The Mephisto Waltz – USA, 1971

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‘When was the last time you were afraid? Really afraid?’

The Mephisto Waltz is a 1971 American supernatural horror film directed by Paul Wendkos (From the Dead of Night; Good Against Evil; Fear No Evil) from a screenplay by Ben Maddow. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Fred Mustard Stewart. The film was the only big-screen work of veteran television producer, Quinn Martin.

The title of the novel was inspired by from the piano work by Franz Liszt of the same name (see Mephisto Waltzes).

On April 18, 2017, Kino Lorber is releasing the film on Blu-ray with the following special features: Audio Commentary by Film Historian Bill Cooke | Audio Commentary by actress Pamelyn Ferdin, moderated by filmmaker Elijah Drenner | Trailers

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The movie stars Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Parkins (Asylum), Bradford Dillman (PiranhaBug; Chosen Survivors) and Curt Jürgens (The Vault of Horror), Pamelyn Ferdin (The Toolbox Murders), Curt Lowens (Lycanthropus; Necronomicon), Barry Kroeger (Demon Seed; The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant; Chamber of Horrors).

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Myles Clarkson, long ago frustrated in his hope for a career as a pianist, is now a music journalist and interviews Duncan Ely, perhaps the world’s greatest virtuoso on the instrument.

Initially annoyed with Myles’s presence, Duncan soon takes notice that Myles’s hands seem perfect for the piano. From that point, Duncan and his adult daughter, Roxanne, strongly pursue a friendship with Myles and his wife Paula. Paula does not much like Duncan and especially dislikes Roxanne. While Paula is disturbed by the level of attention being paid to them by Duncan and his daughter, Myles is honoured to be considered a friend by Duncan, who is dying of leukemia.

Unbeknown to Myles and Paula, Duncan and Roxanne are Satanists. As Duncan’s physical body nears its end, father and daughter perform an occult ritual which transfers Duncan’s consciousness into Myles’s body…

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Reviews:

“The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is great … But a script that jumps all over the place, characters you could give a damn about, and an implausible twist ending make Mephisto Waltz nothing more than an interesting Satanic curio to come out of Hollywood between Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.” Casey Scott, DVD Drive-In

“If a horror movie is to be taken seriously, it has to pretend to take horror seriously. And this one doesn’t. It reduces magic to a simpleminded ritual that anyone can perform: all our heroine has to do is steal some funny blue stuff and read pig Latin out of a book. The magic works for her, too.” RogerEbert.com

 

“Despite an obvious debt to Rosemary’s Baby, the film generates an effective atmosphere of evil and makes a satisfyingly eerie thriller. Unfortunately Wendkos mistakes a frenetic camera for genuine style.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

“The performances are good but, more importantly, director Wendkos handles everything with a light touch … The Mephisto Waltz is never great but it is consistently very good.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

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” … a muddy brew of diabolism and perversion, blood transfusions and transferences of personality. Here and there Wendkos manages to bring off some bizarre effects – a dog running round in a human mask, for instance – but it is all too perfunctory to rouse much interest.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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” … ends off-message, focusing one one woman’s quest for good sex at the expense of her daughter’s life and her husband’s soul. The final act seems not only exploitative, but out of character, for star Jacqueline Bisset had hitherto given a solid, believable performance as woman in the center of a satanic conspiracy. Thus The Mephisto Waltz is an engaging, well-directed, competently acted horror film that, simply put, springs a leak in the final act.” John Kenneth Muir, Horror Films of the 1970s

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Release:

On 20 February 2017, the film was released on Blu-ray in the UK by Signal One Entertainment.

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