31 (Revived) Days of Horror: Mark of the Witch

As this blog demonstrates, I’m a fan of the hexploitation period on the 1970s. Many books and movies cashed in on this pop culture phenomenon, but so few of them do so in such an obvious manner as this evening’s movie, Mark of the Witch (1970). This is a film starring nobody you’ve ever heard of and directed by someone who’s biggest film was Return to Boggy Creek (1977). It’s clearly an independent film that used local talent and had about a buck and a half in its budget.

The story begins with a witch being hanged 300 years ago in England. On the scaffold, she curses the line of the Stuarts after her fellow coven-member and lover Mackenzie Stuart turned traitor to save his own neck from the noose. Jump three centuries forward to Texas, USA, and the many-times grandson of this treacherous Stuart is now teaching psychology at the local university. Good old Professor Mac (as his students call him) has been hosting study sessions involving tarot cards, Ouija boards, palmistry, and more at his home as part of his “Psychology of Superstition” course. You can tell this is a different time as a college professor inviting co-eds over and providing them with beer would be frowned upon these days. One such co-ed, Jill, turns up with an old book she found while sorting donations for the upcoming book fair. The book contains an incantation to summon a witch and the class tries it out. Nothing seems to happen, but Jill starts acting a little strange thereafter. It seems like Jill’s not the only one home in her body now…

This is not a good movie. The acting is poor, the sets are cheap, and the plot is underdone. The writers clearly thumbed through a few hexploitation books and yanked out some details, but there’s not enough here to save the film from all the other cinderblocks weighing it down. If you’re looking for a far better movie that rode the witchcraft craze of this era, I happily steer you towards Season of the Witch (1972) by George Romero. The best thing Mark of the Witch has going for it is a 1:17 runtime.

For all its flaws, Mark of the Witch scuttles back to the pits of Hell it was called up from with a measly 1 and a half out of 5 skulls. Point your athames elsewhere if you’re looking for witchy entertainment.

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