Cheezy Flicks // 1970 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // December 21st, 2012
Mark of the Devil isn't a horror movie so much as it's a horrific one. Like many successful exploitation films, its notoriety was due, at least in part, to a great marketing campaign: the film self-applied a (non-existent) "V" rating (for "Violence"), and decorative barf bags were given to patrons whose stomachs couldn't handle the myriad sickening scenes -- although, in point of fact, there are really only a couple of scenes that might register high on the quease-meter.
The plot is historically contexted, witch-hunting in the 18th Century -- but if you were writing a term paper on the subject, Mark of the Devil wouldn't be your go-to source. While the film features acceptably authentic-looking costumes and sets, and a plot about a young witch hunter grappling with the morality of racking and burning innocent people, the purpose here is to show scenes of large-breasted women being raped and tortured.
The majority of indignities are visited upon poor novice nun Deidre (Gaby Fuchs), who suffers mightily because a) she was raped and impregnated by an archbishop, and b) she looks good naked. Poor Gaby/Deirdre finds herself on an odd racking device that stretches her by the ankles and neck (something you'd think would kill her, but it does offer up her writhing body with little encumbrance); has her fingers crushed and her foot branded; and in the film's big money scene, has her tongue ripped out by the roots.
Beyond these highlights, there are beatings and burnings; a young baron has his bare butt jammed onto a spiky chair; a bunch of women (including nuns) are raped; a bad guy has his eye gouged out (complete with trippy animation to represent an eye-gouging); and, kind of out of the blue, a late-entering character is Chinese water tortured.
Thanks to all the extravagant agonies, plus the crazy ad campaign and a cast that includes Herbert Lom, Reggie Nadler, and a ridiculously young Udo Kier, Mark of the Devil is a cult favorite. Truth to tell, it's never been my cup o' grue, but I can see the appeal.
The question isn't so much why would you want to watch a movie about people being abused in the name of God so much as it is: Why would you want to watch this edition? If Mark of the Devil was some hard-to-find obscurity, then this release from Cheezy Films would earn a recommend simply because it's there.
But Mark of the Devil has been available on home video for years -- albeit, often in dreadful looking, truncated PD versions -- and Blue Underground released an excellent edition in 2004 that featured a fine technical presentation and some very good supplements; that disc is still in circulation.
This release from Cheezy has more in common with the cruddy, PD VHS versions of yore. The image isn't terrible, but it's flat, soft, and features dull colors and little contrast. The audio is serviceable. While they do include a replica of the famous barf bag, there are no MotD-specific supplements, only some old "in theater" archival stuff, like refreshment stand ads and an announcement about in-car heaters at a drive-in. I don't know anything about the legality here -- if Blue Underground let the rights slip (strange, since their disc is still for sale) and MotD reverted to PD -- but it's odd that this release exists at all.
Mark of the Devil seems fairly quaint now, in the age of torture porn. While it might have ceded its place as "the most horrifying film ever made," it still packs a punch, and is essential viewing for exploitation devotees. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this Cheezy disc -- not when there's a superior edition out there.
The film gets three thumbscrews up, but the disc only rates one gouged
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cheezy Flicks
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Intermission Clips
* Vomit Bag