Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971). Director: Paul Wendkos.

Based on a novel by Fred Mustard Stewart, this was one of a slew of big-studio supernatural films that were released in the wake of Rosemary's Baby. Miles, a journalist (Alan Alda) is given a chance to interview the reclusive pianist genius Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens), who remarks upon Alda's hands as being “the hands of a great pianist.” After Ely's death, Alda, who inherits most of the man's fortune, himself becomes a great pianist while Alda's wife, Jacqueline Bisset, develops the perhaps not-so-paranoid delusion that Ely, a Satan worshiper, is inhabiting her husband's body. But what is she going to do about it? The idea is terrific, but the execution is mediocre and much of the acting insufficient; the film hasn't a single outstanding sequence and isn't memorable. Alda from Mash isn't bad as the journalist Miles, and Jurgens is at once authentically sinister and charming. Bradford Dillman, Kathleen Widdoes, and Pamelyn Ferdin also appear, the last as the young couple's likable doomed daughter. Barbara Parkins plays Jurgens' daughter/lover. Jerry Goldsmith's score is a bit too loud and jangling, although it makes good use of Lizst's fascinating piece "The Mephisto Waltz."

Verdict: Not so hot. **.

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