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At least two people below comment on the frequent appearance of the boom
mike in this film. To clarify, that is the fault of the TV company /
company for screening the film in the wrong aspect ratio. It is not the
fault of the filmmakers. If you saw this film in the cinema there would be
no boom mike since the top of the frame would be masked off by the lens
gate. The TV company is showing you the full frame of the picture which
should not be all visible to the audience.
This is one of the best occult thrillers ever made. Direction, acting, cinematography and the music score are superb as is the script based on the Fred Mustard Stewart novel with the same title. Curd Juergens plays a famous concert pianist and Barbara Parkins his adoring incestuous daughter. Wanting to make their illicit love eternal they feel compelled to make ritualistic human sacrifices to Satan. The film aided by an excellent Jerry Goldsmith score manages to create an unsettling and more and more threatening atmosphere as the true nature of these two becomes clearer and a journalist played by Alan Alda gets drawn into their web. His wife, played by Jacqueline Bisset, sees the imminent danger in nightmares. These dream sequences that gradually unveil the shocking truth are extremely well filmed and the music enhances the emotional impact even further. This one is a real chiller with some very frightening moments and a very surprising end. Its many disturbing images will haunt you for quite some time. It proves that elegant filmmaking becomes the horror genre very well. I'd love to see The Mephisto Waltz released on DVD!
Quinn Martin Productions venture into theatrical films as opposed to
its television work is a tidy little entry in the Satanic genre which
the late 1960s and early 1970s were chock full of and it is sad that we
do not see such films today.
The stunning beauty Barbara Parkins and the irrepressible Curt Jürgens steal the show and turn in performances that dwarf the rest of the cast. This is a low budget film and yet without all of today's special effects it is readily more thrilling and frightening than the typical horror film of contemporary American film.
Thank heavens it is on DVD I saw it originally and now eagerly seek to have it for my collection.
A dying pianist (Curt Jurgins) makes a bargain with Satan to have his soul put into a younger man's body (Alan Alda). The younger man's wife (Jacqueline Bissett) realizes slowly something is different about her husband... This is a scary, unsettling little horror film from the '70s that is virtually unknown today (why?). It has one serious thing wrong with it--Alan Alda. He's totally miscast and gives a lousy performance. Everybody else is good (especially an incredibly beautiful Bissett). The movie moves fairly quick, it has some really eerie dream sequences, quite a few frightening moments and a VERY scary call to Satan at the end. Heck, even the music is scary! Worth seeing...and should be better known.
This 1971 movie is definitely worth seeing, at least for a melancholically superb Jacqueline Bisset (at the same time, the other main character, Alan Alda, offers a lousy and histrionic performance). Even if it may seem obsolete, the movie still gives one chills down the spine at some moments, and the end is maybe a recognition of the fact that Evil is always more tempting than the Good. All in all, the old Faustian theme is well depicted in this movie, with some interesting arabesques (but why do the Satan worshipers speak a terrible French in their rituals - that I do not know, a superb score (naturally, since it is about the world of pianists and music) and some subtle meditations about the condition of the artist today and always. 7/10
A good plot similar to HP Lovecraft's "The thing on the doorstep" without the "innsmouth look" of Asenath but with the body swapping of devil worshippers attempting an eternal leapfrog through history using others bodies . Violence is kept to a minimum the required evil for this horror is amply supplied by absentee devil who's decadent servants plot and dissemble to increase their own worth , chilling dreams of the blue wax applying witches are the best moments. Alan Alda's performance was believably naive and overshadowed by a masterful and compelling kurt jurgens dry self absorbed and above the pettiness of his guests . Miss Blisset charming, beautiful ."The Ninth gate" , "The night of the demon" may be better films but would happily keep company on the same shelf.
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
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Since the birth of the moving picture, the Devil has had a lucrative acting career. From Witchcraft Through the Ages to appearing as green goo in Prince of Darkness, there's never been a dull moment. In the Mephisto Waltz the "Master" makes a fleeting appearance, just a footfall and a shadow.
The Mephisto Waltz is oft compared to Rosemary's Baby, with the betraying husband and victimised wife. It is the direct opposite. The husband is the victim and the wife the betrayer. Throw in spatterings of Nothing but the Night, Season of the Witch, dream sequences similar to The Masque of the Red Death, and hints that the upper class/rich are "different" (They Live, Society).
The pianist Duncan Ely achieves immortality via soul transpostion. He selects his victim on their hands. It is interesting to consider who he was in previous "lives". The film hints that he may be Lizit, Rachmaninov and Mozart. Linking musical genius to pacts with the Devil is not uncommon e.g. blues guitarist Robert Johnson.
The satanists completely underestimate Paula Clarkson, even though she "warns" them that she's "tough, precocious and beautiful". Clarkson has obviously read/watched Casting the Runes/Night of the Demon (not the sasquatch film silly) and beats the satanists at their own game. She does this absolutely by selling her own soul. Surprisingly God and religion play no part in the film whatsoever unlike most films about the Devil. The characters in the film are Godless.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the aforementioned betrayal of the husband, Myles. Paula actively excepts Ely as her new spouse with no notion of redeeming or avenging her true husband. Why?. At the start, the couple share two scenes in bed. In both Myles is more keen on sleeping, rejecting Paula's advances. She jokes that they are intimate only once a year. She is not far from the truth. Myles has the libido of a eunuch with the personality, ambition and fidelity to match. When Ely possesses his body, the relationship with Paula becomes more physical and exciting. Paula prefers Ely to Myles who is quickly forgotten. Paula's only adversary is the daughter/wife Roxanne whose body she gladly accepts. Ely and Paula "deserve" each other.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Similar to the story in Rosemary's Baby, a husband (Alan Alda) with a beautiful wife (Jacqueline Bisset) gets involved with a satanic cult, this time led by a dying concert pianist (Curt Jurgens) who sees the young man's body as the right "vehicle" in which to transplant his doomed soul. How many times has he had to do this before? How this operation actually plays out on the screen isn't all that impressive, though the man's daughter played by Barbara Parkins, is, as her body is that of his daughter, but it's possessed by the soul of his dead wife. Needless to say, Parkins is perfect for the part, and that this is essential viewing for Parkins fans. The old man now gets to be the husband of Alda's beautiful wife played by Bisset in a merely temporary arrangement, as she's more an obstacle, though Alda's new persona has a more supercharged sex drive than the old one and relishes her much more than the old one ever did. And Bisset falls in love with the new incarnation, setting up a nasty showdown with Parkins, in a tidy little conclusion where the evil mother's spirit goes from one beautiful body to another. Between the sex and the search for young bodies, and the bizarre satanic rituals and a weird New Year's Eve party, and lots of psychedelia trippy camera work, this even manages to surpass Rosemary's Baby in scope and reach, though not so much in the dark underpinnings of the story, under the direction of the underrated Paul Wendkos.
It is important in film-making not only create an impression but also
to engender some sort of gut reaction from the audience, especially in
horror films. We can judge a horror film in addition to its style, by
its ability to actually frighten. THE MEPHISTO WALTZ does well on this
The film is about a couple who is coerced into the household of rich socialite-Satanists, led by Duncan Ely, who is played by Curt Jurgens, who is pretty good here. What follows is a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between the converted and unconverted to Ely's sect. It is pretty well-written and shot, with genuine suspense and a deceptively simple use of oblique angles and soft focus to create a nightmarish atmosphere. The problem with the film is that it is too long, and domestic sequences are not poignant enough to be interesting, despite the strange Alda performance.
However, there are scary sequences of fantasy vs. reality and terror-based ideas, such as Jaquelin Bisset's realization that her dreams are reality and the pure horror of the dog attack scene. Initially director Paul Wendkos's inserts seem too jarring, but in being jarring they make the action more threatening.
I didn't really like the title sequence because it gives away too many of the nice shots we should be surprised or thrilled by later in the film. One thing that definitely adds to the suspense of the film is Jerry Goldsmith's score: it rivals Herrman's PSYCHO score for violin-fueled, full-blooded accompaniment to a horror film.
Overall, despite some problems of character development and loose ends, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ is a frightening film, and a devious twist on a concept used in such other films as THE SEVENTH VICTIM and ROSEMARY'S BABY, this one is a distinctive experience in the bizarre. Some may not like the plot's convolution, but assuredly watch if you are a fan of horror films of any connotation.
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