The Mephisto Waltz (1971) Poster

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Excellent occult thriller with a surprising end, worth to be seen
Kar-219 December 1999
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!
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A memorable horror film
Linda_S5 October 2007
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.
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A word on the appearance of the boom mike
35541m12 July 2002
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 / Video 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.
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a good gentle horror, no need for gore
lovecraftfan3 October 2006
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.
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He Just Doesn't Seem His Old Self
dougdoepke20 January 2008
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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Spooky supernatural thriller
preppy-329 February 2000
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.
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Music and Devil
Cristian Cercel30 June 2004
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
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sympathy for the devil
RanchoTuVu31 May 2007
Warning: 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.
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danse macabre
jplenton25 July 2000
Warning: 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.
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Strange twist on usual Satanic-cult potboiler
barcrab22 December 2007
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 count.

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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Could Be a Good Film With A Better Development of the Story and Characters
Claudio Carvalho12 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Minor Spoilers

Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda ) is a music journalist and frustrated pianist, married with Paula (Jacqueline Bisset) and having a nine years old daughter. When he is invited for an exclusive interview with the outstanding pianist Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens), he is very welcomed by the famous pianist and his beautiful wife Roxanne Delancey (Barbara Parkins), and becomes friend of the couple. The life of Myles changes completely, and he becomes a successful disciple of Duncan, and Paula believes that Duncan, Roxanne and their friends worship the devil. "The Mephisto Waltz" could be a good low budget movie, with a better development of the story and the characters. The film itself is very dated, with the type of psychedelic image, use of filters, and horrible work of edition, with weird cuts of many scenes. The story plagiarizes the storyline of "Rosemary's Baby", showing a community that worships the devil. The characters of "The Mephisto Waltz" are poorly developed along the story, and there are many flaws in the screenplay. For example, Abby Clarkson (Pamelyn Ferdin) has a mysterious disease and dies, and is forgotten in the rest of the story. Based on the last scenes, when Paula switches her soul with Roxanne's, was the desire of Paula for Myles so intense, that she decides to live with Myles having the soul of the man who traded the life of their daughter per a successful life? However, "The Mephisto Waltz" has a good atmosphere of horror and together with the astonishing beauty of Jacqueline Bisset are the best attractions in this confused movie. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): "Balada Para Satã" ("Balad For Satan")
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Has everyone forgotten.....................
Hey486 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
that this film *was* made in 1971, a time of psychedelia, drugs, and bad horror film-making? Rosemary's Baby was, in truth, a film about paranoia, with the trappings of devil worship the engine that made it run. It was also blessed with an excellent cast, and what was clearly a healthy budget for the time. In contrast, Mephisto Waltz concerns the ruthless desire for immortality, with a dollop of devil worship to make it possible. Therefore, I think it unfair to compare the two. Finally, while I've never been an Alda fan, his character was required to be colorless and malleable. Had his character been a strong one, he'd surely have intuited what was happening, and never have allowed himself to be overtaken. Considering the decade in which the film was made, and a real dearth of truly good 70s "chillers," I don't think Mephisto fared quite so poorly. I, too, read the book. As with most books-to-film, a good deal is lost. However, it nonetheless gave me a chill or two, not an easy feat for someone who's read and seen nearly every "horror" novel or film made until the last five or so years.
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Horror without fear.
silverauk26 June 2002
One asks himself after the movie: who is the devil? He never shows up, but you see his feet. The theme of the Mephisto Waltz of Franz Liszt has nothing do do with the movie. The actors are great: Jacqueline Bisset as Paula Clarkson is even more beautiful without make-up. Curd Jürgens as Duncan Ely is satisfying. But the story misses focus and goes in all directions. The ending is so disappointing that it destroys the building up of the story. After all an interesting subject that deserves a better script.
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Some good moments, lots of TV-ish melodrama in this Satanist cash-in
rixrex18 May 2008
Very strongly reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby in substance and style, and why not? When did Hollywood not endear itself to cash-ins of other popular films? Jackie Bissett got to do two of them - this one and The Deep.

She's great in both. Everyone else is very good, but for Alan Alda, who is merely adequate. Funny, even Bradford Dillman is better here, but then Alda wasn't yet into his stride. This almost reeks of TV movie entrapments, it's a Quinn Martin production, but manages to overcome most of them with a fairly literate denouement.

There's the momentary lapse into trite dialog, and silliness, as exhibited by a trip to Mexico where entry into Mexico is announced by a painted billboard on a two-lane highway running past a park with water sprinklers going and with no border guards nor line of cars. Believe me, I went to Mexico in 1971 both from San Diego and inland Calexico, and there was no such sweetheart road of entry.

Well, watch it and you'll see what I mean. It's worth a view just for the great opening credits.
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Give me more of this!
Patrick A. Hauber15 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Call it good cult fodder. Call it dated. Call it crazy. I say there should be more of it.

This "70's horror flick" comes complete with psychedelic dream sequences, devil-worshiping, terrifying morally bankrupt characters, and even a little campy acting. I've read it all--reviewers calling it dated, shoddily made, badly acted, wandering, and unfocused. However in my eyes, it is still a gem in spite of some of these things, and indeed because of some of them. Since the crazy 19th century came along, many an artwork has dealt with the supernatural, witchcraft, satanism, dreams and reality, etc. BUT very few works of art ever tell it in a style that reflects it. Very few films about the occult draw the viewer/listener/reader in so close that they realize they almost understand and are living in the strange world they view, and they are TERRIFIED as a result. This movie, and others like it, seek to do just that. Unfortunately, some techniques--like psychedelia--have become dated, though they are attempts at bridging the distance to the viewer with strange, maybe entrancing, maybe hypnotizing sounds and images. But were the first primitive musical notes thrown out? Were our first movies deemed a waste of time by the whole world? No, some chose to progress in the art, and the results have expanded our knowledge of ourselves. We shouldn't let a couple, now "dated," attempts be the end of it. We should keep trying to tell terrifying stories in a terrifying way. We should keep describing insanity, the diabolical, and the metaphysical using methods that get at the heart of the feelings, the other-worldy realities, the utterly foreign aspects of our world and of ourselves. At least, they were foreign until now! For this reason, and in spite of some true camp, this "weirdly" edited, acted, and directed story gets a 7 out of 10.
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Worth one spin around the floor...
Poseidon-311 September 2003
The first indication that this is going to be a science fiction/fantasy film is the fact that Alda is married to Bisset! Doubtful..... They play a relatively happy couple who become embroiled into the lives of an eccentric concert pianist (Jurgens) and his rather creepy daughter (Parkins.) As Alda continues to find himself in the world of the very rich and very indulgent Jurgens, Bisset realizes that something is very wrong. It seems that Jurgens wants to (with a little help from Satan) put his soul into Alda's body. (It is emphasized that it's due to his incredible piano hands, not for any other esoteric things that Alda has to offer......though, truthfully, this is probably about the best Alda ever looked.) Though Alda gets top billing, this is really Bisset's story as she tries to navigate the world of the devil cult before they can set their sights on her daughter who is next on the list of conquests. These transformations are punctuated by the appearance of a dab of Wisk detergent on the receiver's forehead. (Oddly, no one in the film seems to particularly want to be Bisset, who is one of the most glorious women ever to be seen on film, even if here her hair is a bit fly-away and she wears little make-up.) The film has a sort of souped-up TV movie quality to it, no doubt due to the producer Quinn Martin who created so many memorable 1960's and 1970's TV series. It's just a retread of the more popular (and better done) "Rosemary's Baby". Here, the director doesn't take the time to make the coven of worshippers memorable, even though they are played by familiar character actors in most cases, and they are hardly utilized at all. It's difficult to work up much familial concern for Alda, Bisset and their daughter Ferdin since they are hardly ever seen together. Ferdin, after one initial glimpse, is mostly just referred to until later in the movie. Alda gives a very sedate performance for the most part. He seems horribly miscast. Bisset does pretty well until the ridiculous ending throws the movie off it's track. Parkins is good as the icily evil daughter. She and Jurgens share a memorably disturbing kiss. Widdoes tries to bring dimension to the standard best friend role. Dillman (oddly billed as "Brad") does a decent enough job as Parkins' former husband. Jerry Goldsmith provides a nerve-jarring score which is sometimes a bit too over the top for it's own good. It's fun to watch in a kitschy way. (Check out those main titles!) Moss Mabry has some fun with the costuming at times (notably at a risque costume ball.) There's also a convincingly nasty little dog that Bisset has to contend with. All in all, an enjoyable enough film for a mild shock or two and some creeps, but by no means is it a great film.
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Calling all devils...
moonspinner552 July 2006
Ridiculous occult thriller does have the benefit of featuring two beautiful women at its center: Jacqueline Bisset is the nice girl fighting Satan-worshipper Barbara Parkins over Alan Alda...Alan Alda?! Seems Alda, a mild-mannered music-journalist, has had his body taken over supernaturally, but Alan Alda as an actor offers no mystery or charisma--it isn't even hidden--and when he's in the clutches of evil his idea of playing possessed is to go all stony. Bisset tries creating an actual character here, and her suspicions are intriguing, but the director lets her down with too many melodramatic scenes (panting in a cleavage-baring wrap, etc.). Biggest mystery of all is how these actors got involved with such a nitwit script, which includes a preposterous dog attack sequence and an insulting role for a young child (Pamelyn Ferdin). One good visual moment: a decadent devil party with Parkins leading around a masked hound (good for a quick shudder), but the plot itself is laughable. *1/2 from ****
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Occasionally eerie bloodcurdler which falls agonisingly short of its potential.
Jonathon Dabell21 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you know the story of Dr Faustus, you'll know that's it's about a medieval man who sells his soul to the devilish Mephistopheles (Mephisto for short) in return for extra life. The Mephisto Waltz is a 1971 horror film which brings a similar story into a modern day setting. While moments of this psychedelic bloodcurdler are quite intriguing, other parts are downright risible. Alan Alda is clearly miscast in the leading role but the others do rather well, especially creepy Curt Jurgens and Barbara Parkins. And for once Jacqueline Bisset gets the chance to rise above her usual pretty-but-wooden presence, giving a strong (some might say career-best) portrayal as a woman caught up in something more sinister than she can comprehend.

Journalist Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) once dreamt of being a concert pianist, but gave up his dream when his debut performance was heavily criticised. However, he still has extraordinary musical talent, and this is something that has not escaped the notice of a dying pianist named Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens). Ely suggests an interview with Clarkson and the latter, flattered, is only too keen to oblige. But the reality of the matter is that Ely is actually a dedicated Satanist who plans to use occult magic to "switch" bodies with Clarkson when his inevitable death from leukaemia eventually occurs. As anticipated Ely soon passes away, but Myles' wife Paula (Jacqueline Bisset) quickly notices strange and inexplicable character changes in her husband. He is more aggressive and perverted in bed, oddly colder and crueller towards her, and full of renewed vigour towards his musical compositions. He also seems rather taken with Ely's daughter Roxanne (Barbara Parkins), making Paula feeling less and less wanted. Paula gradually pieces together the mystery with a little help from Ely's ex-son-in-law Bill (Bradford Dillman). She discovers the history of Ely's satanic practices and also learns that Ely had an incestuous relationship with his daughter – a relationship he plans to renew now that he has taken over her husband's body. But Paula isn't prepared to accept defeat without a fight, and goes to extraordinary lengths to have her twisted revenge…..

The Mephisto Waltz has moments that are effectively eerie, such as a few shuddersome dream segments and a memorable sequence involving a masked ball, but more often than not it is rather predictable. The open-ended climax is also rather heavy-handed. I usually like movies with unusual and thought-provoking endings, but this one just seemed excessively hokey. The whole concept of Paula summoning the Devil to help her get her own back against Roxanne - by BECOMING Roxanne (!!) - spoils the film for me. Paula is the one character with whom we can sympathise throughout the film, but at the end she fights evil with evil and this strips away any audience appeal her character might bear. Jerry Goldsmith provides a suitably creepy music score, and the flashy cinematography of William W. Spencer generates occasional suspense, but on the whole The Mephisto Waltz narrowly misses the mark. While some will enjoy its dark playfulness and interpretable ending, others – like myself – will find it frustratingly underdeveloped.
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Very creepy film
mercuryix24 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
The most creepy part being that this was a t.v. movie airing on prime-time when small kids like me were watching. Makes the case of ratings systems by itself. At a time when you could barely get away with saying "hell" on t.v., how did they get away with a movie like this?

Spoilers ahead:

Alan Alda plays a music journalist who is tricked by an older musician who is a satanist, and his body is usurped by the older man's soul. Alda's wife Paula knows something is wrong, and throughout the movie slowly discovers the truth. She seems strangely unaffected by the loss of her husband's soul (and mind); she wants his body (!) (as if it is more her husband than anything else). However, she loses her husband to another satanist, and without any prior knowledge of satanism, proceeds to trick them all at their own game, by selling her soul and taking over Alda's wife's body. "Happy" ending.

This teaches us:

That the mind and soul are nothing, the body is everything (well, it is an American story); That beauty literally is only skin deep; that love is only as deep as your skin; that adults are willing to sell their souls instantly to get mortal happiness; that Satan can evict your soul any time he wants and replace it with someone elses, even without your permission; and that God won't interfere, as he isn't even mentioned in the movie.

Not good lessons for nine and ten-year-old kids to watch as Alda and his wife are smooching on the way to bed at the end of the movie.

How did they get away with this movie on t.v. at a time when kids were watching? Were they aware of the themes, and how sick the message was?

People talk about how sick t.v. is today. Gotta tell you, folks; things like this outdo any number of shows that use the word "penis." The movie is well-made, creepy, with one of the most effective and believable appearances of "The Evil One" in any movie I have ever seen; because he doesn't appear with million-dollar special effects; he is simply there, a (strangely convincing) entity in the shadows, waiting to do his business with stupid humans when summoned, and leave.

This would have been a good R-rated movie; but it was entirely inappropriate for children, stupid for parents to let them watch, and I would definitely *not* let impressionable children watch it. It makes the statement that God is out to lunch, and happiness can be obtained only by selling your soul (before it is ripped out of you.)

Seven out of ten stars, because of production, not content.
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Everything old is new again!
AZINDN28 April 2009
Mephisto Waltz is a marvelous piano work by Franz Listz, and as described by Ducan Ely (Curt Jurgen), the dance of the devil with his paramours. In the early 70s, the fad of devil worship by the Hollywood Hills flower power generation was rampant chic, and into this setting stumbles naive Miles Clarkson (Alan Alda), a music journalist, and his wary wife, Paula (Jacqueline Bisset). An opportune interview with the great romantic concert pianist, Ely opens the door for Miles to return to the musical stage he left after his failed graduation concert at Julliard. But it is Clarkson's hands which draw Ely's attention -- his spread over the keys is necessary for a great pianist, a point he emphasizes to his stunning and incestuous daughter, Roxanne DeLancy (Barbara Parkins). Although arrogant, Ely draws Miles into his closest circle of swingers with champagne, dinners, and raucous holiday parties that Miles quickly adopts. Disclosing that he is dying of leukemia, Roxanne's incantations with blue oil transfer the dying older man into the younger man's body, with sexually stimulating results for Paula, and overt interference by Roxanne into their marriage bed.

Subtle performances by Parkins and Bisset set the stage for the ultimate cat fight for the new Miles' body, which for devil worshipers is the ultimate lover. Alda's transformation from mild mannered Miles to alpha male Duncan is convincing as is the excellent performance of Curt Jurgen. But it is the discussion of god is dead, the devil is hip, and dogs with human head masks make this film a gem and wonderful slice of horror storytelling before slasher nonsense overtook the film industry. Body snatching, incest, and Satanic cults among the Hollywood beautiful people seem tame compared with the reality of the Manson family horror murders in the hills that took place only two years earlier. Nevertheless, the Mephisto Waltz makes for fun watching if only to see two of the most beautiful women of the era on screen with Hawkeye Pierce.
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Two hours of my life that I won't get back
chris-90525 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Mephisto Waltz could have been a rather interesting and chilling film along similar lines to Rosemary's Baby. Unfortunately the film is simply a boring and not at all scary horror by numbers. "Just add The Devil to a few vague plot ideas and mix" seems to be the way that it was created.

Once the main premise has been set - a famous pianist (Jurgens as Ely) wants to live on after death in the body of a suitably matched person (played by Alan Alda) - and the diabolical (in several senses of the word) act has been carried out the plot chugs along with nowhere to go. Luckily, the ex-husband of Ely's daughter appears with details of their eerie past to shove the film towards its conclusion. Unfortunately, the chain of events that unfolds is unconvincing to say the least and the ending makes absolutely no sense - nobody is in their right body (or mind) by the end.


If Bissett can suss that Alda is possessed by Ely, don't you think Ely might work out what has happened to his daughter?

The acting is pretty poor, apart from Alan Alda, who is spectacularly poor. I think he's even worse than the dog. Also, it's fairly easy to guess the next person to die at each stage.

Finally I was quite surprised that the mike boom didn't get its own credit - it was in the film more than most of the principal actors!
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An under-appreciated gem with one of the rarest bold endings for a studio horror film
sanjidparvez24 October 2017
Based on Fred Mustard Stewart's novel of the same name and directed by Paul Wendkos, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ was an under-appreciated early 70s gem that got lost into the shadow of other greater & renowned masterpieces of the same era. By the time Twentieth Century Fox gave it a theatrical release under the Quinn Martin Production, the audience already seen Roman Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968); and mostly because of both the movies shared a familiar theme in the story that set around a satanic cult ran by a large group of high society people, THE MEPHISTO WALTZ criminally received negative responses from the critics & the moviegoers "for being just another Rosemary's Baby-wannabe". But other than having the devil worshipers into the story, this movie actually delivers quite a different & superbly twisted tale of its own. This time the devil offers a different deal for his followers than physically invading the world in a human form i.e. Rosemary's Baby or THE OMEN. Although it wasn't as flawless as those popular horror classics were but still Mephisto Waltz was like many other Bava inspired late 60s & early 70s horror movies that's strikingly colorful, yet able to make the atmosphere effectively work as the story progress frame by frame. There was this weird New Year's Eve party at the earlier phase of the movie where someone was walking around with a dog with an eerily accurate and realistic human head mask of William Shatner, that later worn by Michael Myers in the original, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) (info source: IMDb trivia). And not only that, the bizarre rituals and some psychedelic visuals at the nightmare sequences with chilling scores done by Jerry Goldsmith made it a fantastic experience that may remind you of some Fulci & Argento classics as well. Like I said already, it wasn't entirely flawless…Alan Alda's performance was criticized as at times he indeed kind of felt like 'not so quite in there' mode in compare to admirable performances coming from the other end. Jacqueline Bisset on the lead carried the story as beautifully as she looked throughout the whole movie. Her stunning, gorgeous looks & the way she smartly portrayed the character made me think of she could be a great Bond girl for that memorable 007 era when it was shifting over from Sean Connery's legacy to Roger Moore's decades; even the wealthy pianist played by Curt Jergens later appeared as the main Bond villain for THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977). I think mainly because of the running time issue, the film noticeably rushed over a significant segment in the middle where the Clarkson couple losses a very important family member; their reactions regarding the loss & grief were downright questionable & kinda funny also. But the strongest segment of this underrated occult, horror-thriller was its climax. The finale was a real shocker and went into an area that I didn't see coming. All I can say without spoiling anything that you'd never see an ending like this today in a studio horror film for sure ;) It's an ending that may initially make you think why or how the hell he/she could make that choice but if you take a quick look back into the story then you'll surely find plenty of hints that surprisingly somehow makes everything sense and made it work in a weird way.

I think a remake by Darren Aronofsky would be interesting with Ben Affleck portraying Alan Alda's role, Emily Blunt reprising Paula (Jacqueline Bisset's character), Bill Nighy as Duncan Ely and Rosamund Pike as his daughter Roxanne.
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most wonderful and scary party scene
christopher-underwood19 April 2017
I enjoyed this and am pretty sure I have never seen it before. This is rather surprising given my interest in horror films particularly of the satanic bent but then this film seems to have suffered general neglect, probably due to several other and possibly better such films at this time. I liked the stylish opening credits and the Jerry Goldsmith score immediately and was similarly held throughout. Director, Paul Wendkos worked mainly for television and there are scenes here that have that rather flat, studio bound look. In the main though, helped especially by great performances from Jacqueline Bisset and Barbara Parkins, not forgetting a splendid central role from Curt Jurgens, this has a certain majesty about it. One is drawn in by a string of nasty and mysterious happenings and certainly my attention was held throughout. There was a promise all the time of a big satanic scene which never really happens but then there is the most wonderful and scary party scene that could have been longer as I don't think I have ever seen the like.
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Jacqueline Bisset is the main reason for watching this retread of 'Rosemary's Baby'...
Neil Doyle15 July 2005
Whatever moral issues exist in this strange tale of the occult, they vanish as soon as you accept the premise of this story--that a woman would kill another to repossess her husband with both of them in the guise of someone else's body!! It's about as weird as any Tales from the Crypt!

On the plus side, all of it is stylishly photographed and played with a certain amount of relish, at least by Jacqueline Bisset, Curt Jurgens and Bradford Dillman. Biggest flaw is casting Alan Alda in the central role as the pianist who inherits the musical talent of Curt Jurgens when the Satanist dies, bequeathing Alda with his body and soul. Bisset is the wife who slowly comes to suspect that her husband has been taken over by someone else.

Not quite as strikingly original as "Rosemary's Baby", it does have some effective horror moments, notably involving scenes with a rather ferocious black dog and a scene where the Devil is summoned but we never actually see him. Imagination is given free reign here (at least fleetingly), shades of Val Lewton. Perhaps a technique that should have been used more often throughout.

None of it quite makes sense and the ending is a distinct letdown, but there are some chilling moments nevertheless. Bisset and Parkins are beautifully photographed, with Bisset coming out ahead in the acting department, playing the stressed out wife with appropriate fear and tension. Parkins, on the other hand, seems to rely on one frozen expression, sleepwalking through her role, relying solely on her looks to get by in a way that Hedy Lamarr was often accused of doing in films of the '40s.

As for Alan Alda, he is much too bland, lending neither interest nor credibility to a role that demands a strong romantic lead. His career suggests that he is clearly more comfortable in character roles requiring comic flair, not straight dramatic parts. Bradford Dillman is at least a stronger presence in a lesser role.

All in all, not bad for watching when you're in the mood for a tale of the occult. I seem to recall enjoying the book years ago and the film doesn't quite measure up. It emerges as one of those films that could have been much more satisfying with better casting and direction.
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All-da reasons not to watch
jmh-107 January 2003
If you can believe that two gorgeous women like Jackie Bisset and Barbara Parkins would fight over Alan Alda . . .

Alda's shambling gracelessness lends little credibility to this movie but when he is off-screen, although it does not rival the Ripley/Alien slug-fest in Aliens, there is enough acceptable conflict between Bisset and Parkins give this movie some distinction. Oh, yeah, Curt Jurgens is pretty good, too.
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