Mark of the Devil

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Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält
Mark-of-the-devil-poster.jpg
German theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Armstrong
Produced by Adrian Hoven
Written by based up Michael Armstrong's script
Starring Herbert Lom
Udo Kier
Olivera Vučo
Reggie Nalder
Herbert Fux
Music by Michael Holm
Cinematography Ernst W. Kalinke
Edited by Sigrun Jaeger
Release dates
  • 1970 (1970)
Running time 96 min.
Country West Germany

Mark of the Devil (German: Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält, lit. "Witches Are Tortured to Death") is a West German horror film released in 1970. It is most remembered for US marketing slogans devised by Hallmark Releasing Corp. that included "Positively the most horrifying film ever made" and "Rated V for Violence", while sick bags were given free to the audience upon admission.[1]

Plot[edit]

Set in early 18th-century Austria, the story is about a Witchfinder (Herbert Lom) and his young apprentice (Udo Kier). The two travel the countryside, terrorising people suspected of devil worship. When the Witchfinder goes too far by trying to rape a local girl, his apprentice rebels.

Production[edit]

The film is based upon Michael Armstrong's 1969 script. The original plans were led by producer Adrian Hoven, who intended to produce, direct and star in the film. Hoven's version was a completely different film rumoured to have been called The Witch Hunter - Dr. Dracula. The film was made to cash in on the success of the Michael Reeves's 1968 classic Witchfinder General.

The production was filmed during the summer of 1969 in Austria. From the beginning production was difficult, including that at least half a dozen languages were spoken on set, which caused problems for the cast and crew. Producer Adrian Hoven and director Michael Armstrong disliked each other intensely and often argued over the slightest of things. Hoven made sure a small number of the scripts were kept on set and even cut some of Armstrong's footage, so his own ideas could be inserted in the film. Because cinematographer Ernst W. Kalinke was a friend of Hoven's, they would both film scenes without Armstrong's permission. It has been debated[by whom?] how much of Mark of the Devil was filmed by Armstrong and what by Hoven. To give the film some historical accuracy, it was filmed in an Austrian castle where actual witchfinding interrogations had taken place. This castle also served as a museum with authentic torture tools that were used in the film.

Reception[edit]

The film was more successful at the box office than Witchfinder General and this success is often attributed to the aforementioned advertising campaign. The film has been criticized by many reviewers for being too violent to contain any message and far too exploitative whilst dealing with a serious historical subject. Other reviews praise the film for its filming locations, consisting of the mountainous Austrian countryside and stately castles.

The University of Vienna's film studies conference Mark of the Devil: On a Classic Exploitation Film was held on 3–5 April 2014.

Release[edit]

The film was released theatrically in the United States by Hallmark Releasing in 1972 and has been available since then on VHS in a multitude of releases from different companies, all varying in terms of the violent content, as well aso released on laserdisc by Elite Entertainment. The film was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1998 and re-released by Blue Underground in 2004, with this release being deemed the most complete version of the film.

Sequel[edit]

Producer Hoven delivered the official sequel, Mark of the Devil Part II (German: Hexen geschändet und zu Tode gequält) in 1973. In addition, several VHS companies sought to exploit the title's notoriety by retitling several unrelated European horror films as sequels (including films from the popular Blind Dead series).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Described in detail, with visual supporting evidence, in The Devil's Torturer, the interview with Herbert Fux that appears on the Arrow and Blue Underground Blu-ray and DVD releases of the film.

External links[edit]