Mark of the Devil (1970) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Jan 11, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Mark of the Devil (1970) (4K UHD Review)


Michael Armstrong

Release Date(s)

1970 (November 28, 2023)


HI-FI Stereo 70-KG/Aquila Film Enterprises (Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: A

Mark of the Devil (1970) (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


Mark of the Devil (aka Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält and Burn, Witch, Burn) is a notoriously violent 1970 horror film that took advantage of the relaxing censorship standards of the era in order to marry two different genres. It ended up blending the relatively serious exploration of historical persecution for witchcraft from films like Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General with the graphic gore of Herschell Gordon Lewis—in fact, Mark of the Devil openly borrows the infamous tongue-ripping from the landmark 1963 Lewis gore film Blood Feast. There’s some pretense toward historicity in Mark of the Devil, but the opening title card freely misrepresents the facts with a wildly inaccurate claim about the number of victims involved, and the scene that follows makes it perfectly clear that the film’s true heart lies in the viscera.

That’s all the hook that anyone needed, and when Mark of the Devil finally made its way to North America in 1972, distributor Hallmark Releasing cashed in with a lurid marketing campaign. They labeled it “Rated V for Violence” and in a move that would have made William Castle proud, they provided vomit bags to audience members. While that wouldn’t have been the first time that a serious film received trashy marketing, in the case of Mark of the Devil, it seems apt. It’s pure Eurotrash from beginning to end.

Writer/director Michael Armstrong’s script (more on that in a moment) is set in 18th century Austria, and it follows the personal journey of the young witch hunter Count Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier). Christian’s admittedly skewed sense of morality puts him in frequent conflict with his sadistic rival witch hunter Albino (Reggie Nadler, who isn’t actually playing an albino here). The rift between Christan and Albino deepens when Christian starts to fall for a local woman named Vanessa (Olivera Katarina), who has already been the target of Albino. Yet the real conflict occurs when Christian starts to question the values of his mentor Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom), and that leads to the hunter becoming the hunted. Mark of the Devil also stars Herbert Fux, Michael Maien, Ingeborg Schöner, and Gaby Fuchs.

Mark of the Devil was a British and German co-production, but in reality it was a co-production in more ways than one due to conflicts both on the set and off. Armstrong may have been the original author of the script, but producer Adran Hoven had a hand in the final product, and they’re both credited pseudonymously in the film. While Armstrong is listed as sole director, Hoven claimed to have contributed to that as well, and while Armstrong has long disputed that fact, there’s no doubt that Hoven was the prime mover in determining the final cut. The whole production was chaotic, and it faced many obstacles such as the variety of different languages that were spoken by the cast and the crew. If the results of all that seem less than coherent at times, there’s a damned good reason why.

Yet while the seams do show in the final product, Mark of the Devil is still quite effective when taken for what it is rather than for what it might have been. Michael Reeves had arguably offered the final word on the subject of witchcraft persecution in Witchfinder General, so Mark of the Devil had to take a different tack. Regardless of any conflicts between Armstrong and Hoven, their combined efforts did just that. The gore effects that were the primary selling point for Hallmark Releasing are memorable if somewhat dated, and the wondrous Udo Kier is as beautiful as ever. Aside from some of his female co-stars, he’s the only beautiful thing in an otherwise ugly film. Yet for Eurotrash like Mark of the Devil, that’s a feature, not a bug.

Cinematographer Ernst W. Kalinke shot Mark of the Devil on 35 mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.66:1 for its theatrical release (in Europe, anyway, since it was likely matted to 1.85:1 in North America). This presentation of the uncut version is derived from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, cleaned up and grade in High Dynamic range (only HDR10 is included on the disc). The opening credit sequence doesn’t start out promisingly, since there’s some dirt and other defects that were baked into the original optical composites. Fortunately, there’s only minimal damage visible after that. Aside from a few deliberately distorted lens effects during those same credits, the rest of the film is sharp with well-resolved fine textures. The grain is smooth, and managed well by Vinegar Syndrome’s typically robust encoding. The HDR grade definitely enhances the colors compared to previous releases. They’re rich and deeply saturated, without ever straying too far into oversaturated territory. There’s more detail within those colors as well—for example, Albino’s red coat now has a bit extra variety in the shadings. This is yet another beautiful presentation of an inherently ugly film.

Audio is offered in English and German 1.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with translated English subtitles for the German track (not dubtitles), and English SDH for the English track. (Don’t be thrown off by the fact that HIFI Stereo 70 Kg is listed during the opening credits; that’s just the name of one of the production companies.) There’s some distortion audible in both, with the dialogue sounding especially harsh and excessively sibilant in the English version. That’s a bit of a double-edged sword, since there’s a touch more clarity to the English track, while the German one arguably sounds more muffled but a little smoother. You may want to sample both of them and choose whichever one that you prefer. (If composer Michael Holm’s incongruous earworm of a title theme sounds familiar, that’s because there’s a good chance that Riz Ortolani was familiar with it when he wrote his even bigger earworm for Cannibal Holocaust.)

Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K Ultra HD release of Mark of the Devil is a three-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film and most of the new extras, as well as an additional Blu-ray with archival extras. The insert is reversible, with new artwork on one side and alternate theatrical poster artwork on the other. There’s also a spot gloss hard slipcase and slipcover combo (designed by Chris Barnes) available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 7000 units. The following extras are included:


  • Audio Commentary by Michael Armstrong


  • Audio Commentary by Michael Armstrong
  • Performing God’s Work (HD – 34:35)
  • The Devil’s Apprentice (HD – 19:26)
  • Words of the Devil (HD – 14:32)
  • A Hell of a Place (HD – 23:13)
  • Mark of the Times (HD – 47:42)

This commentary with Michael Armstrong was originally recorded for the 2015 Arrow Blu-ray release of Mark of the Devil. Calum Waddell serves as moderator, but the 70-year-old writer/director’s memories were clear, although Waddell does help to keep things on track. (Interestingly enough, it’s Waddell whose memory can be creaky at times, since he credits Antonio Margheriti for both Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula without getting into why that’s not really the case.) They go over the complicated production and release history of Mark of the Devil, including the development of the story, the casting, the language challenges with shooting in Germany, and fact that producer Adrian Hovan claimed to have directed much of the film. (Armstrong says that he shot nearly everything himself, although Hovan did oversee the post-production process.) They also spend a considerable amount of time discussing the historical persecution of witchcraft, which combined the corruption of the church and the state as a means of gaining both control and power. Although to be fair, Armstrong says that Mark of the Devil wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, and he wasn’t really trying to be historically accurate.

Performing God’s Work is a new interview with the now 80-year-old writer/director, who’s still quite sharp. He offers another overview of the production, including more detail about his conflicts with Hovan and what he says are blatant lies that have been told about his involvement with the picture. The Devil’s Apprentice is a new interview with the one-of-a-kind Udo Kier, who provides some personal background information and talks about his experiences with Mark of the Devil. (He also shows off a suitably ghoulish toy from his collection.)

The Words of the Devil is a guide to some of the screenplays that were written by Michael Armstrong, hosted by film historian and lecturer Adrian Smith. It’s really a brief biography of Armstrong. A Hell of a Place is a location guide for Mark of the Devil, showing clips from the film and how those locations appear today. It was directed and edited by Martin Nechvatal. The last extra on the first Blu-ray is Mark of the Times, which was directed by Calum Waddell for the 2015 Arrow Blu-ray of Mark of the Devil. Subtitled “The New Wave of British Bloodshed,” it’s a broad examination of the increasingly gory British horror films of the Sixties and Seventies, featuring interviews with Armstrong, Brett Cameron, Peter Hutchings, David McGillivary, Kim Newman, and Norman J. Warren.


  • Hallmark of the Devil (HD – 12:13)
  • 2013 Q&A with Michael Armstrong (HD – 19:54)
  • Interview with Herbert Fux (Upscaled SD – 23:04)
  • Interview with Gaby Fuchs (Upscaled SD – 10:24)
  • Interview with Ingeborg Schöner (Upscaled SD – 9:02)
  • Interview with Michael Holm (HD – 24:18)
  • Interview with Herbert Lom (HD – 4:42)
  • Outtakes (HD – 39:02)
  • Alternate German Language Title Sequence (HD – 2:47)
  • Archival Artwork & Image Gallery (HD – 6:12)
  • English Trailer (HD – 3:25)
  • Radio Spots (HD – 2:03, 3 in all)

The archival extras on the second Blu-ray were culled from the 2015 Arrow release and others. Hallmark of the Devil is look at Hallmark Releasing, hosted by Michael Gingold. He talks about their creative and sometimes deceptive marketing practices, including changing titles in order to cash in on other films. They created their own ratings system (“V for Violence!”) and used marketing gimmicks like the vomit bags as well. (Gingold has one of them, and it’s one of his prized possessions.) The Q&A with Michael Armstrong was taped during a screening at the 2013 Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England, with Calum Waddell as moderator. Armstrong explains the themes that he was trying to get across in the film, while Waddell brings things back to earth by reminding him about Hallmark’s marketing techniques.

The interviews with Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, and Ingeborg Schöner were originally from the 2012 Region B Blu-ray release from Turbine in Germany, although they were also included with Arrow’s 2015 release. They mix what appears to be older interview footage with clips from the film, production photographs, and marketing materials. The 2004 Blue Underground DVD offered briefer interviews with the same actors, so the interview footage here may have been derived from that release, but I don’t have that disc in order to do a comparison. The interview with composer Michael Holm is a newer one from the Arrow Blu-ray. The audio-only interview with Herbert Lom is of uncertain provenance (Lom died in 2012), although it has been included on multiple previous releases. Finally, there’s a set of silent Outtakes accompanied by Holm’s title theme, the German Language Title Sequence (under the tile Hexen), and an extensive Image Gallery, plus the English-language Trailer and Radio Spots.

That’s a hefty quantity of extras, but there’s still plenty of material from previous releases that’s not offered here. That includes the commentary with Michael Armstrong from Blue Underground’s DVD (which was moderated by Jonathan Sothcott), as well as the German-language commentary with Gaby Fuchs, Percy Hoven, Udo Kier, Dieter Menz, Wigbert Wicker and Uwe Huber from the Turbine Blu-ray. That’s the easy part; it only gets more complicated from there. There’s a variety of missing interviews like one with Udo Kier from the Blue Underground disc, as well as the interviews with Michael Maien and Percy Hoven from the Turbine disc. Anchor Bay’s 2006 Region 2 DVD also included a different interview with Michael Armstrong. There’s some other missing material as well, like the alternate location featurette Mark of the Devil: Then and Now from the Arrow disc. Arrow also offered alternate artwork and a 44-page booklet.

The bottom line is that if you have any of those previous versions, you’re probably going to want to hang onto them. Regardless, the 4K presentation on this new Vinegar Syndrome UHD definitely trumps all of them, so it’s a must-buy for fans of Mark of the Devil. Vinegar Syndrome also offer an extensive collection of extras that may not be all-inclusive, but it’s still quite comprehensive, and it will keep you busy for many hours. You’ll have to supply your own vomit bag, though.

- Stephen Bjork

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