A bumbling teacher (Will Hay) conveniently turns out to be the double of a German general. In the true spirit of wartime propoganda high jinks, he is flown into Germany to impersonate the ... See full summary »
Alan Alda plays a classical piano player on the rise who befriends a famous player himself who's at death's door. Unknown to Alda, the guy is a satanist, who arranges to have their souls switch places at his death, so that he can be young again and continue to play piano (thus needing a skilled piano player like Alda to switch bodies with). Written by
Too bad this neglected horror film got lost in the wake of the similarly themed Rosemany's Baby. Modestly successful journalist Alan Alda suddenly becomes a successful concert pianist following a chance meeting with piano virtuoso Duncan Ely (Curt Jergens) and his darkly seductive daughter, Roxanne (Barbara Parkins). His growing involvement with the wealthy family and their strange friends eventually comes between Alda and his loving wife, Paula (Jackie Bissett). As sinister events unravel, Paula is drawn deeper into a web of diabolic happenings until the threads come together in a surprising and oddly gratifying climax.
The script is tight and well-thought out, with the exception of Dillman's role as Roxanne's ex-husband. After all, if the diabolists are so sexually compelling, how could he divorce her. And though director Paul Wendkos occasionally goes overboard with the camera tricks, the scenes are stylishly done, especially the banquet with its snatches of pretentious banter, and the New Years party with its erotic grotesqueries bound to end in an orgy. And underneath it all lies an undercurrent of evil, even during the brightest splashes of sunlight.
Though Alda gets star billing, it's actually Bissett's movie, which she carries off in finely shaded fashion. Her scenes with the ominously silent Roxanne (just count Parkins' few lines) amount to an exquisite model of civilized contempt, minus the fisticuffs. Alda too, shines, as he acts out Ely's imperious manner at just the right moments, proving in those pre-MASH days that he was more than the humorously caustic Hawkeye Pierce.
As good as the movie is, I can't help wondering if it might have been even better had the mystery not been exposed as early as it is. Suppose the script had skipped the transference ritual and simply had Alda take on Ely's characteristics without explanation, such that the audience would have to ponder what's going on, instead of having it handed to them. There may have been good reasons for not taking this mystery route, but at least it's worth considering.
Still and all, Waltz remains a fine example of movie horror done in both color and sunny surroundings, and with a lot of style and conviction. Too bad, it's slipped into movieland's version of yester-year oblivion. It deserves better. And, if nothing else, the script raises the scary question of whether dogs really are man's (woman's) best friend.
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