A possessed pianist, a Nessie wannabe, and Nosferatu in the 1970s

Nothing screams second-tier 70s like this triple feature I watched as I continue to dig through all the DVDs left in my possession after my brother’s passing last summer. And speaking of possession…

THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)

Alan Alda stars as a music journalist who befriends a famous, dying pianist. His family—Jacqueline Bisset as his wife and Felix Unger’s daughter as their kid—gets invited to all these parties at the house, but Jacqueline doesn’t like the old guy.

With good reason. The dying dude is using occult magic rituals to possess Alda’s body so that he can continue performing…as a younger, more virile pianist.

Bisset grows suspicious when Alda starts kicking ass on the ivory after the old man’s death. She also starts spending time with Bradford Dillman at his most sizzling hot moment in time. I’m craving a Dill pickle right now…

Seriously…this is a pianist possession film. With plenty of trippy occult ritual moments indicative of 1970s style horror, this is still a total bore! Not even the ridiculous melodrama as Bisset becomes the focus of the film can help it. But I will credit it with having one of the most freaky visual moments of the 1970s…that was clearly stolen for the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake in 78. A dog wearing a human face…

THE CRATER LAKE MONSTER (1977)

Dare I say “oh brother”? Just like I’m still into the cheesiest bad slashers because I grew up on them, my brother raised himself on bad stop motion dinosaur movies and just wouldn’t let go—to the point that he actually purchased this hunk of junk on DVD. I give him a pass because I’m sure it was all about the nostalgia.

The Crater Lake Monster is clearly a cash in on the Loch Ness craze back in the 1970s. It’s also a disaster that has special effects about as good as the claymation dinosaurs on green screen in the TV show Land of the Lost. Okay, I watched that religiously, so who am I to judge my brother? Actually, it’s his fault I watched it…

I really can’t say much about this one other than…you had to be there to appreciate it. Even if you were there, you probably can’t appreciate it today.

Terrible highlights include an absurd hillbilly duo having a slap fight and an upper crust couple speeding their boat right onto the sand to escape the monster…and the monster actually walking around out of water on its flippers.

Meanwhile, as bad as the green screen scenes are, at least there are a couple of underwater scenes of a monster mouth grabbing a person.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979)

Faithfully following the original silent film—which faithfully followed Bram Stoker’s novel—this adaptation stars Klaus Kinski as Dracula.

Despite my loathing of period pieces, I find this film to be stunningly shot, with long, beautiful stretches of footage of the locations set to a perfectly complementary gothic score that ideally captures the tone of the film.

Even so, 15 minutes of that shit should have been cut to bring this film down to 90 minutes. I just really can’t with hour and forty-five minute movies. It started to wear thin halfway through and the second half dragged.

Kinski’s amazing Nosferatu look was overshadowed the same year by a very similar vampire that terrified television audiences who watched Salem’s Lot (it ruined me). He plays the role surprisingly meek and hesitant…before simply pouncing on his victims, which makes him all the more frightening. Not to mention, his awkward scenes hungering for Harker (and sneaking into his bedroom at night) are a reminder of the subtext of gays as predators in older horror films.

Drac’s right hand goon Renfield is so creepy with his constant cackle that it’s hard to believe Harker would agree to the freak’s insistence that he go meet Drac in the first place. 

There’s an odd, almost still shot of a bat flying that is interspersed throughout the film, but we never see Drac change into one. However, there is an incredibly effective scene in which a woman looking in a mirror doesn’t see Nosferatu’s reflection…only a shadow of him as he comes up behind her.

The plot is the same—Drac comes to town on a boat, Harker’s wife gets sick and becomes one of his victims, and Van Helsing comes on the scene. You’ve seen and read it before, but not this visually stunning if you haven’t seen this adaptation.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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