Mark of the Devil, originally titled Hexen bis aufs Blut gequält ("Witches Tortured 'til They Bleed"), is a 1970 West German Folk Horror film directed by Michael Armstrong, starring Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Reggie Nalder, and Olivera Katarina.
Count Christian von Meruh (Kier) is a witch hunter and apprentice to Lord Cumberland (Lom) in early 18th-century Austria. He believes strongly in his mentor and his mission but loses faith when he catches Cumberland strangling his predecessor to death for calling him impotent. Meruh begins to see for himself that the witch trials are a scam to rob people of their land, money, and other personal belongings of value and seduce beautiful women. Eventually, the townspeople revolt, and Cumberland escapes but Meruh is captured by the townspeople.
Includes examples of the following tropes:
- Artistic License History: The intro makes the exaggerated claim that more than eight million people were tried and executed as witches during the time period in which the story takes place. The official consensus places the death toll at somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000.
- Big Bad: Lord Cumberland, the brutal witch hunter terrorizing the Austrian countryside.
- Bittersweet Ending: Vanessa and the other prisoners are freed but Christian is killed and Lord Cumberland escapes being killed by the angry townsfolk.
- Burn the Witch!: Used straight and to hideously appropriate effect. Within the film, several "witches" (all clearly innocent) are slowly burnt alive.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Cumberland strangles the Albino to death simply for mocking him for being impotent.
- Egocentrically Religious: Lord Cumberland hides behind a shallow facade of piety to justify his atrocities.
- Gorn: The torture scenes are brutal, including such things as a woman's tongue being ripped out, nails to probe for the Devil's spot, whipping posts, fingers being cut off, racks and multitudes of vicious beatings.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Similar to Cannibal Holocaust, the main theme is a gentle, flowing melody that has a tendency to play over some of the film's nastiest moments.
- Torture Porn: The film presents various period tortures in historically accurate ways, which makes it rather disturbing.
- Tongue Trauma: One of the victims has her tongue pulled out with crocodile shears.