The Mephisto Waltz by Jerry Goldsmith

Film music composer Jerry Goldsmith won his only Oscar for the score to THE OMEN. As a horror fan, a film music fan, and a Jerry Goldsmith fan, THE OMEN is one of the least-listened-to Goldsmith scores in my collection. It’s certainly effective in the movie–even at their very least, Goldsmith’s scores worked in the movies for which they were composed–but it just never registered with me on its own. I find it unrelentingly dour.

My favorite Goldsmith horror score is the one he wrote to THE MEPHISTO WALTZ. The movie is about Alan Alda as a music journalist who ends up possessed by the soul of a concert pianist. Alda’s wife, played by Jaqueline Bisset, tries to change the bargain made with Satan, and in the truly senseless ending, she ends up with Alda’s body, even though she knows he’s not the man she loved on the inside. The idea that the spectacular Jackie Bisset will go through Hell to possess Alan Alda’s body is the most horrifying thing about the movie…except for the score.

The opening theme is Goldsmith’s arrangement of Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz” combined with a little of the “Mass of the Dead,” which every movie composer is required to use in a horror score at least once.

Goldsmith’s score makes reference to both pieces of music throughout the score, but the vast majority of the music is original. Using both orchestra and electronics, he creates a score of horrible sounds that does most of the work for the movie.

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