Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mark of the Devil (1970, Michael Armstrong)

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"I accuse you of having trampled on the cross, of having ridden to the Sabbath, of throwing the Holy Cross of our Saviour into manure so that the skies grew dark, and the rain fell upon the earth!"

The history of film has seen many gimmicks to try to get people to get off their lazy asses and into theaters. There's the wonderful creation of 3-D. Then there was William Castle's traveling interactive films (The Tingler for example). The 70's brought along a new reason for the public to go to the movies. The times were changing and movies were becoming more risque, so what better reason to go see a movie than the chance you might get to vomit? Okay, I bet I know what you're thinking right now and the answer is no, I have not been sniffing white-out again. When Mark of the Devil, the first film to be rated V for Violence (or so the tagline said), was released in theaters, every ticket holder was also given a free barf bag. What a novel idea. But you know what? It was a smash. And with Arrow Film's new Blu Ray/DVD combo, we can all barf together in HI DEF!

Mark of the Devil takes place in England in the early 1700s...I think. They had those triangle Paul Revere hats so it was somewhere around there. Witch hunting has become a favorite past time of many God fearing town folk and it seems that it is starting to get out of hand, particularly at the hands of the deranged Albino (Salem's Lot's Reggie Nalder). In comes Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) and his assistant Christian (Udo Kier) to keep order and prevent the wrongful deaths being caused by the sadistic witch hunters. All seems to be improving until Christian discovers that even his mentor is accusing the innocent, allowing the accusers to rape, torture and kill the accused. After Christian falls for a woman who is falsely accused of being a witch (Olivera Vuco) he tries to put an end to the madness.

Mark of the Devil is a vicious portrayal of how so many were wronged in the witch hunting craze. The tortures are pretty brutal including tongues being ripped out, beheadings, severed fingers and burnings at the stake. There wasn't really anything that made me feel like I needed a barf bag, but I'm sure there were few films as brutal as this at the time. The cast was great and it had a good script and period cinematography. It actually reminded me a lot of Witchfinder General and apparently was directed by that film's assistant director. Arrow Film's new Blu Ray/DVD combo is (like all of Arrow's previous releases) pretty amazing. Flawless picture quality and a bevy of extras that would even make an accused witch drool, make this the definitive release of Mark of the Devil. Not a perfect film but a lot of sick fun and a release well worth the price of admission (sadly a barf bag is not included). Below are a list of bonus features:

-High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements
-Optional English and German audio
-Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
-Newly translated English subtitles for the German audio
-Audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell
-Mark of the Times - exclusive feature-length documentary from High Rising Productions on the emergence of the 'new wave' of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies
-Hallmark of the Devil - author and critic Michael Gingold looks back at Hallmark Releasing, the controversial and confrontational distributor that introduced Mark of the Devil to American cinemas
-Interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schoner and Herbert Lom
-Mark of the Devil: Now and Then - a look at the film's locations and how they appear today
-Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
-Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Anthony Nield, plus an interview with Reggie Nalder by David Del Valle, all illustrated with original stills and artwork


Film: 7/10
DVD/Blu Ray: 10/10

Buy Mark of the Devil from MVD HERE

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