Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Mephisto Waltz, The

US movie (1971). 20th Century-Fox/QM. Pr Quinn Martin. Dir Paul Wendkos. Spfx Howard A Anderson Co. Screenplay Ben Maddow. Based on The Mephisto Waltz (1969) by Fred Mustard Stewart (1936-    ). Starring Alan Alda (Myles Clarkson), Jacqueline Bisset (Paula Clarkson), Pamelyn Ferdin (Abby Clarkson), Curt Jurgens (Duncan Ely), Barbara Parkins (Roxanne DeLancey). 109 mins. Colour.

Music journalist Myles is suddenly taken up by aged, world-famous pianist Ely; wife Paula is perplexed then frightened by the excess of generosity, and repelled by Ely and especially his sinister daughter Roxanne. Indeed, they have a Pact with the Devil such that, on Ely's imminent death from leukaemia, his Soul takes Possession of Myles's body and continues his incestuous relationship with Roxanne. Paula – ignorant of the conspiracy – is both bewildered and sexually excited by Myles's "new" character, but then her child dies ... Finally, in desperation, she makes her own Contract with Satan. Killing her own body, she possesses Roxanne's and thus, at least physically, regains her husband.

Stewart's rather superficial novel (it reads like a novelization) cannot really suspend disbelief throughout its somewhat Byzantine proceedings. TMW makes a better job of it, exploring macabre sidelights (e.g., a fancy-dress party whose guests are clad as Fertility animals) in order to deflect our attention from plot absurdities. Very stylishly directed and sharply scripted, TMW builds up a genuine feeling of decadent Evil. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.