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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Mephisto Waltz (Blu-ray)
The Mephisto Waltz (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // April 18, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $18.25 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 18, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by Paul Mendkos (who did a lot more work in television than he did in the feature film business, though he was in the director's chair for Guns Of The Magnificent Seven and a few others, including three Gidget movies!), 1971's The Mephisto Waltz was based on the novel of the same name penned by Fred Mustard Stewart. Interestingly enough, Stewart was trained at Julliard as a concert pianist, making it clear where his inspiration for this story came from.

The film introduces us to Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda), a writer working on a piece about legendary pianist Duncan Ely (Curt Jurgens). When Myles arrives at the older man's mansion to interview him, Ely is instantly taken with Myles' hands and promptly sits him down behind his Steinway. It turns out that Myles did have some training years back and that he's got a knack for playing. Ely calls over his lovely daughter, Roxanne (Barbara Parkins) to watch. Soon enough, Myles and Ely have become quite good friends. Ely throws decadent parties, hosting Mylese and his wife Paula (Jaqueline Bisset), among others. Paula is impressed at first but soon thinks that too much is happening too soon. She can't help but notice the way that Myles and Roxanne look at one another. Late at night, at one of these parties, Paula wanders into one of the upstairs rooms where she sees a collection of occult books and memorabilia behind a closed cabinet and a series of plaster facial castings on the wall. As she examines these, Ely's dog, Robin, attacks her but Roxanne arrives in time to stop things from getting out of hand. It's here that she asks Paula's permission to cast Myles' face, noting that he's got such beautiful bone structure.

At this point Paula wants nothing to do with any of this. Myles agrees to have a casting made later that night at Paula goes home to their daughter Abby (Pamela Ferdin). When he returns to his house his wife is understandably upset with him, but he tells her the truth. Duncan is dying from cancer. At this point, Paula is more forgiving of Myles' interactions with the aging man but when he passes away and leaves Myles a bunch of money and one of his piano's, Myles starts to change. His piano playing becomes insanely good and before you know it he's a more dominant man, getting his way when and where he wants it. He also replaces the late Ely at some of the concert gigs he was scheduled to perform at before his passing. He also starts spending more time with Roxanne. It's clear that since the casting was done and Ely passed away, Myles has changed… but how? And why?

The only film produced by 20th Century Fox during 1970 due to a string of box office flops, The Mephisto Waltz isn't on par with better occult thrillers from the era like Rosemary's Baby or The Omen but it's a decent movie in its own right. The plot is more than a little farfetched and it never gets to be all that frightening but it's entertaining enough and it benefits from a decent cast and good production values. The use of music in the film as well as the use of color in the set design is impressive and if nothing else, the movie is (in)famous for the seriously eerie shot of a dog being walked around on a leash at a party while wearing a human face mask over its head.

The performances here are decent enough. Alan Alda is an unlikely choice to play the lead. His character is supposed to be charismatically sexy, but he's not necessarily the most convincing guy to play those qualities on screen. This makes it tough for us to buy him in the role, he just doesn't exude macho sex appeal. Regardless, if you can get past that his acting in the film is just fine. More interesting is Curt Jurgens as Duncan Ely. He brings to the part a commanding screen presence and we have no trouble at all buying him in the role of an aging rich pervert. Barbara Parkins is pretty solid as Ely's daughter. She's got the right look to pull of ‘sexy' and ‘mysterious' and we know very early on in the film just based on her body language she's not to be trusted. Throw in Jaqueline Bisset as the second female lead in the picture and things shape up nicely in front of the camera. Bisset is fairly sympathetic here, we understand why she'd feel the way she does about the situation. She's also absolutely gorgeous in this film.

There are some pacing problems here and the big twist that the film delivers towards the end isn't all that difficult to see coming if you pay close enough attention. Still, you could do a lot worse than this. The movie has its own quirky appeal and those with an affinity for devilish seventies horror pictures should find enough to enjoy here to make this worth a watch.

The Blu-ray:


Kino's Studio Classics line brings The Mephisto Waltz to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it offers a pretty significant upgrade compared to the previous DVD version from Fox (which looked good for its time but which is now over a decade old). Detail is much stronger here and color reproduction seems spot on. There are a few spots where there could have been a bit more cleanup applied but the print damage that does show up is minor. Compression artifacts are a non-issue and there's no evidence of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. We also get really good black levels and nice, accurate looking skin tones and texture here too.


Audio chores are handled by an English language DTS-HD Mono track. No alternate language options are provided although English subtitles are included here. There's good clarity here, nice range and balance and at times some noticeable depth. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note..


The main extras on this release come in the form of two audio commentary tracks. The first of these tracks is from Bill Cooke and it's a well-researched and interesting talk that details the history of the film, lends some insight into the source material that it was adapted from, offers up some interesting observations about the picture and provides anecdotes about the picture while detailing the efforts of the cast and crew behind it all. The second track features actress Pamelyn Ferdin and moderator Elijah Drenner. Ferdin has some interesting stories to share about her time working on the film. She talks about how she got along with the older cast members, her thoughts on the picture, her approach to her character and how her mother behaved while chaperoning her during the shoot. She also talk about other films that she's been involved with other the years and tells some interesting stories from throughout her career.

Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature and bonus trailers for Jennifer, Deranged and Burnt Offerings. Static menus and chapter selection are provided.

Final Thoughts:

The Mephisto Waltz doesn't deserve a spot in the upper echelon of seventies occult horror pictures but it's entertaining enough and it features some good acting and nice production values. If it isn't a classic, it's still worth a watch for fans of the genre. Kino's Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and contains two audio commentary tracks as its main supplements. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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