Mark of the Devil is one of those horror movies that was released back when going to the movies was an event. Where marketing slogans roped in potential ticket-purchases, and not catty online reviews and four hundred different trailers between the time a project is announced and its release dates. Most people who have a passion for genre films have at least heard the title Mark of the Devil, and that’s because of the marketing campaign behind it. Slogans like “Positively the most horrifying film ever made”, and “Rated V for Violence” would take care of putting the asses in the seats, but it’s the actual contents of the film that have us talking about it almost 50 years later. Arrow Video are introducing American consumers to their new US distribution house with three titles, one of which, Mark of the Devil.
The movie itself is fascinating, both because of the content itself, and because of exactly how relevant the source material remains today. If you are unfamiliar with the story, it takes place sometime in the 1600s, where women were accused of being witches, and sometimes for the benefit of the Witchfinder General, and the local government. Mark of the Devil illustrates just how susceptible some men are when put in a position of power. It also does a pretty good job at condemning organized religion, and portrays almost everyone involved with any form of Witch-hunting as self-serving thieves and rapists, which, hey, who am I to say otherwise? I have my own issues with organized religion, and there is no way to truthfully defend the act of Witch-hunting, so I have no qualms.
Another thing that sets this film apart from some of the other films produced and released during the last portion of the Sixties, and the first couple of years of the Seventies, is how violent it is, and more than that, the depravity. People, mostly women, are beaten, tortured and executed, and most of it is shown on screen. I realize that this film didn’t invent the way that torture is portrayed in movies, nor was it the first film to feature jarringly realistic violence, but it is easy to see how a person like Eli Roth could have drawn inspiration for his Hostel films from Mark of the Devil.
As mentioned before, the video presentation of Mark of the Devil featured on Arrow Video US’s new Blu-ray is exemplary. It retains the grainy, filmic look, while featuring one of the most detailed transfers of a film produced in the late Sixties that I’ve ever seen. The color pop will impress as well. As far as audio options go, you have two. One of which is the mono LCPM English track, and the other is the mono LCPM German track. Either option you choose, you’re going to experience a lot of dubbing. This is a film featuring Udo Kier, after all. The German track sounds a little cleaner, but if you’re watching a dubbed film anyway, it’s somewhat silly to have to read subtitles as well. I opted for the English track, but whichever way you wish to view Mark of the Devil, the options are there.
If you’re thirsty for knowledge once the movie is over, Arrow has given you everything you need to quench that thirst. This is one of the first Blu-rays I’ve ever seen where the listing of bonus content on the back of the box is almost double in size when compared to the film description. There’s a ton of stuff on this disc, including a feature length documentary about the “new wave” of British horror in the Sixties and Seventies. There’s also a feature with Fangoria’s Michael Gingold, where he takes a look back at Hallmark Releasing, who are responsible for that infamous promotional campaign, in which viewers were bombarded with quotes like “the most horrifying film ever made”. There are interviews, there are outtakes, an image gallery, reversible cover art, and much more. Arrow Video will make quite an impression with Mark of the Devil being one of their introductory titles for US collectors.