Lisztomania (1975)

LisztomaniaBy: Oberst Von Berauscht & Bill Leon (Six Pack) –

-Oberst: The Life and Times of virtuosic pianist and noted composer Franz Liszt is given the big-budget treatment by noted filmmaker Ken Russell.  The film stars Roger Daltrey (of The Who) as Liszt, in a cunning use of a modern superstar to represent a superstar of the past. Liszt is a sex-crazed performer who gets involved with Revolution in Europe through his music.  This earns the attention of Richard Wagner, who borrows from Liszt’s pieces to drive his own nefarious agenda.  At least on paper that’s what Lisztomania is… In practice Lisztomania is a dark fever dream from one of the British film industry’s most demented minds.  I’m wondering if one of Russell’s relatives, at the peak of the British Imperial period, came down with a severe case of yellow fever, or some other tropical disease which forever tainted their blood line. Only a severe genetic mutation could possibly explain the kind of lunacy on display in this film. Ken Russell also adapted The Who’s Rock Opera Tommy to film, and if you’ve seen the film or Read our Review, you’ll know how reverent Russell is of his subject-matter.

-Bill L:  Tommy & Lisztomania  were both released the same year and they both star a completely unconvincing Roger Daltrey… also, I’m pretty sure Ken Russell was spun out of his mind making these films. These are the houses acid built.

Lest we remind you again: this happens in the movie...
This happens in the movie…

A Toast

-Oberst: Clearly a labor of love by Ken Russell, but I have a feeling Ken Russell’s love is much like Lenny in Of Mice and Men, in that he is also very likely to love his project to death.  Self-indulgence is his bunny rabbit, and he want’s to love it, and squeeze it, and pet it, and break its little neck.

-Bill L: I’m not going to say Ken Russell deserves to suffer the same fate as Lenny but he should be put out of his misery. This is an exercise in taking an executable idea and completely burying it in silly, over-the-top ostentation that would make porno directors blush.

Beer Two

-Oberst: Ken Russell loves to pound symbolism into the audience’s collective head.  Lisztomania features more artistic representations of the penis than the entire Art Institute of Chicago.

-Bill L: This film is the culmination of Ken Russell’s obsession with how penis symbolism may or may not have an artistic impact on the viewers. It never does. Gerald Scarfe and Stanley Kubrick are laughing at you, Ken Russell.

Dicks... just everywhere... It's like that dream I had...
Dicks… just everywhere… It’s like that dream I had…

Beer Three

-Oberst: Rick Wakeman (Yes) handled the score for the film, which is a mix of original music, Liszt compositions, and Richard Wagner pieces.  He re-arranged these classical movements, with synthesizer, including new lyrics on occasion penned by Roger Daltrey and Ken Russell. These arrangements were seemingly run through a thick, juicy bag of suck. I want to pre-empt any accusations of being biased against Wakeman by saying that I love and respect his work as a keyboardist and composer, whether it be with Yes, or as a solo artist, or even with his brief stint in The Strawbs. Wakeman is one of the most gifted living musicians.  The fact that he stumbles here I blame on the director’s fanatical ambition.

-Bill L: I thought the soundtrack fit the silly cartoonish nature of the film very well. The lyrics stumble often but they weren’t written by Rick Wakeman. There are a few small moments in this soundtrack you could call inspired or worth hearing- especially when the score reaches for epic levels of grandness it simply cannot achieve.

Wakeman makes a cameo as Thor... because that makes sense....
Wakeman makes a cameo as Thor… because that makes sense….

Beer Four

-Bill L: Lisztomania is convinced that it’s pop-art. It’s rock ‘n roll, it’s story-telling, it’s satirically over-the-top. Yeah! Why not? Why can’t Lisztomania be pop art?

-Oberst: This is hardly a Campbell’s Soup can, or giant blown-up Comic panel.  If Lisztomania is Pop Art, than it is the kind which killed Pop Art forever.  Pop Art at its best is able to take elements of modern culture and find significance within them.  This movie takes elements of popular culture and uses them like a lubed up sock on a dorm room floor.

Beer Five

-Bill L: Franz Liszt surrenders to his soul to this Russian lady who in return will restore his ability to write great music. After this, Roger Daltrey sprouts a ten foot erection and we spend 2 minutes on it because everyone involved thought it was funny. EVERYONE. INVOLVED. The scene ends with them putting his giant cock inside a guillotine. Everyone involved thought this was funny and it should be in a feature film. 

Even pederast James Franco is calling you pretentious.

-Oberst: Ringo Starr is the Pope… Ringo EFFING STARR… Richard Motherfucking Starkey is the goddamned Pope…  This is never explained.

Beer Six

-Oberst: I really shouldn’t expect Ken Russell to pay attention to historical details in his films, however the pure abandon by which this film follows the life of Franz Liszt, not to mention Richard Wagner, is beyond all boundaries of taste.  It seems that instead of actually having anything relevant to say about either figure, Russell was content with portraying them as caricatures.  Liszt is a sex-crazed libertine, Wagner is literally Hitler.

Guitar-shredding Machine Gun Frankenstein Hitler…

Symbolism shouldn’t just be a word which is shouted in the audience’s face, it has to actually mean something.

-Bill L: It’s amazing how Pink Floyd The Wall uses the same symbolic subject matter but in infinitely more mature ways. After comparing the two, you would swear Lisztomania‘s symbolism was conjured up by a demented, perverted child… named Ken Russell.


Six Pack

-Oberst: This just might be the most fascinatingly terrible musical ever made. I’m personally shocked that it hasn’t reached a wider midnight-movie audience, and will do everything within my power to bring it back into the popular consciousness.

-Bill L.: Over-indulgent is an understatement. This is the cinematic equivalent of sucking your own dick. (Which would be easy if it was ten feet long.)

Lest we remind you again: this happens in the movie...
Lest we remind you again: this happens in the movie…

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every phallus

Take a Drink: when you see breasts

Drink a Shot: for NAZI references

Drink a Shot: whenever you just feel you’re about to freak out… chill man, it’ll be over soon.

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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