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Mark of the Devil (1984)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
First film in the Fox Mystery Theater series (aka Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense) has loser Frank Rowlett (Dirk Benedict) owing money to a dangerous man. He needs to try and get some cash to enter a poker game and to do so he kills a tattoo shop owner and steals the money. Soon he realizes a little dot on his chest but before long a tattoo starts to form and cover his entire body. MARK OF THE DEVIL is a pretty interesting little film that contains one of the better stories I've seen from this series or any other series for that matter. I thought the idea of a man growing a tattoo over his body that's going to show his sin was quite clever and the film manages to throw a couple twists in for good measure. The special effects of the tattoo were also quite impressive. Yes, faking a tattoo isn't that hard to do but it still looks wonderfully well. Another major plus is that Benedict really does a nice job at showing how desperate this man becomes after realizing that this tattoo isn't going to go anywhere and it's eventually going to give him away. Jenny Seagrove is also good as his fiancé-turned-wife, although her reaction to the tattoo is a rather silly scene. Director Val Guest does a pretty good job with the material but I think a faster pace certainly would have helped things. The ending, which I won't spoil, is also pretty good, although be on the look out for a major goof when our lead character goes to fall back you can clearly see mats set up to break his fall. Still, MARK OF THE DEVIL is a neat little mystery.
First viewing: November 1984 / Second viewing: October
"Mark Of The Devil" is a rather average "Hammer House Of Mystery And Suspense" installment which sees Dirk Benedict play the part of loser-gotten-lucky who has snared a rich bride. The routine killing of a cruel tattooist is the architect of his downfall. The plot beggars belief as the tattoo grows and grows, marking Dirk increasingly agitated.
It all comes together in the end though - rewarding us with a suitably chastening climax. Just like I remembered it. 6/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****SPOILERS**** Good for nothing compulsive gambler Frank Rowelett,
Dirk Benedict, is up to his neck in debt to his local loan shark
Westcott, Tom Adams, for $7,000 pound sterling and his facing a dip in
the Themes River with a fractured skull and without a life persevere if
he doesn't pay up within the next 24 hours. Going to see Mr. Lee, Burt
Kwouk, to fence his $2,000 dollar watch Frank notices the place where
Lee keeps his cash from both his fencing operation as well as tattoo
business and plans to rip him off before he knows what hit him. Lee
catching Frank in the act attacks him with a needle he uses to tattoo
his customers before Frank brains him, with a brass statue, and sends
him to the other world beyond life.
By pricking Frank with his needle Mr. Lee opens up whole a new world for him that cause his entire body to reveal, due to tattooing, his crime and, on his back side, future as well. This-the tattooing, disrupts Frank's marriage plans to marry socialite as well as filthy rich Sara Helston,Jenny Seagrove, and ends up getting Wescott and his goons, who already got paid off by Frank, to get greedy and find out where he keeps his money that he stole from Mr. Lee and keep it all for themselves.
***SPOILERS*** As the tattoo on him starts to grow and reveal what he did, murder Mr. Lee, the more paranoid Frank gets. He gets so nuts that he plans, with his face covered, to leave the country by boat to far off Indonesia where no one would recognize him. But with the police now on his tail in the murder of Mr. Lee as well as Westcott and one of his goons that makes his flee from justice impossible. It's in him trying to get his tattoo removed that in the end lead to Frank's demise. That by resurrecting the murdered and vengeful Mr. Lee who finally ends up doing him in supernaturally.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's an inexpensive move about Dirk Benedict, an American loser in
England, who commits felony murder during the robbery of a Chinese
tattoo parlor run by Burt Kwouk, Britain's Oriental, whose career has
already lasted as long as the Chou Dynasty. He's the assistant who kept
hurling himself at Peter Sellers in the Inspector Clouseau series. Also
in the cast, as Benedict's fiancée and bride, is Jenny Seagrove, who is
an extraordinarily beautiful woman with hazel eyes and webbed toes.
Benedict has the physical moves right, but he speaks his lines without
much conviction. Whether Seagrove can act or not is irrelevant.
The main feature of this story is -- well, it reminds me of Dorian Gray's problem. When Benedict kills Kwouk, he incurs a slight dot on his breast, inflicted by Kwouk with a tattoo needle. As Benedict goes about his business, fighting with his partners over the loot, marrying Seagrove and then deserting her, prowling through Chinatown for an exorcist, the dot on his chest turns into a tattoo illustrating the crime. And the tattoo expands like a disease until it has crept all over his torso, arms, and even his face. It's not a decorative picture either. It's more like some pathological eruption and it makes your skin crawl when you see it. The director reveals it only in increments, an each time it's more revolting than the last.
Benedict finds the cure, but it's a question of whether the cure is worse than the disease.
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