The Mephisto Waltz

Director: Paul Wendkos

Cast: Alan Alda, Jacqueline Bisset, Curt Jurgens, Barbara Parkins, Bradford Dillman, William Windom, Kathleen Widdoes, Pamelyn Ferdin, Curt Lowens, Gregory Morton, Janee Michelle, Lilyan Chauvin, Khigh Dhiegh, Alberto Morin, Berry Kroeger, Terrence Scammell, Marta Kristen, Frank Campanella, Antoinette Bower

Young Abby Clarkson (Ferdin) answers the telephone at home. She takes down a message for her father, Myles Clarkson (Alda), from Duncan Ely (Jurgens), a famous concert pianist that grants Myles an interview. Paula Clarkson (Bisset) shares her husbandís delight at the prospect of interviewing the illustrious pianist. Myles drives to Elyís mansion and is made to wait while Ely finishes playing a piece by Liszt, the Mephisto Waltz. Myles attended Juilliard and once had ambitions of becoming a concert pianist, but his skills were limited, and his one concert was badly received by the critics, so he settled for the more mundane profession of musical journalist. Duncan Ely receives Myles in his study, with lavish furniture that includes a Steinway grand piano. Duncanís manner is formal and detached, until he notices Mylesí hands. He has Myles hold up his hands and sees that their length and breadth match his own. Duncan is so moved that he calls on his daughter, Mrs. Roxanne Delancey (Parkins), to meet Myles, remarking on Mylesí great hands. The interview goes very well, and later Duncan invites Myles and Paula to a costume party. At the party, Paula and Myles are introduced to Duncanís circle of affluent, elegant, and unusual friends. Paula glances across a room full of revelers and sees something that disturbs her, Duncan passionately kissing Roxanne. From her friend Maggie West (Widdoes), Paula learns that Duncan was widowed years before, when his wife suffered a dreadful death in Switzerland. Duncan shows up one day in his Rolls-Royce at the curio shop that Paula and Maggie own. He and the wealthy friends he brings along buy many objects. Maggie is delighted, but Paula finds such unexpected attention, and the probing questions about herself, her husband, and Abby, more perplexing than gratifying. On a visit to Duncanís great house, Paula discovers a strange luxurious room with very nice furnishings and white face masks on a red wall. On a cabinet, she sees a beautiful leather-bound tome, the Book of Calles, next to an ornate flask of blue liquid. Mylesí visits to Duncan Elyís mansion become frequent. He plays Duncanís concert piano with increased skill and agrees to sit for Roxanne so that she can cast a life mask of him. Duncan shows signs of a severe illness, leukemia, and his condition rapidly deteriorates. During one of his visits with Duncan, Myles is given a broth to drink by Roxanne, and he enters a kind of slumber. While Myles is unconscious, Duncan reads from the Book of Calles and Roxanne performs an arcane ritual involving the flask of blue liquid, a face mask of Myles, and a pentagram. Duncan dies, the life mask of Myles on his face. In his will, Duncan leaves his Steinway and $100,000 to Myles, and his house to Roxanne. Roxanne arranges for Myles to replace Duncan on a concert tour. Myles performs brilliantly, and is acclaimed by all. Paula notices increased vigor and romantic interest in her husband, but resents Mylesí growing attachment to Roxanne. When Abby suddenly falls ill, Paula notices a blue smudge on her forehead. Abby dies of an undiagnosed ailment. Strange dreams, what she saw in Duncanís room with the masks and the Book of Calles, Abbyís death, and changes in Mylesí behavior, make Paula suspect that something sinister is going on. Roxanneís ex-husband, Bill Delancey (Dillman), tells Paula that Roxanne is a Satanist, and that she and her father caused the death of Duncanís wife. When Bill dies suddenly, a blue smudge on his forehead, Paula comes to think that somehow Duncan inhabits her husbandís body, and that Roxanne plans to kill her so that she can be with him. Desperate, facing a deadly rival and supernatural powers, Paula must find a way to survive and keep her husband, whoever he has become. Based on the novel of the same name by Fred Mustard Stewart.


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