Freelance writer and former ungifted pianist Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) goes to interview Duncan Ely (Curt Jürgens), a world-famous and mysterious concert pianist who is dying of leukaemia.
Myles and his beautiful wife, Paula (Jacqueline Bisset) are caught up in the almost decadent luxury surrounding Ely and his beautiful slinky daughter Roxanne (Barbara Parkins).
Seduced and flattered, Myles is soon playing duets with the maestro and just skirting involvement with Roxanne while his wife looks on, still unthreatened and certainly unimpressed.
Suddenly fantastic things begin to occur. Ely dies, and Myles, constantly at the keyboard, obviously is playing the piano as well as the dead artist – and with his frenzied, flamboyant style. And when he does drag himself home to his wife, he turns into a new man in bed, with enormous sexual appetites and unusual demands – so much so that Paula becomes convinced she’s not sleeping with her husband any longer.
Discoveries go from bad to worse and Paula is faced with horrible conjectures – that Ely has somehow been reincarnated in Myles.
When she starts playing detective to get to the truth, she can’t live with it because she finds evidence of transmigration, satanism, incest between Ely and his daughter, murder, and finally her own pact with Satan that is a more satisfying deal than Dr Faustus ever got.
The cast is first class and The Mephisto Waltz is a modern Gothic chiller that ranks with Rosemary’s Baby(1968) in its nightmarish implications. The title comes from a musical score by Franz Liszt and refers to Mephistopheles, the name assigned to Satan in Faust.
When released in the spring of 1971, the film did very well in some markets and virtually no business in others. 20th Century Fox research showed that in the south and mid-west of America, potential moviegoers thought the movie was about people waltzing (!). The film was pulled from those markets and returned a few months later with the more obvious title Satan’s Transplant.
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