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Film / Lisztomania

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Possibly one of the strangest movies you will ever see.

Lisztomania is the story of classical composer Franz Liszt in the context of him being the first big "pop star". Take that and the fact that it's written and directed by Ken Russell of Tommy fame, and that Roger Daltrey of The Who stars as Liszt, and you have one big Mind Screw.

The film varies wildly among pulp romance, strange dream-like sequences, and intentionally Narmtastic horror.


This film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Yeah.
    • The least to mention, Richard Wagner fights the 1848 uprising with a Colt Army Model 1860 revolver, whose name indeed determines the introduction year.
    • Photographers walking around with portable cameras in the 1840s.
    • Pictures in Princess Carolyn's places show people with sunglasses including Elton John, Elvis Presley, and Pete Townshend.
    • The most blatant example portrays Liszt and Wagner meeting other composers of their era. As Wagner just finished his opera Rienzi, this could take place around 1842. However, Johannes Brahms would be a 9-year-old child, yet he is portrayed full grown with an epic beard. On the other hand, Felix Mendelssohn is shown as a 33-year old elderly man.
    • Hell, at one point Liszt finds a computer and asks Wagner if he was going into electronic music.
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    • However, this is a Ken Russell movie, so what'd you expect?
  • All-Star Cast: Musical stars, that is.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cosima, Liszt's daughter and Wagner's wife, turns against her father and kills him through a voodoo doll. Afterwards, they are surprisingly reunited in Heaven, as Liszt's religious music saved her soul anyway.
  • The Cameo: Several, as some actors of prior Russell films make uncredited appearences.
  • Cassandra Truth: After Listz joins an abbey, Pope Ringo Starr walks (er, rides) in on him in bed with a woman. Listz says that she snuck in disguised as a nun and forced him to have sex with her at gunpoint. The pope naturally doesn't believe him, but it turns out that's exactly what happened.
  • Continuity Nod: In Russell's 1974 film Mahler, Cosima Wagner had already appeared in one notable sequence, being portrayed as one of those Germanic Valkyries with a Stahlhelm. Consequently, the "W" sign on that now appears on the belt buckles of the children.
  • Eldritch Starship: The one which Liszt uses to kill Wagner the second time. Modeled a whole after a giant Bird of Paradise, with Wings are made from organ pipes and armed with multiple laser beams that is powered by the energies of Liszt's former lovers. Woah.
  • Gainax Ending: In which Liszt reunites with his daughter in heaven - even though she was the one who killed him by stabbing a voodoo doll of him after resurrecting Richard Wagner (actually a vampire who Liszt trapped through the power of a musical exorcism) as Hitler through the power of Frankenstein's magic - whereupon they all fly down from Heaven to destroy Wagner-Hitler-Frankenstein in a magic spaceship after he kills all the Jews in Berlin.
  • Groin Attack: Liszt said that he was willing to sell his soul, but he didn't realize his soul was embedded in his "flesh."
  • Groupie Brigade: Literally. In concert, the (mostly female) audience goes completely nuts. One special woman climbs the stage and presents ecstatic Liszt a child, which allegedly is his.
  • Made of Explodium: When a train runs over a piano. Guess what happens.
  • Mind Screw: The End. Liszt kills Wagner, Cosima resurrects Wagner (as Hitler) and kills Liszt, father and daughter are reunited in Heaven and Liszt kills Wagner a second time, now by help of Cosima and his former lovers. Not to mention the ways all this takes place and what it looks like...
  • Putting on the Reich: Played with, but Up to Eleven. While Wagner's castle is modeled after a Stahlhelm and the resurrection procedure factually is a Nazi rally. On the other hand, the Wagner-educated children don't wear uniforms, but appear in Superhero Tights.
  • Shout-Out: Some.
    • The soundtrack by Rick Wakeman operates many themes of Liszt and Wagner. Would you have expected something else?
    • The blockhouse sequence is a tribute to Charlie Chaplin's movie The Gold Rush.
  • Take That!: At one point, Liszt puts out some arrogant boasts against Johannes Brahms:
    • "Liszt, my dear old fellow!" - "Oh, piss off, Brahms!"
    • "He's a right wanker!"
    • "I've always felt that people who like Brahms prefer to listen to no music at all."
    • Also, Wagner calls Mendelssohn "The jid who only makes music on a cash register"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Hitler himself makes an appearance.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: In that this movie will make only slightly more sense if you watch it while reading The Other Wiki on Franz Liszt. Although one could make the argument that the psychedelic imagery are just insane metaphors for what happened in real life.note 


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