Mark of the Devil (1970) was very much an Adrian Hoven production, certainly in its early form, in which was called The Witchhunter Doctor Dracula. The film was written by Hoven, who also wanted to star in it and produce, although his financial backers were keen to get somebody from England to direct it, and employed Michael Armstrong who created the script that remains. Mark of the Devil is an unsung gem of European horror however, even despite the horrific aspects of its production. Not only is the music memorable but once scene, the torture scenes in Mark of the Devil are never forgotten. You are warned!
Mark of the Devil opens with a double burning
When Michael Armstrong took over the directing of Mark of the Devil it almost seemed like the film, which was heading nowhere but into madness, split into two. Perhaps Adrian Hoven had been hanging about with Jess Franco too much, or maybe he wanted to entirely expunge that pipe-toting matiness idol he had once beeen, but Hoven's Mark of the Devil was heading in very strange places, and seemed to be a mixture of the earnest and the psychadelic. Michael Armstrong however had a serious urge to show what horrendous things can be done by God fearing people, and also portray the conflict between corrupt local authority (in the figure of Reggie Nalder) and corrupt state authority, for which see Herbert Lom. His every effort though was foiled at regular intervals by Hoven, who still wanted to shoot The Witchhunter Doctor Dracula, which meant that there were no scripts on set.
Indeed there seems to have been a mammoth amount of conflict between Hoven and director Michael Armstrong, such as for example, a two hour screaming match about whether Udo Kier’s character should be standing up or sitting down in the tavern. Watch the movie and you will see the Udo Kier played the scene SITTING DOWN. I bet it still hurts those involved to watch.
Adrian Hoven, Mark of the Devil (1970)
Hoven, who was not in the script for the film, wrote himself in and during the last two weeks of production, shot his own scenes, in which he plays a puppeteer who receives the Chinese water torture. Although he does the crazed torture victim very well, the water torture wasn’t even used in Europe at the time; and this included what director Michael Armstrong called ‘excruciating sentimentalisation’. A few of these scenes are tacked on. but they aren't so effective, although they do show the pointless destruction of one honest family, by superstition, quite well.
Finally, nobody can see Mark of the Devil without the music having a great effect on them. There are three very different themes created, including one that is so sweet and light that you may believe you are watching the wrong film — that is until some nuns get raped. The first theme is a very lazy orchestral blues, and the second is a twinkly little love theme — but the horror theme, heard first when Herbert Lom appears, is a startling horror tune classic, and is entirely memorable.