Mark of the Devil
1970 Olivera Vuco
Austria - 1700.
A time of superstition and religious persecution. Albino (Reggie Nalder) - a peasant turned witchfinder is terrorising one of the many towns - raping and burning innocent men and women. He returns from one of the many executions which earn him money, to find two strangers in the town. One is Christian von Meru (Udo Kier) a young Baron, the other is Jeff Wilkins (Herbert Fux), official executioner to Count Cumberland, one of the national witchfinders.
Christian announces the forthcoming arrival of Cumberland, to whom he is apprenticed. Albino is enraged when he realises that his days of power are over, but he dares not oppose the new authority which has arrived. Drunk and confused he attacks and tries to rape Vanessa (Olivera VuŠo), a rebellious and fiery girl who works in the inn. Defending herself she stabs him in the face, only to be seized and accused by Albino of being a witch in front of the townpeople present in the inn.
Albino, feeling powerful once more,
sticks her body with a pin to find the devil's mark, but is interrupted by the entrance of Christian and Jeff. Christian's reaction to this injustice amazes everyone. He orders Albino to be whipped in public and that evening, invites Vanessa to dine with him at the castle.
The two are attracted to each other and for Vanessa, Christian is the first person she has ever seen oppose the feared Albino. She begs Christian if she can stay the night. Although she senses a certain coldness in his reply, he agrees.
The following morning, soldiers arrive at the castle in readiness for Cumberlands arrival. Vanessa, falling in love with Christian, talks him into spending a day with her in the countryside. It is only when Christian leaves her abruptly upon seeing Cumberland's coach arriving, that she realises why he is so distant from her - he has been indoctrinated into Cumberland's way of thinking and Cumberland is a religious fanatic.
On the way back to the town, she is seized by Albino - now having officially drawn up an indictment against her in revenge for his beating. Cumberland has arrived. A man with a strict moral code condemning all earthly pleasures. Christian sits beside Cumberland (Herbert Lom) as the various suspects are brought forward accused and condemned to the torture. Suddenly, to his horror, Vanessa is brought forward by Albino. Christian pretends that there is no indictment and Cumberland orders her to be thrown into prison until her case can be examined.
The victims are many - particularly a young woman (Gaby Fuchs), who accused of lying and blasphemy is tortured and her tongue torn out. Cumberland, who now totally dominates Christian and sensing that this pupil is concerned for Vanessa, informs him coldly that she is a witch. Christians belief in Cumberland's moral code is so strong that he rejects Vanessa. Albino, still desperately fighting for his previous power, rapes a girl in the town and has her lover killed, Cumberland orders him to account for his actions and in an ensuing row, Albino accidentally hits on Cumberland's weakness - the reason for his strict way of life. Cumberland is impotent.
A fight occurs and in sudden fit of rage, Cumberland kills Albino. The murder is witnessed by Christian. For Christian a world has collapsed. Cumberland has broken his own moral code. No longer does Christian believe in the man's beliefs and cruel punishments. Cumberland, unable to face up to his crime, gradually becomes more and more like a monster. His crimes and punishments increase as Christian, no longer believing, frees Vanessa and plans to escape with her from the town.
First he returns to the castle to free a young Baron (Michael Maien) who is being unjustly tortured as a sorcerer but Cumberland now realising he has lost Christian as a pupil, orders his arrest and Christian is thrown in prison. Vanessa, waiting for Christian, becomes obsessed with the terrible things she has seen in prison, and by telling the townspeople, rouses them to rebellion. During an execution by beheading, the townspeople attack the castle. Cumberland escapes, but Christian - in their eyes, still the assistant of Cumberland - is seized and killed by the angry mob.
Vanessa finds his body that night. Her world has collapsed also - she sits alone with the body, no longer having anything to live for and understanding nothing but the vague fantasies of a superstitious age.