The Mephisto Waltz
The Mephisto Waltz is a 1971 American horror film about an occult-murder mystery. It was directed by Paul Wendkos and starred Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins, Bradford Dillman and Curd Jürgens. The name of the movie is taken from the piano work by Franz Liszt of the same title (see Mephisto Waltzes). Ben Maddow adapted his screenplay from the novel of the same title by Fred Mustard Stewart. The film was the only big-screen work of veteran television producer Quinn Martin.
|The Mephisto Waltz|
|Directed by||Paul Wendkos|
|Produced by||Quinn Martin|
|Written by||Ben Maddow|
Fred Mustard Stewart (novel)
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||William W. Spencer|
|Edited by||Richard K. Brockway|
|Distributed by||20th Century-Fox|
Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda), long ago frustrated in his hope for a career as a pianist, is now a music journalist and interviews Duncan Ely (Curd Jürgens) , perhaps the world's greatest virtuoso on the instrument. At first annoyed by Myles' presence, Duncan soon takes notice that Myles' hands seem perfect for the piano. From that point, Duncan and his adult daughter, Roxanne (Barbara Parkins), strongly pursue a friendship with Myles and wife Paula (Jacqueline Bisset).
Paula does not much like Duncan and especially dislikes Roxanne. While Paula is disturbed by the level of attention being paid to them, Myles is honored to be considered a friend by Duncan, who is dying of leukemia. Unbeknown to them, Duncan and Roxanne are Satanists. As Duncan's physical body nears its end, father and daughter perform an occult ritual that transfers Duncan's consciousness into Myles' body.
Myles' ensuing change in personality, which includes his now being able to play the piano as well as had Duncan, is noticed by Paula, but she is initially unsuspecting of the cause. Though confused by the change in her husband, she also finds his new persona exciting and attractive. Myles soon is pursuing a career as a pianist and is so successful that he is able to take over Duncan's concert schedule.
Paula has a nightmare in which she envisions Duncan telling her that he must kill Abby, the pre-adolescent daughter of Myles and Paula. Duncan tells her that he does not want to harm the girl, but that his Master has insisted upon it as "part of the bargain". Immediately after the dream, in which a blue substance is placed on Abby's forehead, Paula finds the blue substance actually on her daughter's skin. Abby takes ill and dies.
Abby's death sparks in Paula a further suspicion of Roxanne. As Myles seems to drift away from her into his new career, Paula investigates Roxanne's background. This includes visiting Roxanne's ex-husband, Bill (Bradford Dillman), and a romantic relationship begins to form between the two. Paula eventually becomes fully convinced that Duncan and Roxanne struck a deal with Satan to enable them to pursue an incestuous relationship, that they have placed Duncan's consciousness into her husband's body, and that they are responsible for Abby's death.
Paula falls asleep and Bill dies in an apparent accident, though he has the same blue substance on his forehead. Paula nearly meets a similar "accidental" fate which leaves her certain that Roxanne and Duncan (in Myles' body) killed Bill and fearful that they will continue to try to eliminate her. She resolves that, regardless of who is inhabiting her husband's body, she wants to be with that man.
As a result, she turns to Satanism and strikes her own bargain with the Devil. She then attacks Roxanne, knocks her unconscious, and employs the same dark magic that Duncan and Roxanne had used against Myles. Paula transfers her own consciousness into Roxanne's body, leaving her own body dead in the bath, an apparent suicide.
In Roxanne's body, Paula returns to Duncan/Myles, who happily informs her of Paula's suicide. Without telling him who she really is, she embraces him, enthralled with the excitement of the beginning of their new relationship.
- Alan Alda — Myles Clarkson
- Jacqueline Bisset — Paula Clarkson
- Barbara Parkins — Roxanne Delancey
- Bradford Dillman — Bill Delancey (credited as Brad Dillman)
- William Windom — Dr. Roger West
- Kathleen Widdoes — Maggie West
- Pamelyn Ferdin — Abby Clarkson
- Curd Jürgens — Duncan Mowbray Ely
- Antoinette Bower — member of Ely's group (uncredited)
The film, which was a Quinn Martin Production, was originally given a cinematic release by 20th Century-Fox. In 1975 CBS acquired the distribution rights and aired it on television. It was released by CBS/Fox Video on VHS format in 1989. The film has since been re-released again in both DVD and VHS by CBS Home Video (through Paramount Home Video) in 2007.
The film was noted for its stylistic imagery and soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith. All Movie Guide noted Alan Alda's performance as the film's only weak point, praising the "offbeat cinematography", "truly shocking setpieces", and Jacqueline Bisset's "chillingly effective" performance, stating that these elements build a pervading sensation of doom.
- Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare, 1953 version – Alfred Newman (:14)
- Main Title (2:27)
- The Library (1:38)
- A New Miles (5:12)
- The Funeral (3:26)
- A Night In Mexico (2:16)
- Part Of The Bargain (3:41)
- The Hospital (2:18)
- The Latest Victim (5:14)
- Dogfight (2:07)
- Roxanne's Demise (1:37)
- End Title (3:45)
- The Other: Suite (22:02)
Schreck, Nikolas. The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema. London: Creation Books, 2001, pp. 156–57.