The film Mephisto Waltz comes from the same 1970s era as Rosemary’s Baby, which had been a big success. It’s one of several films from that time that deals with the occult and specifically Satanism. It stars a pre-M.A.S.H. Alan Alda as Miles, a music journalist who goes to interview Duncan Ely, supposedly the world’s greatest pianist. They become friendly—but Duncan is a Satanist and is dying of leukemia. He gets his consciousness transferred into Miles’ body. This puts a strain on his relationship with his wife Paula, played by Jacqueline Bissett. She is convinced that something is wrong.
Unlike Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man, or many other films that deal with the occult in that period, the viewer knows from the start that Duncan is a Satanist. For that reason it doesn’t have the shock factor of those films. It has an extraordinary look—the fisheye lens photography is very reminiscent of Seconds, and gives it a trippy, psychedelic appearance. Also linking it to Seconds is a rare appearance from actor Khigh Dhiegh and Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which is somewhat similar to the discordant soundtrack he wrote for that film. Particularly remarkable is a party scene where all of the humans are in animal masks, and a dog is in a human mask—the same mask of William Shatner that was later used by Michael Myers in Halloween.
Overall, Mephisto Waltz is a fun, somewhat silly occult movie from the early 70s. It’s not amazing, but due to decent performances from the whole cast and good cinematography, it just about stays together. It also has a really creepy plot point involving incest and to connect it to Seconds even more it deals with body swapping but in a very different way.
The disc includes commentary from Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer and a personalised visual essay from Michael Mackenzie. It’s rounded off with the trailer and stills gallery.