You’re a Devil because I say you are… For hundreds upon hundreds of years, across the continent through 15th – 19th century Europe, men and especially women, lived under the tyranny of religious extremist societies like the Taliban, and suffered horrific, slaughtered fates, as insane impotent lords and greedy lustful pig bishops reigned over all. Of all the inhabitants, women were especially brutalized, raped, owned, oppressed, and tortured. If you’ve ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition, or the Salem witch trials, your ears have managed to wander across the remaining ripple effect of pain and broken hearts that still resonates through our societies and bloodlines today – the labeling of millions of innocent women as witches, and their subsequent trials, tortures, and ruthless murders.
What looks to be a low budget, stuffy Renaissance dungeon film on the outside, claiming to be “the most horrifying film ever made”, is 1970’s MARK OF THE DEVIL – a German, HOSTEL-type film about the early European witch trials and burnings that claimed an estimated nine million lives over the course of four hundred years or so. Societies lived for several generations under the rule of religiously insane leaders that saw whatever they wanted in you, before thereafter tearing apart your family and burning you alive in the town square before your peers. God forbid it was your mother, your wife, your daughter – it did not matter to the Witch Finder and his governmental sect – they pulled your cracking bones apart limb from limb in a basement before they cooked your screaming, bubbling body over sticks in front of the courthouse for all the town to watch.
Following the lives a several different unfortunate victims, we see in MARK OF THE DEVIL how people lived back in the 1600’s under the rule of witch finders. Several busty beauties are rounded up throughout the film while frolicking about, whether they be nuns, mothers, or maidens – basically any women who catch the eye of the Witch Finder (played awesomely disgusting by slimy Herbert Lom) and his disciples of death and torture.
Udo Kier stars as a young disciple who comes to town to observe the corruption and prejudice before reporting it to the coming lord, who thereafter puts a nix on the witch finders assassination crew and takes over only to continue the prejudice torturous wrath himself. Young Kier falls in love with a local tavern maiden who seems innocent by all accounts, but gets accused of being a witch amidst the power struggle between the witch finder and the church. The film becomes a story about this disciple’s struggles, as he witnesses the atrocities in the name of the church begin to ravish someone that he himself cares for and knows to be innocent.
Women are stretched on racks, their bones dislocated without hesitation at the elbows, knees and hips. Their legs broken with vices and hammers, their skin flayed and peeled with whips and knives. Their feet branded with hot irons, their faces stabbed deep with needles. Men sat down naked onto bottomless chairs and flailed with maces or burned from below with flaming fires that mercilessly cooked their asshole and testicles black as bleeding charcoal. One after another, men and mostly women were brought to the court dungeons, where confessions were forced out of them. In MARK OF THE DEVIL, most of these wounds are bubbling blobs of red paint and latex at worst – the whip wounds and lashings like fingerpaints across their backs – with a particular eye-gouge should induce a solid wince reaction, and an especially nasty tongue removal scene – but none of these are as barf-bag sickening as they are mind blowing when you realize that all of these things, and much worse, really happened to millions of innocent human beings. Although the gore is a little sub-nausea par, most of the films despair projects from the constant torture and abuse that these men dish out against the naive and powerless.
Filmed in Austria in 1970, much of what is seen in MARK OF THE DEVIL has historical value in the sense that its actually filmed in an Austrian castle where real witch trails and interrogations took place. More of a museum today, the castle in MARK OF THE DEVIL was further authenticated with its devices of witch torture. The rack, the wheel, the stocks and pinseats, and yes, even those head clamps, mouth vice and that fucking merciless tongue remover – all faked of course in the film – all carried out for real years ago. I want you to take a little pinch of that inner thigh you have there and hurt it. You didn’t even break the skin. These women – mothers, daughters, anyone who looked less than 100% obedient to the church and the bible – soft and harmless creatures of nurturing and love, ripped apart, their flesh from their living bodies, raped and slaughtered and cooked alive over roaring flames – accused of mixing toads and lizards blood with human blood in a conspiracy with Satan to make the men impotent. Accused of fornicating with the Devil himself.
Final analysis: Imbeciles in power, bent on religion, slaughtering random human beings based on prejudice and spite. MARK OF THE DEVIL is a fair reflection of these times, scenic and correct in its historical references and representations, themed to a horror film overture of blood and guts, 70’s Herchell Gordon Lewis style. “Rated V for Violence”, the slogans stand for more hype than vomit, as its not going to rank anywhere near the grossest films you’ve ever seen. But what MARK OF THE DEVIL will do, is school you without mercy on a viscous and dark part of our history that went on not very long ago, and unfortunately may still occur in certain parts of the world. Udo Kier is young and blue-eyed striking as he attempts to save the day for more than one generously endowed femme. Partially a love story that truly seems filmed in the 1600’s, all the while Hammer-like, flawed and amateur – it offers up more than its quota of violence and gore to set clear that it is a reputable horror film above all else. Set to porno type music, grainy and faded, MARK OF THE DEVIL is an oddly enjoyable and fable-istic tale of blood perfectly suited for a cloudy Sunday afternoon watch with the church-going side of the family. Watch them try to talk themselves out of this one.