The Mephisto Waltz (1971)

Paul Wendkos may have directed most of the Gidget movies, but man, he has quite the horror pedigree. There’s the TV movie Good Against Evil, as well as Haunts of the Very Rich, the 1985 remake of The Bad Seed and the legendary 1975 TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden.

Because this is a Quinn Martin Production and CBS aired this extensively on TV, many people believe that this was a made for TV movie. It was actually released in theaters — the only movie that Twentieth Century-Fox put out for the entire calendar year of 1970, due to several of 1969’s movies failing at the box office.

Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) once wanted to be a pianist, but is now a music journalist. He gets the chance to interview the greatest piano player in the world, Duncan Ely (Curd Jurgens, The Vault of Horror). It doesn’t start well, but then Ely discovers that Myles has hands perfect for the piano.

At that point, Duncan and his daughter Roxanne (Barbara Perkins) become friends with Myles and his wife Paula (Jacqueline Bisset), who doesn’t trust either of them. She was right to suspect them, as they’re Satanists who have transferred Duncan’s mind in Myles’ body. However, as Myles becomes a major star, she starts to like the man she’s married to more and more. She becomes seduced by the power, even if Duncan comes to her in dreams and tells her that their daughter must die.

After that dream, the daughter does die, which pushes Paula to investigate the Ely family, which finds her falling into the arms of Roxanne’s ex-husband Bill (Bradford Dillman).

This is the 1970’s, so of course incest figures in. It turns out that Duncan and Roxanne have bartered with Satan to enable them to pursue their incestuous relationship by placing Duncan’s consciousness into Myles’ body. When Bill is killed with the same blue forehead murder style as Paula’s daughter, she starts to worry for her life. But at the same time, she decides that no matter who is in her husband’s body, that’s the man she wants to be with.

So she does what any of us would do. She turns to Satan and kills herself, moving her mind into Paula’s body. Then, she returns to her husband, who is really Paula’s father in her husband’s body. Whatever issues there were with the marriage have been solved, thanks to the left hand path and outright murder. The 70’s!

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