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Mark of the Devil (1970 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mark of the Devil
Directed byMichael Armstrong
Screenplay by
Produced byAdrian Hoven
CinematographyErnst W. Kalinke[1]
Edited bySiegrun Jäger[1]
Music byMichael Holm[1]
HIFI-Stereo-70 Filmvertrieb KG[1]
Release date
  • February 19, 1970 (1970-02-19) (West Germany)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountryWest Germany[1]

Mark of the Devil (German: Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält, lit. Witches Tortured till They Bleed) is a 1970 West German horror film. 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.[2]

While not prosecuted for obscenity, the film was seized and confiscated in the UK under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the video nasty panic.


Count Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier) is a witch hunter and apprentice to Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) in early 18th-century Austria. He believes strongly in his mentor and his mission but loses faith when he catches Cumberland strangling a man to death for calling him impotent. Meruh begins to see for himself that the witch trials are a scam to rob people of their land, money, and other personal belongings of value and seduce beautiful women. Eventually, the townspeople revolt, and Cumberland escapes but Meruh is captured by the townspeople.

The film (which The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror calls "grotesquely sadistic" [3]) contains very strong simulations of graphic torture including a woman's tongue being ripped out of her head by tongue pincers, nuns being raped, nails to probe for the Devil's spot, whipping posts, fingers being cut off, racks and multitudes of vicious beatings.

The opening credits and voiceover make the exaggerated claim that over eight million people were condemned as witches and killed during the period in which the film is set. The scholarly consensus on the total number of executions for witchcraft ranges from 40,000–60,000 - see Witch trials in the early modern period



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 Michael Reeves' 1968 classic Witchfinder General. Hoven has been a collaborator of Jess Franco. He was an actor turned producer and director.

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. Armstrong claims in his commentary track on the blu-ray release by Arrow that they filmed nothing significant, although he did add the water torture scene featuring Hoven as an actor at his request.[4] 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.


Mark of the Devil was released theatrically in West Germany on February 19, 1970.[1]

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, and released on laserdisc by Elite Entertainment.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Arrow Films released the film on March 17, 2015 uncut for the first time on Blu-ray Disc in the United Kingdom and United States.[5] The release featured the High Rising Productions documentary film Mark of the Times and a special featurette over the distributor Hallmark Releasing with the documentary Hallmark of the Devil.[6]


The film was more successful at the box office than Witchfinder General. This success is often attributed to the 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.[citation needed] Other reviews praise the film for its soundtrack, special effects, and filming locations, consisting of the mountainous Austrian countryside and stately castles.[citation needed]

The University of Vienna's film studies conference Mark of the Devil: On a Classic Exploitation Film was held on 3–5 April 2014.[7][8] In 2017 the Cine-Excess eJournal devoted a special issue to the film and its sequel, Mark of the Devil Part II, which includes a range of extensive articles (about topics such as authorship, marketing and censorship) and an interview with Joyce and Percy Hoven.[9]

"Mark of the Devil", a track on Finnish heavy/doom metal band Wolfshead's 2015 EP Caput Lupinum, is based on the movie.[10]


Producer Hoven delivered the official sequel, Mark of the Devil Part II (German: Hexen geschändet und zu Tode gequält) in 1973.[citation needed] 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). The last known of these sequels was the American-made Mark of the Devil 666: The Moralist (1995) released on VHS by Moore Video.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält". Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Phil Hardy (ed) "The Aurum Film Encyclopeida: Horror" London: The Aurum Press, 1993 (revised, updated edition), p. 206
  4. ^ As described by Armstrong in the 2015 Arrow blu-ray release
  5. ^ New Info: Arrow’s Uncut “MARK OF THE DEVIL” Blu-ray!
  6. ^ Mark of the Devil - Arrow Films
  7. ^ "Mark of the Devil | On a Classic Exploitation Film". (in German). Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  8. ^ "Mark of the Devil: On a Classic Exploitation Film Conference Report - Cine-Excess". Retrieved 2017-01-13.
  9. ^ "Mark of the Devil: International Perspectives on a Cult Classic - Cine-Excess". Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  10. ^ "Wolfshead - Caput Lupinum - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives".

External links

This page was last edited on 2 May 2022, at 12:51
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