avoid.
Mark of the Devil takes place in an 18th century Austrian town where corruption runs aplenty. We see person after person wrongfully convicted of witchcraft, tortured, and sentenced to death for petty reasons; the local witch-hunter (Reggie Nalder) accuses people of witchcraft for his own gain, and seemingly takes delight in their suffering.
Enter renowned witch-finder, Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom), and his apprentice (Udo Kier), who have come to town under the pretense that “witchcraft has gotten too widespread for local authorities to deal with.” Immediately after arriving, the apprentice requests the necessary documentation of confessions, which the local authorities were unable to provide. It would seem that perhaps, with the newcomers, there will come a sense of justness to the small town– or is justness simply an impossible concept in an era of legal torture and public burnings?
As a whole, Mark of the Devil is well put together. I can’t say much about the acting because I ended up watching the English dub after my search for the original proved much more difficult than expected, but hey, I enjoyed it anyway.
Mark of the Devil is a downright disturbing movie, especially considering that it was made more than four decades ago. It has a fair amount of gore for something from the seventies, but it’s not the blood that makes this one scary. Rather, it’s the sheer amount of apathy for human life depicted here. We see people gather on the streets, as if gathering for a parade, to watch as women writhe and scream over a pit of fire. We see people getting brutally beaten and tortured as guards stand by nonchalantly. What’s more, is the fact that this shit actually happened, and it went on for centuries.