Beware filmmakers who preface their story with a declaration that the movie about to follow has its basis in historical fact; a claim toward legitimacy that inevitably becomes increasingly vaporous as the film unfolds. This is especially true of exploitation vehicles which have already lured the recklessly daring into the theater with the promise of exotic, erotic or squirm-inducing thrills (ambitious braggadocio will often make claims to all three). Such a notification is posted early in Michael Armstrong’s truly repulsive “Mark of the Devil”: a film which, by this premature juncture, has already gleefully depicted the rape of a nun, acts of dismemberment, torture, a tar and feathering and a group burning at the stake; all lovingly rendered, no doubt, with the dedicated advancement of scholarship in mind. The film’s misplaced pronouncement of historic fidelity never fully explains how a film of such an earnest pedigree corresponds with the advertised distribution of specialty designed novelty vomit bags to every patron (perhaps finding possible use as a fixative against the whirling vertigo experienced by the euphoria of recklessly cramming too much academia at one sitting?), but such are the sometimes contrary vicissitudes of the sideshow barker.
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