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The 17th century: Albino (Reggie Nalder), a local witchhunter,
terrorizes a village rather at will finding pleasure in torturing and killing whoever he wants. But then, young Christian (Udo Kier) arrives in
the village, announcing the arrival of his master Lord Cumberland (Herbert
Lom), who is to take over as federal witchhunter and have an eye on
Albino, for the next day ... and immediately, Albino has chosen Christian as his personal enemy for
that, and because he can't get his hands on him, he arrests Vanessa
(Olivera Vuco), a waitress whom Christian has laid an eye on, and accuses her of being a witch.
Had anyone of the villagers thought that Cumberland would be any
better (more humane that is) a witchhunter than Albino, he would have been
mistaken though, Cumberland only goes through the trouble to legitimate his
actions with a sickening moral code whereas Albino was a primitive sadist
- and Christian is Cumberland's devoted student, to san extent that when
he finds Vanessa incarcerated, he uses the same empty phrases as his
master to legitimate her being in jail, even though deep down he loves
But then Albino, who has managed to retain a job in the witchfinding
business despite everything, finds Cuberland's soft spot when he suggests
that he (like Albino himself) finds pleasure in torturing and might be
impotent otherwise ... immediately, Cumberland strangles him to death, right in
front of Christian. After this, Christian doesn't know any longer what to believe
- in fact the more he talks with Cumberland, who has since killing
Albino intensified torture of his prisoners and has even tried to rape a
young woman, the more he feels his mission was wrong from the get-go - and
ultimately he frees Vanessa from jail.
The jailbreak goes greatly, but suddenly (and rather stupidly)
Christian decides he has to save someone else from jail too, aristocrat
Daumer (Michael Maien), and this goes wrong, so much so that Christian
himself is incarcerated. Cumberland wants Christian tortured and executed,
also to overcome his own guilt, and now Christian's only hope is Vanessa -
but she's a woman on the run ...
Austrian genre actor Herbert Fux plays one of Cumberland's main
Quite obviuosly, Mark of the Devil was more than a little
inspired by the classic The Witchfinder
General, and it never reaches the powerful effect of that movie,
it's neither as well-written nor as subtly directed as the earlier movie -
but one can't deny that Mark of the Devil is great fun at the same
time: Sure it's much blunter than the earlier movie, the violence is
explicit mostly, the film seems to enjoy its own sadism, everything is
very simplistic, and many interesting plotpoints are at best hinted at to
not distract from the straightforward narrative - and that might turn many
people off the film admittedly, but seen as a piece of vintage Eurotrash,
beautifully carried by the dependable Herbert Lom sided by quite a few
genre faves, the film is easy to enjoy for the nostalgic genre fan!
By the way, Michael Holm, the composer of the musical score, has in 1970
just hit it big as a Schlager-singer (Schlagers are German
language pop songs from the cheesy end of the genre) with the
song "Mendocino". In later life, he would form the new age band Cusco with fellow musician Kristian Schultze, which was successful
primarily in the USA and got nominated for a total of three Grammy awards.