Horror Club: Mark of the Devil (1970)
It's been almost fifty years since the release of Mark of the Devil, and it definitely holds up as one of the strangest yet intriguing and bad but good movies in the genre. It's a pretty violent, torture-based film that speaks on troubling topics like religious hypocrisy and male violence. The storyline is pretty straight forward: there's a witch hunt going down, and both men and women are being accused left and right of creating pacts with the devil and using magic to influence the town. The film leads you to believe that the townsfolk don't necessary know that the convicted were being falsely accused, but it doesn't really matter because once you have been deemed a witch, you essentially had a target on your head. The local witch hunter Albino (played by the disturbing Reggie Nalder) will either force you to submit to a confession, or he'll have you tortured until he can get the confession out of you! No one is safe and the torture is painful and endless for those who bear the Mark of the Devil! Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) and his apprentice Count Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier) - the higher authority to Albino when it comes to witch hunting - come to town and begin to criticize Albino and his flawed ways. Albino had been falsely accusing men, women, and even children of being slaves to the Beast, and Cumberland and Christian begin to work towards dissolving the reign of the dreaded Albino, especially after Christian's love interest gets caught up in the accusations by Albino when she refuses his rapey-advances. It's a roller coaster of graphic torture and punishment by death for those who confess to their witchcraft.
Right off the bat, let's get this out of the way: this movie is pretty fucked. If I am to be honest, Nalder is a pretty unpleasant guy to look at to begin with, and his actions in Mark of the Devil are downright repulsive. A man using his authority to force himself on women - and then slandering them as children of the devil when they fight back - is fucking disgusting and sickening. His use of torture to get the accused to admit to their witchcraft ways is totally messed up: from being whipped and beaten to using water torture and even cutting out a woman's tongue. Albino is relentless in his ways and doesn't care who he sends to the pyre. It isn't until Lord Cumberland and Christian come around and challenge his accusations that Albino is held accountable for the trail of blood and death he has left in his wake. As far as the torture scenes go, Mark of the Devil certainly delivers in making the viewer cringe - some of the shots are really great and authentic looking, which only adds to the grim shadow that lurks over this damned village. If you're a fan of Hostel or I Spit On Your Grave type gore, you'll enjoy the blast from the past OG torture scenes in the movie. Probably nothing that will make you sick to your stomach but enough to make you say "what the fuck." It's almost worth the watch just for that alone!
Mark of the Devil is a great film with a definite dark tone to it. While it may feel a little slow at first, I definitely found myself fully engaged once the story really picks up and the drama between Albino and Lord Cumberland takes off. You'll (hopefully) find yourself eagerly awaiting Albino's demise for all the awful shit he's done, and you'll get a decent amount of gore along the way. Once you can get back some of the cheesy acting and Nalder's horrifying everything, I'm sure you'll agree that Mark of the Devil is worth at least one run through, even if it is just to pay homage to one of the earliest "torture porn" films. It's a fun watch that pulled me in and absolutely got me relating the story to current events today. Mark of the Devil is a beast to be reckoned with, and easily worth your hour and a half.