Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda), a classical piano player on the rise, befriends Duncan Mowbray Ely (Curt Jurgens), a famous player himself who is at death's door. Unknown to Clarkson, Ely is a satanist, who arranges to have their souls switch places at his death, so that he can be young again and continue to play piano.
From the same director
Alan Alda (Myles Clarkson), Jacqueline Bisset (Paula Clarkson), Barbara Parkins (Roxanne Delancey), Bradford Dillman (Bill Delancey (as Brad Dillman)), William Windom (Dr. Roger West), Kathleen Widdoes (Maggie West), Pamelyn Ferdin (Abby Clarkson), Curd Jürgens (Duncan Mowbray Ely (as Curt Jurgens)), Curt Lowens (Agency Chief), Gregory Morton (Conductor), Janee Michelle (Agency Chief's Girlfriend), Lilyan Chauvin (Woman Writer), Khigh Dhiegh (Zanc Theun), Alberto Morin (Bennett), Berry Kroeger (Raymont), Terrence Scammell (Richard), Leon Alton (Pallbearer (uncredited)), Jack Berle (Party Guest (uncredited)), Antoinette Bower (Member of Ely's Group (uncredited)), Walter Brooke (Party Guest (uncredited)), Frank Campanella (Detective Investigating Bill's Death (uncredited)), Harry Carter (Pallbearer (uncredited)), George DeNormand (Party Guest (uncredited)), James Gonzalez (Party Guest (uncredited)), Pitt Herbert (Flower Shop Clerk (uncredited))...
Since the birth of the moving picture, the Devil has had a lucrative acting career. From Witchcraft Through the Ages to appearing as green goo in Prince of Darkness, there's never been a dull moment. In the Mephisto Waltz the "Master" makes a fleeting appearance, just a footfall and a shadow.
The Mephisto Waltz is oft compared to Rosemary's Baby, with the betraying husband and victimised wife. It is the direct opposite. The husband is the victim and the wife the betrayer. Throw in spatterings of Nothing but the Night, Season of the Witch, dream sequences similar to The Masque of the Red Death, and hints that the upper class/rich are "different" (They Live, Society).
The pianist Duncan Ely achieves immortality via soul transpostion. He selects his victim on their hands. It is interesting to consider who he was in previous "lives". The film hints that he may be Lizit, Rachmaninov and Mozart. Linking musical genius to pacts with the Devil is not uncommon e.g. blues guitarist Robert Johnson.
The satanists completely underestimate Paula Clarkson, even though she "warns" them that she's "tough, precocious and beautiful". Clarkson has obviously read/watched Casting the Runes/Night of the Demon (not the sasquatch film silly) and beats the satanists at their own game. She does this absolutely by selling her own soul. Surprisingly God and religion play no part in the film whatsoever unlike most films about the Devil. The characters in the film are Godless.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the aforementioned betrayal of the husband, Myles. Paula actively excepts Ely as her new spouse with no notion of redeeming or avenging her true husband. Why?. At the start, the couple share two scenes in bed. In both Myles is more keen on sleeping, rejecting Paula's advances. She jokes that they are intimate only once a year. She is not far from the truth. Myles has the libido of a eunuch with the personality, ambition and fidelity to match. When Ely possesses his body, the relationship with Paula becomes more physical and exciting. Paula prefers Ely to Myles who is quickly forgotten. Paula's only adversary is the daughter/wife Roxanne whose body she gladly accepts. Ely and Paula "deserve" each other.
Balada Para Satã (Brazil) • Satan, mon amour (Cameroon (French title); France) • I Satans kløer (Denmark) • Satán, mon amour (Spain) • Tanssi kuoleman kanssa (Finland) • Horevontas me ton Diavolo (Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title)) • Χορεύοντας με το Διάβολο (Greece) • La Macchia della morte (Italy) • Akuma no warutsu (Japan) • Baile con el diablo (Mexico)
Quinn Martin Productions (QM) (as QM Productions)
piano, death, satanist, concert, shalimar perfume, product placement, freeze frame, miscarriage, pregnancy, monster child, death of ex husband, death of husband, murder of ex husband, murder of husband, ex husband ex wife relationship, mother daughter relationship, body possession, writer, husband wife relationship, dying, concert pianist, occult, witchcraft, distorted image, sex, female rear nudity, female frontal nudity, nudity, paranoia, dead man...
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