The Mephisto Waltz used to be o heavy rotation at odd hours during the early, much more interesting days of the Sci F Channel. I watched it once or twice back then, mostly because I was amazed Alan Alda would star in such a thing. How one goes from this to MASH is beyond me. I see now after watching the DVD quite a bit of interesting stuff was edited out of the televised version. By lots of interesting stuff, I mean Jacqueline Bissett stark naked.
Frankly, the movie drags on and on. About halfway through, you have figured out the entire plot and are just waiting for the film to hit its marks. And for Bissette to take off her clothes again.
Alda plays a failed musician who has resorted to journalism to make a living. When he gets a call from a famous, aging pianist granting an interview, Alda jumps at the chance. The old man takes a disturbing interest in the two. He befriends Alda while encouraging him to resume his piano playing.
Here is the catch--the old pianist and all his friends are bona fide Satan worshippers. To make sure the audience gets the message, they throw a party featuring a do with a human face. If that does not convince you of their devotion to old scratch, the ol man has sex with his daughter to punctuate the affair. the whole deal is the pianist is on the ere of death, so he wants to transfer his soul into Alda’s body. Which he successfully does well into the film.
This is when The Mephisto Waltz loses it way in reams of exposition and a meandering affair Bisset engage in with another man. If you have to explain your movie so flat out, you have not done a good job with the narrative. As for adding te affair to the story--I do not now. Maybe it is an excuse for Bisset to take off her clothes again? It is not worth complaining too much about, with that in mind.
In spite of the dragging, the ending has always freaked me out. Bisset, realizing it is not her husband inhabiting his body any longer, decides she wants him anyway. So she stries a deal with Satan, too. She takes over the daughter’s body so the two can continue o as lovers. I kid thee not. A happy ending with a Satanic twist.
The Mephisto Waltz is fairly typical of low budget Hollywood’s flirtation with real Satanism in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. it tries to make up for the cheap budget with shock value--dogs with human faces, incest, dead children, weird nightmare sequences, and pacts with the devil. But unless you are a hue fan of the genre, which I am not, it falls flat.
Rating: ** (out of 5)