How Good Does Mark Of the Witch Look?

Today we have another new release from Code Red - in fact, it was sold in the same bundle as Lord Shango.  This one's a little different, but sort of in the same vein as well.  It's a subtle, talky little chiller called Mark of the Witch; and while it was technically released in 1970, it's super 60s. This isn't it's first release (Code Red spine #84, if you're keeping track of these things... Wow. Even if you count the long-delayed Electric Chair, have they really released eighty-three previous blu-rays?), but it is the film's debut in HD.
Did I mention that this film was talky? This movie could easily be produced as a stage play. That's not necessarily a criticism, but if you're looking for cheap thrills, this is not your movie.  It reminds me in a way of Richard Matheson's Burn, Witch, Burn, but without the class.  After a prologue where a witch curses her coven for not intervening as she's being hung, we cut to a "modern day" (read: pure 60's) college campus, where a professor teaches his students about "the psychology of superstition." His best and perkiest student decides to hold a seance with the class to summon a witch, but it doesn't seem to work. Except of course it really did, and now that student is possessed by the witch from the opening, and it turns out her prof is the ancestor of one of the cursed coven.  Can he stop her before she performs she hatches her nasty Satanic plot, even though she's already enslaved him to do her bidding?
The fun of this movie is partly in the script, which feels like a smart but not ingenious TV movie, and partly in lead performance of Anitra Walsh, who goes from bubbly do-gooder to a 300 year-old murderous mastermind. It's not an amazing performance, but it sure is a great part.  The rest of the cast is all fine, and the film leisurely gets to a fairly rewarding conclusion.  It's not a great movie, but it's on par with a good episode of Tales From the Crypt.  The soundtrack has a kind of theramin thing going on, and the opening credits play an acappella "witch's rune," which is both interesting and irritating at the same time.
Now, there's been some talk about this being the "uncut version," which it is. But just the concept of this film having an uncut version might be surprising to viewers who've seen this film before, because it's so chaste.  However, there are two quick, successive shots, a split second each, of nudity that's often cut out of the film (the online version I'd watched before ordering this didn't have it).  They're both inserts of a woman who's obviously a body double, though they do a good job of matching the wardrobe and location.  Personally, I think it almost goes against the film's tone, which is selling ideas over shocks, but I know Code Red audiences don't want to be denied their to topless shots, so you'll be relieved to know they're in here.  Also a parakeet explodes.  That's a highlight.
So, like I said, this one's been released a few times before, including by Code Red.  It debuted on an old, 1.66:1 Image double-bill DVD, paired with The Bride Wore Blood.  And that was the cut version, by the way.  Then, in 2009, Code Red release the R-rated cut on DVD in 1.78:1 on a double-bill with the fullscreen version of Devil Times Five.  In 2014, they released it a second time, on their first 6-Pack DVD collection.  Personally, I never bothered to pick up this film before in any version, so I'm meeting it for the first time here on Code Red's new 2016 blu-ray.
And it looks great! Presented again in 1.78:1, this transfer is in excellent shape, and the picture is beautiful. It's a new 2k scan of the original negatives and looks it. There are the occasional specks and flecks, but it's surprisingly clean, and the colors are super vivid. Detail is strong. I mean, this film almost shouldn't look as good as it does here. I'm really impressed.

The original mono is presented here in DTS-HD and sounds very clear and untreated, maybe carrying a very slight, natural hiss with it. Occasionally the volume dips at random, and then pops back up, but that's the only real trouble. And it's pretty minor; you're always able to make out all the dialogue clearly. Oh, and of course there are no subtitles.
There also aren't any extras on here, except for the trailer, which is at least better than nothing. An interview or something might've been nice, but I can't imagine it would be very easy to scare anybody up from this film 46 years later. I was starting to get used to having Katriana wrap-arounds on all these Code Red titles, and while I was never terribly taken with them, I do kinda miss her.

So do I recommend this? It's a good little film that's worth a watch, and the blu-ray presentation is excellent. So it's a very respectable pick-up; I like it. But if you're holding out for really great or cool films to add to your collection, this ain't exactly Hellraiser, or even Burn, Witch, Burn.

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