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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.
    • However, this is a Ken Russell movie, so what'd you expect?
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Liszt uses his music to stop Richard Wagner, the Antichrist who later becomes Hitler.
  • 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 appearances.
  • 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.
  • Casting Gag: Russell cast Ringo Starr as the Pope partly due to John Lennon's famous comment that The Beatles were Bigger Than Jesus.
  • 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.
  • Cool Starship: The one which Liszt uses to kill Wagner the second time. A Raygun Gothic-style rocket ship modeled a whole after a giant Bird of Paradise, with wings made from organ pipes and armed with multiple laser beams that is powered by the energies of Liszt's former lovers. Woah.
  • Disposable Woman: Happens to Countess Maria and her children, aside from Cosima, when they were comedically blown upped during the May Uprising in Dresden.
  • Fictionalized Death Account: In reality, neither Countess Maria nor any of her children died in the May Uprising.
  • Gag Nose: When the Pope disguises himself as a monk, all that's visible from under his hood is his large nose.
  • Gag Penis: In one fantasy sequence, Liszt's erection grows so large that five women can ride it at once.
  • 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 magical 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.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: While it's true that Richard Wagner held antisemitic views, the movie turns him into a proto-Hitler.
  • Karma Houdini: Cosima gleefully helped her husband brainwash children into becoming Nazis, resurrected him after Liszt had barely managed to exorcise him, happily led the brainwashed children into following Hitler-Wagner on his genocide of the Berlin Jews and then murdered Liszt, her own father, via voodoo doll seemingly just because. Nonetheless, she is reunited with Liszt in heaven and is not held accountable for everything she did when she was alive in the slightest, because Liszt's music apparently saved her soul.
  • 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...
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Wagner becomes a vampire Frankenstein monster Hitler.
  • One-Winged Angel: Wagner turns into a grotesque vampire during his final showdown with Liszt.
  • Patricide: Liszt ends up being killed by his daughter Cosima with a voodoo doll.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Wagner virulently hates Jews and ends up leading a massacre of Berlin's Jewish community.
  • The Power of Rock: Wagner wreaks mass destruction on the world with the dark side of the power of rock, firing a guitar that is a machine gun. Franz Liszt saves the world by blasting off in a fighter jet whose controls are a musical keyboard, and destroys Wagner in an aerial assault with the power of rock, then flies off into heaven singing "Liebestr√§ume."
  • 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.
  • The Rock Star: The historical Liszt has a reputation for having been a rock star long before rock and roll even existed, and this movie heavily leans into the tropes of the character type. Bonus points for being played by a rock star.
  • Shout-Out: Some.
  • 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 
  • Voodoo Doll: Franz's daughter Cosima makes one of her father, using it to kill him as the movie approaches its climax.

 
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Liszt's kitty

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