"Mark of the Devil"

“Mark of the Devil”

Independent British distributors Arrow Video have acquired the distribution rights to Michael Armstrong’s Mark of the Devil, starring Herbert Lom, Udo Kier and Reggie Nalder. A Blu-ray release of Mark of the Devil, which will be sourced from a new restoration and will contain an uncut version of the film, is expected to arrive on the market in early 2014. The 2003 UK Anchor Bay DVD restored many of the previous British Board of Film Classification cuts but was still edited by 38 seconds to reduce the nudity from the rack torture scene.

This gory 1970 German horror flick about demon-possession and witchcraft (advertised as “positively the most horrifying film ever made!” and “guaranteed to make you sick”), features graphic rape scenes, torture (including branding and tongue removal) and killing sequences. Set in early 18th-century Austria, the story is about Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom, at his most sinister), a demented Austrian nobleman who makes the most of the witch-hunting policies of the Inquisition to procure himself money, land and an endless supply of beautiful young women. The Count takes on a pious young apprentice, Count Christian von Meruh (Kier), who realizes too late that the witch trials are nothing more than a scam to cover up for the Lord’s sadistic and depraved behaviour.

Despite tensions between director Armstrong and producer Adrian Hoven, Mark of the Devil is a worthy historical horror drama made to cash in on the worldwide success of Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm (1968). Armstrong worked as Reeves’ assistant on Witchfinder General.

Those who associate Herbert Lom with the comically exasperated Inspector Dreyfus in The Pink Panther series will be surprised to see him shed all comic mannerisms and play it straight as a loathsome and opportunistic witchhunter. Lom is given able support by Reggie Nalder (Salem’s Lot), as an uncouth and even more fanatical witchfinder, and by Gaby Fuchs, a pretty and innocent girl subjected to the most unspeakable tortures. Highly anticipated throughout the genre community, Arrow has yet to announce the disc’s special features. However, Mark of the Devil will be released as a two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD). It is most fervently hoped that Arrow will also release the extremely rare and little seen Mark of the Devil II (1973), starring Anton Diffring, Erika Blanc and Reggie Nalder.

For more on Mark of the Devil and Arrow Video, keep a close eye on DiaboliqueMagazine.com!

– By Harvey Chartrand