The Mephisto Waltz (1971)

the mephisto waltz poster 1971 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good visuals, Jacqueline Bisset

Alan Alda, not enough developed story

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Mephisto Waltz

Studio:   Quinn Martin Productions

Genre(s):   Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):   April 9, 1971

MPAA Rating:   R

mephisto waltz funeral alan alda jacqueline bisset

Should I make a joke or something?

Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) is a frustrated writer invited to interview famed composer and pianist Duncan Ely (Curd Jürgens).  Myles’ wife Paula (Jacqueline Bisset) immediately takes a disliking to Duncan and his strange daughter Roxanne (Barbara Parkins), but Duncan encourages Myles potential as a pianist.  When Duncan dies and Myles whole persona begins to change, Paula begins to question if it is still Myles she is married to…and as danger begins to creep in, Paula might be the next victim!

Directed by Paul Wendkos, The Mephisto Waltz is a horror occult thriller.  The movie was met with mixed reviews and based on the 1969 novel by Fred Mustard Stewart.

The occult was a hot topic in 1971.  Rosemary’s Baby was released in 1968 and after the movie it seemed like tons of occult movies were cropping up (and continued to appear after The Exorcist in 1973 and The Omen in 1976).  The thing I remember seeing about the movie was a promotional shot of Barbara Parkins and the dog wearing a human mask (ironically a William Shatner mask like Michael Myers), but sadly this is just a quick glimpse in the movie.  The Mephisto Waltz is a minor entry into the movies that feels somewhat derivative, but it also has some moments.

mephisto waltz incest father daughter curd jurgens barbara parkins

Seems like a healthy father-daughter relationship…

The story is rather predictable if you’ve seen movies like The Mephisto Waltz.  You can easily see that the Duncan character and his daughter are sizing Myles up for possession…that isn’t a surprise.  It happens quite early in the movie and the real movie is the Rosemary’s Baby clone with Bisset trying to find out if her husband is really her husband…but the ending does take a different twist than you’d expect.

Jacqueline Bisset is actually quite good in the film.  Unlike Mia Farrow’s Rosemary, Bisset’s Paula is immediately more suspicious and untrusting…and takes the most extreme measures for revenge.  Barbara Parkins and Curd Jürgens play a good, incestuous couple father/daughter couple, but it is hard to take Alan Alda seriously in the role.  It was pre-M*A*S*H, but Alda needed to play the role rather straight because there isn’t much humor in the script…something he just couldn’t do.

the mephisto waltz death mask jacqueline bisset

It’s all about masks

The movie is shot rather stylishly and reminds me a lot of the directing of Rosemary’s Baby.  It combines a sort of standard shooting style with very stylized shots that are quite inventive.  The movie has lots of wide locations shots.  The addition of a Jerry Goldsmith score adds to more ties between The Mephisto Waltz other supernatural movies of the time like The Omen and The Other (also both scored by Goldman).

Despite having a kind of unique ending, The Mephisto Waltz is a rather pale clone of films like Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist.  It has a lot of the style of the two films, but weaknesses in the story and with Alda don’t allow it to elevate past basic horror into something better.  It just feels a bit like a low-brow rip-off of a classy horror film despite a good effort by Bisset and the cinematographer…stick with the classics.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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