23 November 2014

The Mark of Satan (1980)
50 min.
Airdate: December 6, 1980
Directed by Don Leaver.
With Peter McEnery, Georgina Hale, Emrys James, Peter Birrel, Anthony Brown, Conrad Phillips, and Annie Dyson.
Jose Cruz
The last episode of Hammer’ TV horror series has a fascinating concept but can’t quite coalesce into an entirely satisfying production.

Hospital orderly Edwyn Rord (McEnery) believes he is being watched. Studied. The police transmitter in the hospital’s weathervane is proof. His movements are being tracked. And the story that the ghoulish Dr. Harris (James) tells Rord, the one about the man who performed a self-delivered lobotomy in order to keep the Devil out of his brain, is surely a sign. Everyone Edwyn knows is trying to infect him with evil.

The key to all of this is the number 9. It is a dark number, one that can be found in all of its multiples, hiding insidiously. And, of course, 9 tripled and reversed is the Mark of the Beast. So Edwyn must protect himself, even if it means striking out against the evil people. What else can he do as the only sane, innocent man left in the entire world?

Convincing as it may be as a tale of paranoia, The Mark of Satan would have likely been served better by a shorter running time. The allotted 50 minutes give it extra time to meander.

For instance, the creepy hallucination sequence where Edwyn is compelled to eat a neighbor’s baby is capped off by an odd moment where a priest barges in with a cartoonishly large crucifix to save the day, and the episode as a whole would have lost none of its power had it excised the process of Edwyn recovering from his delusions.

Still, scripter Don Shaw has a lot of fun with his vexing numerology and conspiracy plots. On paper the idea of someone being “infected” by evil sounds promising, but it misses something in the execution. Most of the acting is fairly colorless, save for James’ raspy-voiced physician who exudes the morbid whimsy of Dr. Pretorius.

It may not go out with a bang, but the series’ final episode does have its macabre little moments. Just watch out for that drill!

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