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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Mark of the Devil [Blu-ray]

 

(Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven , 1970)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Aquila Film Enterprises

Video: Arrow Video (same in both UK and US)

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' + 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:37:22.044

Disc Size: 47,378,682,984 bytes / 47,378,682,996 bytes

Feature Size: 30,526,983,744 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 29th, 2014 / March 17th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell
Mark of the Times – exclusive feature-length documentary from High Rising Productions on the emergence of the ‘new wave’ of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies, featuring contributions from Michael Armstrong, Norman J. Warren (Terror), David McGillivray (Frightmare), Professor Peter Hutchings (author of Hammer and Beyond) and famed film critic Kim Newman (47:37)
Hallmark of the Devil – author and critic Michael Gingold looks back at Hallmark Releasing, the controversial and confrontational distributor that introduced Mark of the Devil to American cinemas (12:12)
Interviews with composer Michael Holm (24:19) and actors Udo Kier (10:46), Herbert Fux (23:06), Gaby Fuchs (10:26), Ingeborg Schöner (9:05) and Herbert Lom (4:40 - audio only)
Mark of the Devil: Now and Then – a look at the film’s locations and how they appear today (7:06)
Outtakes (3:03)
Gallery

Trailer (3:27)
Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Anthony Nield, plus an interview with Reggie Nalder by David Del Valle, all illustrated with original stills and artwork

DVD of the feature (PAL in the UK, NTSC in North America)

 

Bitrate (exact same):

1) Arrow Video - Region 'B' (UK) - Blu-ray - TOP 

2) Arrow Video - Region FREE (US)' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Description: Once proclaimed as “positively the most horrifying film ever made”, Mark of the Devil finally arrives uncut in the UK.

A bloody and brutal critique of religious corruption, Mark of the Devil sees horror icon Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Suspiria) play a witchfinder’s apprentice whose faith in his master (Herbert Lom) becomes severely tested when they settle in an Austrian village. Presided over by the sadistic albino (a memorably nasty turn from Reggie Nalder), the film presents its morality not so much in shades of grey as shades of black.

Written and directed by Michael Armstrong, who would later pen Eskimo Nell, The Black Panther and House of the Long Shadows, this classic shocker has lost none of its power over the years – especially now that British audiences can finally see it in one piece.

 

 

The Film:

A gory exploitation fave that doesn't disappoint. Aided by assistant Kier, Inquisition master Cumberland (played expertly by screen vet Lom) arrives in a small Austrian village with his mind intent on a wee bit of witchhunting...and scads of bloody torture!
Will he execute buxom babe Vuco, or refined lovely Fuchs?
How much red stuff will be spilt in the name of religious cleansing?
This grisly German horror lives up to its reputation: chock to the brim with tongue rippings, ass nailings (don't ask), pin stabbings, feet branding, stake burnings and the like.

Excerpt from The Terror Trap located HERE

Released theatrically in 1970, Michael Armstrong’s film Mark of the Devil is essentially remembered for two things: a U.S. marketing campaign that championed the film as ‘rated V for violence’, and theaters passing out barf bags emblazoned with the film’s name to each and every paying patron to see it. While this is one more example of the great marketing afforded to exploitation and horror films in decades past, the shame of it is that this film can easily stand on its own merits. It is, after all, arguably the best witch-hunter film out there (right up there with Vincent Price’s classic Witchfinder General aka Conqueror Worm).

Excerpt from Epionions located HERE

Rural Austria, early 18th Century: Local witchfinder Albino (skull-faced Reggie Nalder, in his most notorious role) has quite a racket going... Anyone who crosses him is conveniently denounced for worshipping Satan; women he lusts after are branded as witches and imprisoned just so he and his pals can rape and torture them at will. Albino's victims — those that survive 'interrogation', that is — are then silenced by being burnt alive. The townspeople live in constant fear of him, dreading that they themselves might be arbitrarily singled out, but at the same time take a perverse delight in the public executions he stages. Thus news that a professional witchfinder, one appointed by the crown, is coming to assume Albino's duties is greeted with a measure of relief by the populace. Fewer citizens will be unjustly accused and they'll still have the occasional execution to keep 'em entertained.)

Excerpt from Eccentric Cinema located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Mark of the Devil gets a very impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow Films.  It is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature. There is a bit of softness in the opening title sequence but once it settles down the colors (reds) are brighter and truer than SD could relate and there is no noise in the darker sequences. The 1080P supports solid contrast exhibiting healthy, rich black levels and some minor depth in the 1.66:1 frame.  It's pristinely clean showcasing some hi-def detail in close-ups and it looks significantly better than I was anticipating. This Blu-ray provides a solid presentation. Thumbs skyward!

 

This appears to be the exact same disc (or as close as 'dammit' is to swearing.) Same menus, extras, audio, video quality and subtitle option. As Michael reminded us about Day of Anger - There are minor cosmetic differences on the disc labels and sleeve to do with differing copyright info and barcodes, and the US release doesn't have BBFC logos. Ohhh, although I don't have the included DVD yet - I presume it's NTSC - rather than PAL.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow go with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in both English and the option for German. Not much to say - the soundstage is flat and authentically represented by the lossless track. Everything is consistent and dialogue audible. It hints at some depth in the various scream/torture sequences.  The score is composed by Michael Holm - pretty much only know for Mark of the Devil and its sequel. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' and 'B'!

 

Extras :

Arrow really went to town on the supplements. Foremost is an audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell. It follows hidden attributes of production, challenges as well as addressing the film's latter following. Mark of the Times is a new 47-minute documentary from High Rising Productions on the emergence of the ‘new wave’ of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies, featuring contributions from Michael Armstrong, Norman J. Warren, David McGillivray, Professor Peter Hutchings (author of Hammer and Beyond) and famed film critic Kim Newman. It gives a wonderful perspective on Mark of the Devil and the varied inputs are revealing. Hallmark of the Devil gives us a dozen minutes with author and critic Michael Gingold who looks back at Hallmark Releasing, the controversial and confrontational distributor that introduced Mark of the Devil to American cinemas. There are over an hour's worth of Interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schöner and 5-minutes of audio-only with Herbert Lom. Mark of the Devil: Now and Then visually looks at the film’s locations, over 7-minutes, and how they appear today. There are brief Outtakes, a Gallery and a trailer. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Anthony Nield, plus an interview with Reggie Nalder by David Del Valle, all illustrated with original stills and artwork. being Dual-Format a DVD of the feature is also included.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Arrow just seem to keep outdoing themselves. Mark of the Devil is another stacked package worthy of a Criterion spine! It's a gruesome film to watch at times, but the production elements impressive - as are the performances. Comparisons to Witchfinder General are apt. Those keen on this sub-genre will no-doubt find a great deal of appeal in Mark of the Devil. The Arrow Blu-ray provides an excellent a/v presentation with extensive supplements to educate and garner appreciation. Absolutely recommended to those who are 'not-too-squeamish'.

 

Released for the US Blu-ray purchase - another strong Arrow product - as good as the film will ever likely get. No reason not to have this gore-filled relic of the European demon-possession subgenre! 

Gary Tooze

September 24th, 2014

March 10th, 2015

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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