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Lisztomania (1975) Online

Lisztomania (1975) Online
Original Title :
Genre :
Movie / Biography / Comedy / Music / Musical
Year :
Directror :
Ken Russell
Cast :
Roger Daltrey,Sara Kestelman,Paul Nicholas
Writer :
Ken Russell
Type :
Time :
1h 43min
Rating :
Lisztomania (1975) Online

A send-up of the bawdy life of Romantic composer/piano virtuoso Franz Liszt, with ubiquitous phallic imagery and a good portion of the film devoted to Liszt's "friendship" with fellow composer Richard Wagner. The film begins during the time when Franz would give piano performance to a crowd of shrieking teenage fans while maintaining affairs with his (multiple!) mistresses. He eventually seeks Princess Carolyne of St. Petersburg (at her invitation), elopes, and, after their marriage is forbidden by the Pope, he embraces the monastic life as an abbé. {locallinks-homepage}
Cast overview, first billed only:
Roger Daltrey Roger Daltrey - Franz Liszt
Sara Kestelman Sara Kestelman - Princess Carolyn
Paul Nicholas Paul Nicholas - Richard Wagner
Ringo Starr Ringo Starr - The Pope
Rick Wakeman Rick Wakeman - Thor
John Justin John Justin - Count d'Agoult
Fiona Lewis Fiona Lewis - Marie d'Agoult
Veronica Quilligan Veronica Quilligan - Cosima
Nell Campbell Nell Campbell - Olga Janina
Andrew Reilly Andrew Reilly - Hans Von Buelow
David English David English - Captain
Imogen Claire Imogen Claire - George Sand
Rikki Howard Rikki Howard - Countess
David Corti David Corti - Daniel
Anulka Dziubinska Anulka Dziubinska - Lola Montez

First film to be encoded with a Dolby Stereo optical soundtrack.

When Liszt (Roger Daltrey) changes into a dress at Carolyne's command, he does so behind a screen with paintings of the 'Saints of Music'. These include portraits of Elvis Presley, Elton John and Pete Townshend, from the rock band The Who, of which Daltrey is the lead singer.

Rumor has it that Ken Russell originally wanted Pete Townshend to do the film's music, but Townshend declined the offer - more than likely 'cause he was exhausted from doing the "Tommy" movie.

The "Millionairess" and "Most Promising Actress" as addressed in the concert scene are Madame von Meck and Alma Mahler, from Ken Russell's previous films The Music Lovers (1971) and Mahler (1974).

Roger Daltrey performed all of the piano pieces himself, as well as most of his stunts.

Last film of Andrew Faulds.

Costume designer Shirley Russell, who was married to director Ken Russell, was twice Oscar-nominated (for "Agatha" in 1979 and "Reds" in 1981) but was never once Oscar-nominated for any of the films she designed for her husband ("Women in Love, " The Boy Friend," "The Music Lovers," "Tommy," "Valentino" or "Lisztomania," et al.)

German Romantic poet Heinrich Hein coined the phrase "Lisztomania" to describe the adulation Franz Liszt elicited in his audience.

Director Ken Russell chose Ringo Starr to star as the Pope due in part to John Lennon's famous remark that "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus Christ."

Roger Daltrey and Paul Nicholas co-starred previously in "Tommy" (1975). Daltrey played the title character and Nicolas played Cousin Kevin.

Oliver Reed: the man who seals the door of the "fumigation" room at Carolyne's palace.

Ken Russell: [snake] The flames of Liszt's piano turn Wagner's sword into a snake.

DIRECTOR_TRADEMARK(Ken Russell): [primary colors]: The "laser blasts" that destroy Wagner / Adolf Hitler at the end of the film.

User reviews



Ken Russell did have some interesting ideas that came across as entertaining but there were times where his style got ahead of him and the film in question, and Lisztomania epitomises a bit of both. Lisztomania is definitely a polarising film, people will find it wonderfully weird while others will find it tasteless. With me, both seem to be here which is the main reason why the film is not an easy one to rate. If you are looking for a biographical drama, look elsewhere, the first half does have a story to it(more than likely to be fictionalised though) but the second half is like you've having a long really surreal dream and the characters are merely parodies. There are some striking visuals that are colourful and surreal while the music is pulsating and catchy and there is evidence of wit and imaginative touches like the homage to Charlie Chaplin and Hammer films, the fantasy interlude, Liszt's arrival at the castle and the Frankenstein figure(though that may also come under vulgar too because it's Wagner and the Nazis). Fiona Lewis and Veronica Quilligan are good as well. Some of it can feel music-video-like though- much of the second half has very little plot and feels like an excuse to string different vignettes together with a lot of tone shifts- and while the special effects are mostly okay the spaceship is rather fake. Lisztomania does change tone a lot and some of the shifts come without warning and feel very chaotic and there are some touches that are vulgar like the piano torture machine, the giant penis, sex scenes at high speed, Nazi iconography. Not entirely which category the vaginal fantastic voyage comes under, visually it was imaginative but there was a real weirdness as well, the same could be said of the most unique version of the Pope you will ever see. Most of the acting is really not very good, Paul Nicholas is pretty awful, Ringo Starr has a naturalness but doesn't have much to do and Roger Daltry is rather dull. Russell has shown with his Elgar and Delius biographies that he can be restrained and Mahler also(though also with some outrageous images), but Lisztomania is the prime example that I've seen of his filmography where restraint and subtlety go completely out the window, and at times it can feel heavy-handed. Overall, very difficult to rate but is unlike many other films seen before, personally not entirely sure whether I liked or disliked it, most likely to be neither. 5/10 Bethany Cox


Where else are you going to find a movie about famous composers, Frankenstein, Thor, Hitler, Superman, a lich, cigars, vampires, philosophy, perversion, papacy, war, love, Charlie Chaplin, and heaven? And where else will you see a penis kick line? This movie removes the need for mind-altering drugs. Seeing it is a trip unto itself.


It is hard to believe that Ken Russell was able to get this one "green-lighted" for release by a major American distributer as it is quite simply one of the strangest films to ever grace a screen! Russell, ever the visionary, takes the not so off-target view that Franz Liszt the pop star of his day and then offers viewers a comic book version of the composer's life and relationship with several infamous women and, most importantly, Richard Wagner. This film must be seen to be believed! And is a definite must-see for all Russell fans. It will also be appreciated by Roger Daltrey fans as this one captures Daltrey in his prime! Interesting musical work by Rick Wakeman and great set designs. It would be so cool to see this on DVD with director commentary! ...Maybe some day.


To many, this film is the stunning-proof that director Ken Russell never had it, and that idiocy and egotism were mistaken for genius. You could say mistaking idiocy and egotism for genius has been the appeal of rock music! Others might say that Russell is simply childish or immature, and that his films are the "masturbatory-fantasies" of an overgrown-adolescent. This belief is unfounded. Is this film over-indulgent? Yes it is, dear readers, very-much-so, because it is art, not entertainment. That-said, if you chuck any expectations, this is a funny film and allegory about the rise of pop-culture in the 19th Century. It draws parallels between Liszt's fame with the other generally-hollow spectacle known as "rock." This is great film-making, and it should be noted that it has similarities between itself and "Rocky Horror," and even "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," as they all examine and explore the relationships between sexuality and pop-culture in similar-areas. It really is true that women threw their underwear at Franz Liszt during his performances, and that he had many-many lovers--groupies.

Lisztomania is an odd bridge-between "classic" rock and the emergent punk-movement of the time. The film can also be seen as a statement that "rock" is not really subversive or rebellious at-all, but ultimately arch-conservative, and repressive. Amen. It's just a hilarious, wild-romp that will make your guests extremely nervous, which films should do. Movies should challenge people to think and reflect--at-least occasionally. Ironically (or maybe-not!), Mr. Russell had contracted Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood to design the S&M-costumes for his film, "Mahler." It should also-be-noted that "Liszt-o-Mania" was released exactly the same year that MacLaren's shop "SEX" opened on King's Row, the rest is as they say, is history. It couldn't be more camp, it has Little Nell in it.

Basically-put, this is about the the ins-and-outs of "why" we want and need pop-culture, and WHAT we generally-want from our "pop-idols" (sex, of-course). One could easily-say this film criticizes the absurd spectacle that rock had become by 1975, and we get this quite-often in the film. But this theme goes much-deeper, into the relationship-between artist and patron (once, just the aristocracy, now the mob is added). The sexuality is about mass-psychology, too, so Wilhelm Reich gets-his-due, and there is a plethora of Freudian-imagery. It is certainly a very-personal film for Russell, and probably amuses him as much as it does myself that it enrages so-many critics, but it should be noted that some of the absurdity and excess came from the producer of the film, not Mr. Russell. Ken Rusell enrages all the right-people, and that's what some film-making should be.

God love this lapsed-Catholic, and God love his ways. A flawed part of his canon, but very watchable and educational. As Russell began his career doing documentaries and impressionistic-films on composers for the BBC, it makes-sense that this is considered one of his most heretical-works. He complains about the opening country-song in his autobiography 'Altered States', and there were other aspects of the production he didn't want in the film. It's interesting to note that the 1980s was the period of his purest-work, due mainly to a three-picture-deal with Vestron. The 1970s were actually a very mixed-bag for him, as Lisztomania attests. He isn't entirely-pleased with it, but had some fun with the material, and there it is. I think it's a hoot, which means it isn't on DVD.


A wild, surreal, profane, provocative, bawdy, debauched, baroque, rock n' roll pop musical fantasy with anachronistic abstractions, Chaplin references and a depiction of the Golem as a lumbering Nazi Frankenstein wreaking havoc amidst a soundtrack of Wagnerian dread. Suffice to say, Lisztomania (1975) is as far from conventional cinema as you could possible get, illustrating Russell's further shift into more self-indulgent territory and away from his more sensitive earlier work with films such Elgar (1962), The Debussy Film (1965), Delius; Song of Summer (1968) and the controversial Women in Love (1969). The seeds of Lisztomania can be seen in many of these films, in particular, in Russell's fairly unique way of seeing the past by way of the present; investigating historical figures, writers, artists and composers as if modern-day pop icons. Here, Russell takes that notion and applies it to an incredibly distinctive visual perspective that attempts to underpin the spiralling confusion of the artist's life and work in such a way as to be just as stimulating and sensory for the audience as it is for the character himself.

The style that Russell employs on Lisztomania is characteristic of the mid-to-late period of his career, featuring cluttered cinemascope compositions, a juxtaposition of various film speeds, colours and textures, a general mix of established actors, pop-stars and amateurs, a complete disrespect for the artist and their work, for the period in which the film is set and for the general accepted conventions of traditional, biographical film-making. Personally, I welcome the sense of anarchy; with Russell getting away from the clichés that ultimately lead to films like Ray (2004) and Walk the Line (2005) and presenting a film that is - for better or worse - completely unique. Once again, the approach that Russell adopts for Lisztomania can be seen in many of his preceding films, going as far back as his ultimate masterpiece The Devils (1971); a gloriously over-the-top, pop-art inspired political horror story with a fitting subversion of various religious iconography. This led on to his film about the artist and sculptor Henri Gaudier, which featured the same depiction of a historical figure as an almost Bob Dylan like revolutionary amidst scenes of perverse invention and screaming, pop-art expression.

Subsequent music-based features like the underrated Mahler (1974) and the financially successful version of The Who's celebrated "rock opera" Tommy (1975) continued the evolution of Russell from sensitive young provocateur to grand purveyor of lurid, over-the-top kitsch. Tommy is really the definite precursor to Lisztomania, not least because of the return of Roger Daltrey in the lead role, but in the almost kaleidoscopic fantasia of scenes within scenes creating miniature vignettes that propel the story in such a way as to suggest a compilation of music videos. The scenes of Liszt giving his first musical performance are reminiscent of the "Pinball Wizard" segment of the aforementioned film, whilst also showing the attempt by Russell to turn the composer into a 19th century Marc Bolan type figure, with inventive stage shows, manic energy, wild charisma and a packed stadium filled with screaming teenage girls waving scarves and blowing whistles. There's also some subtle comment on the music industry and the relationship between the artist and the press; reminding us that Lisztomania is, above all else, an absurdist satire.

Nonetheless, attempts to pigeonhole the film to a single genre will only lead to failure. If you approach Russell's work with a definite idea of what to expect you'll most probably be bitterly disappointed; with the film confounding all expectations and going against every pre-conceived notion of character, narrative, theme and subject to present a film that is part drug-induced hallucination, part schoolboy w*nk-fantasy. There are elements of science fiction, sex comedy, fantasy and war, and all tied together by Rick Wakeman's bold and subversive treatment of the music. The elements are blended together with a complete disregard for subtly, with outlandish Nazi iconography and apocalyptic despair juxtaposed against the recognisable conventions of the Universal horror movies of the 30's and 40's, alongside a continual reliance on mechanical phalluses, vaginal symbolism, high-speed sex scenes and Daltrey breaking the forth-wall like Timothy Lee in the "Confessions of..." series. If you can appreciate the idea of Fellini directing from a script by Benny Hill, then Lisztomania has a lot to offer. However, it is imperative that you approach Lisztomania on a visual level, as the aspects of script and performance are the factors that ultimately let the whole film down.

Playing a death, dumb and blind kid in Tommy was probably less of a stretch for Daltrey - who was already more than familiar with the subject matter of that particular film - however, as Liszt he's really unable to convey the dynamics of the character or indeed the ability to, well... act! It's clear that Russell's use of pop-stars in the lead roles was an ironic choice - leading into the actual presentation of the text - but the film desperately needed a more experienced and talented actor in the lead to really pull these separate elements together. With Daltrey the film becomes incredibly flawed, which is a shame, as it is obviously a bold, unique and energetic work; maybe even like nothing we've ever seen before! If you can overcome the poor performances, the reliance on visuals over text, and the flippant treatment of the actual historical elements presented by both the characters and the overall theme, then Lisztomania should offer a once in a lifetime, visual experience. If not, it will no doubt remain an unmitigated failure on all counts.


Pure escapism! This film is fantastic. It contains farce, humour, nudity and crudity along with lots of laughs and many cringes. It's ludicrous, hilarious and colourful with great music and costumes. I like the music and also the paradox of some of the scenes. My daughter and I love it, and happy to watch it time and time again, but everyone we've loaned the video to can't get past the first 20 minutes, and think we are weird, so maybe we are off-the-wall like the film. I haven't seen the film Tommy and would like to do so now I've seen this. Don't watch Lisztomania if you are easily offended. Sit back, relax, take it all with a pinch of salt and you'll be grinning all night.


Ken Russell has seldom contributed anything that would pass for normal cinematic fare, and God bless him for that! Here he reimagines the life of pianist Franz Liszt as a 19th centuury pop idol, and you'll swear that somebody laced your popcorn butter with windowpane acid before the running time is through! A little slow in parts, this is worth seeing for the myriad of insane images that assualt the viewer, the Rick Wakeman soundtrack, and the accurate but highly symbolic re-interpretation of Liszt's life. I know that spoilers are allegedly verboten, but how can you not love a movie that features a Frankenstein/Wagner/Hitler? It only gets weirder, kids:a vaginal "fantastic voyage" sequence, a unique version of Wagner's DAS RHEINGOLD, and of course the infamous ten-foot wee wee. Be brave, and give it a chance!


If you're tuning into Lisztomania hoping to find a biographical account of this remarkable composer, you're bound to be left bewildered and probably somewhat disappointed. For this is Ken Russell at his most self-indulgent, and anyone who knows Ken Russell will know that means a film of extraordinary vulgarity, obscenity, sexual innuendo, phallic imagery, anti-Nazism and more. Instead of telling the story in true-to-the-fact style, Russell has written and directed a film that relies upon allegory, metaphor and fantasy to point its message. For example, in real life Liszt was very popular with the public – in Russell's version Liszt puts on pop-star style concerts, complete with screaming female fans. The real Liszt was a confident womaniser – to symbolise this, Russell has him riding a twelve foot rubber penis over a bevy of scantily clad, open-legged women toward a giant guillotine that is used to sever his over active member! Liszt also had a strained relationship with fellow composer Richard Wagner (who married Liszt's eldest daughter) – in Russell's twisted vision Wagner is portrayed as a vampire possessed by the Devil, who dies only to be brought back to life as a Hitler-Frankenstein hybrid who shoots Jews with a machine gun disguised as a guitar (!)

Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) gives a bravura performance at a concert for his army of adoring female fans. Part of the concert features music written by a young upcoming musician named Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas). After the concert, Liszt is confronted by his mistress Marie (Fiona Lewis), who is irritated by her lover's continual unfaithfulness with other women. Before leaving his mistress for yet another concert – this time in Russia – Liszt is asked by his daughter Cosima (Veronica Quilligan) to write a romantic piece for her mother in order to repair their damaged relationship. Liszt foolishly states that he would sell his soul for the opportunity to do so… and later gets his wish, when he meets up once more with Wagner, who by now has become the Devil and who vampirises Liszt. During his absence his mistress and two youngest children are killed in fighting in their native Hungary, so Liszt seeks love with a Russian princess, but their marriage plans are scuppered when the church refuses to grant her a divorce. Liszt is visited by the Pope (Ringo Starr), who tells him that the only way he can find meaning and value in his life is by tracking down his old acquaintance Wagner and casting out the Devil in him.

Don't say you weren't warned! A brief skim through this plot synopsis shows that Lisztomania is far from your average historical bio-pic. Daltrey is unable to carry the picture as the eponymous subject, but he is at least not as embarrassing as Starr, the Liverpudlian-accented Pope, nor Nicholas, the scenery-chewing, wide-eyed Wagner (these two performances are stunning in their awfulness). Better work is done by Lewis as Liszt's suffering mistress – she is terrific in a weirdly fascinating scene showing the rise and fall of her relationship with Liszt, done in the style of a Chaplin silent movie. Also, young Quilligan is surprisingly effective – and creepy – as his voodoo practising daughter. Russell shows no restraint whatsoever, and indulges in some of the most vulgar and tasteless sequences of his vulgar and tasteless career, but his visual assault does at least manage to convey some powerful cinematic images. These startling images alone are not enough to make Lisztomania a good film, but it can certainly be viewed on the level of a uniquely outrageous failure.


Ken Russell's "Lisztomania" is such an off the wall movie that it makes "Tommy" look like Mister Rogers' Neighborhood by comparison. Russell assaults all the senses in this film that you leave it exhilarated and mesmerized. This is a three ring cinematic circus and it makes no bones about it.

Roger Daltrey stars as Liszt, or a bastardization of the composer. Russell himself has described his film as "fiction based on fact", so if you're seeing this for facts, go far far away.

If you're looking for a one of a kind experience, this is the film for you. Among the more outlandish sights we see in this film are a pope (Ringo Starr) wearing cowboy boots and a pirate patch, a papiermache penis ravaging the countryside and Wagner being resurrected as a Frankenhitler monster. If you think I'm providing spoilers, baby, this is nothing compared to the rest of the film, which I will leave you to discover.

You've probably figured out that "Lisztomania" is not for everyone (how could it be?). What it is is a highly original and stunning excursion into insanity. It's Ken Russell's best film (his credits include the brilliant but unsatisfying "Tommy", the underrated "The Devils", "The Music Lovers" and "The Boy Friend" in which he out-Busbys Berkley) and a true movie experience. The Academy, naturally, skipped this film for nominations, but how could they deny this a Best Director nod? It's all about direction, anyway.

**** out of 4 stars


This film is brilliant! Casting Roger Daltry (a rock star of his day) as Franz Liszt (a rock star of HIS day) was a master stroke (though Russell seemed to always like working with the same people again and again and he had done Tommy with Daltry). Ringo star in a cameo as the Pope was a crack-up and Wagner as a vampire stealing themes from Liszt was a trip as well. There is a wonderful "silent movie" section with Daltry doing a Chaplinesque sequence which covers several years in Switzerland and incredible sequences of him as a performer dazzling teeny-bopper girls in crinolines and bonnets--all screaming and swooning to whatever he plays. The piece-de-resistance is the sequence at the end with Liszt in a rocket ship "powered" by several former loves swooping down to destroy a Naziesque Wagnerian Frankenstein Monster who is laying waste to the world with an electric guitar/tommy-gun. This film is so over-the-top I had to have a copy for my collection!


The film suffers from atrocious vulgarization in very bad style and taste throughout, which is a pity, because the idea is not bad at all. Liszt and Wagner are portrayed in gross caricature, which they were already while they were alive and kicking, and just like the 19th century caricatures even these modern ones do not miss their target and actually pinpoint some obvious truths about these the greatest divas among composers in monstrous vanity and atrocious hubris. Liszt was the more sympathetic and actually fell a prey and victim to the ruthlessness of Wagner ending up as a trophy in his graveyard, while the depicting of Wagner as a vampire and prelude to Hitler, his Frankenstein monster, is not altogether maladroit. In certain aspects it actually hits the nail. The unnecessary hooliganism of the film is the corruption of the music, which really is very little Liszt and Wagner but the more Rick Wakeman in horrible disfigurement in pop and rock versions. This is not a music film or any kind of biography or documentation of great composers but rather a twisted parasitic phantasmagoria tearing classical music apart and more or less destroying it. Ringo Starr as a pope with Liverpool accent doesn't make things any better. It isn't even funny but only stupid and disgusting. although a few laughs must out. Still, because of the idea, the imagination, the great camera work and the brilliant fireworks entertainment, I have to give it 5, which is the lowest I ever rated a film here, and I am very doubtful whether I will see any other of Ken Russell's films on music, no matter how much I appreciated his "Valentino".


I'm a great fan of Ken Russell's films. What I like most about them is the director's ability (and willingness) to totally immerse his productions into whatever mania happens to be the driving force behind its subject. The results are often excellent, occasionally poor. But never have I seen a film that was, at once, so incredibly visionary and God-awful as Lisztomania.

In most Russell films, fantasy takes on an important role in the dramatic narrative. In Lisztomania, the narrative is virtually jettisoned in favor of fantasy, and not to altogether admirable effect.

Still, any motion picture that can give us Richard Wagner portrayed as a Transylvanian vampire who gains musical inspiration by sucking the blood of Franz Liszt deserves points for imaginative hubris.

Ultimately, Lisztomania is less a film than a comic boot pastiche. Its humor is, by turns, dazzling and lead-footed. Compared to THE MUSIC LOVERS (another Russell bio-pic, this time about Tchaikovsky), Lisztomania is, for all it gleeful, lip-smacking gusto, a rather tired affair, largely because it's metaphors are so pedantic and literal-minded.

I should point out, however, that Wagner's third-act transformation (or should I say resurrection) into a machine gun-toting, Frankenstein-Hitler rock star (yes, you read correctly) is a genuinely


After seeing this film one late night (and yes this film is best viewed late nite a la Rocky Horror Picture Show) I really thought it was cheesy and campy and therefore a treasure to some audiences. Barbarella, starring Jane Fonda in 1968 and the fore-mentioned Rocky Horror Picture Show of 1975 starring Barry Bostwick and Tim Curry were campy cult classics and this one is an addition to that repertoire. Ken Russell has done some good films, despite their use of bizarre imagery and cartoonish silliness- Mahler, Liar of the White Worm, The Devils and Tommy the musical. Lisztomania is at once a parody of film, using Rocky Horror Picture Show elements, and a fantasy of historical fiction. Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Cosima were all real people but in this film they exist as parody and as fictional characters akin to comic book characters. The theme seems to be the battle between good versus evil played out by two rival composers- Liszt and Wagner. In real life, these legendary composers were friends and found inspiration as colleagues. But in this comic book type of movie, Liszt (Roger Daltrev) fights the evil machinations of the Nazi vampire Richard Wagner bent on world domination. He creates a Frankenstein that resembles Hitler. It's up to Franz Liszt and friends to save the day by attacking him with their pipe organ spaceship. Lots of fun to watch. Other things to look for include a giant penis idol, a piano torture machine, Ringo Starr as the Pope and throughout the film is a rock musical style similar to Rocky Horror Picture Show. So if you liked that one, you'll like Lisztomania. Don't take it seriously. Not to be viewed by children.


As a collector of Who memorabilia, I found this movie to be quite interesting and entertaining, what's more, if one pays attention they can see that this truly is the work of Ken Russell. Though it could also fit into the category of "soft porn" and is in no way to be taken as strict fact of Franz Liszt's life it is a great movie for those who like the bizarre (Who fan's will note cameo appearance by Townshend) If you like this movie, check out Ken Russell's Mahler, starring Robert Powell (Capt. Walker in Tommy) thank you


This was one of those films I saw simply because I wanted to see the lead actor without his shirt on. I don't even remember if somebody recommended it to me first. I usually describe this one to people as "a typical Ken Russell crap-fest with penis all over it." Many commentators imply or state outright that this film has some really deep commentary on pop-culture -- but I know what's really going on: there is seriously penis all over this film.

The costumes and sets are more opulent than Tommy, and the plot is one part "life of Franz Liszt through metaphor" and two parts allegory about how pop will eat itself or something. Honestly, the plot in Zardoz is easier to follow and the allegory doesn't get lost in a veritable redwood forest of penis, either.

The real reason to watch this film is for the three or four minutes of Nazi Franken-Wagner near the end. Seriously. The first time around when I saw that, I LOL'd in my pants and had to rewind it just to see it again and make sure that's what was really going on.

This is quite possibly the goofiest thing to come out of the mid-1970s and, honestly, it surprises me that it's not yet available on DVD, considering some of the truly lousy films that end up on DVD uncut special editions. This is a must-see for fans of 1970s opulence and suckers for truly strange films that only appeal to a handful of people. While I see the points other users have commented on, I think the metaphor and social commentary gets lost, as I said, in all the penis. (It opens with a penis joke, ends with something phallic-like in the visuals, and there is a twelve-foot plaster doodle jutting from Roger Daltry's crotch and straddled by George Sand during a musical number, not to mention all the penis everywhere else in the film.) If you can see past the penis and art-film pretentiousness, several good and relevant points are made throughout the film. Social commentary aside, it's visually impressive with an amazing soundtrack. For many reasons, I'm proud to have this one as a part of my collection of rare VHS tapes.


To many, this film is the stunning-proof that Ken Russell never

had it, that idiocy and egoism were mistaken for genius. This

belief is unfounded. Is this film over-indulgent? Yes it is, dear

readers, very-much-so, because it is art, not entertainment. That- said, if you chuck any-expectations, this is a funny film and allegory

about the rise of pop-culture in the 19th Century, and the parallels

with the other generally-hollow spectacle known as "rock." This is

great film-making, and it should be noted that it has similarities

between itself and "Rocky Horror," and even "Hedwig," as they all

examine and explore the relationships between sexuality and pop- culture in similar-areas. It is also an odd bridge-between "classic"

rock and the emergent punk-movement of the time. It can also be

seen as a statement that "rock" is not really subversive, or

rebellious at-all, but ultimately "arch-conservative," and repressive.

Ironically (or maybe-not!), Mr. Russell had contracted Malcolm

McCalren and Vivienne Westwood to design S&M-costumes for

his film, "Mahler." It should also-be-noted that "Listz-o-Mania" was

released exactly the same year that McClaren's shop "SEX"

opened on King's Row, the rest is as they say... Basically-put, this

is about the the ins-and-outs of "why" we want and need pop- culture, and WHAT we generally-want from our "pop-idols" (sex, of- course). One could easily-say this film criticizes the absurd- spectacle that rock had-become by 1975, and we get this quite- often in the film, but it goes much-deeper, into the relationship- between artist and patron. The sexuality is about mass- psychology, too, so we get-a-nod towards Wilhelm Reich, and lots

of Freud. It is certainly a very-personal film for Russell, and

probably amuses him as much as it does myself that it enrages



Richard Wagner: You are Robert Schumann?

Strauss: No no no. That's Schumann. I am Strauss.

Richard Wagner: Not Johann Strauss?

Strauss: No! Levi Strauss!

Such is the clever writing you'll hear in "Lisztomania"!

I think I am an expert on bad films, having seen and reviewed more than nearly anyone on the planet. I am not necessarily proud of this--it's just a sad fact. However, how I managed to live 50 years and NEVER see "Lisztomania" is beyond me, as it truly is one of the most horrible films ever made. Heck, even for a Ken Russell film, it's over the top and incredibly self-indulgent!!

The story, despite the title, has very little to do with the actual composer Franz Liszt. This is NOT a bio-pic--it's more like a re- imagining of Liszt when you are on acid AND you combine the film with "Faust"! And, since it appears to be drug-inspired, the film has a lot that simply baffles the viewer--including the most bizarre sex scenes in history (including one with Liszt prancing about with a 10 foot long phallus), an ending where Richard Wagner/Frankenstein leads a liquidation of the Jews (this is in HORRIBLE taste--and left me shocked and a bit angry), a pointless scene where Liszt is dressed up like Charlie Chaplin (who wasn't even born at this point in history) and another scene where the Pope (Ringo Starr) watches as Liszt beds a woman! None of it makes any sense whatsoever, it's terribly offensive and, oddly, Roger Daltry even sings badly! I think the problem is that Daltry is WAY outside his range--singing songs that are nothing like his WHO songs and acting--he should have definitely NOT acted! I think his decision to say and do NOTHING in his previous Russell film, "Tommy", was a smart decision in retrospect.

So would I recommend this film to anyone? Yes. Bad movie fans will enjoy laughing at how incredibly stupid Ken Russell could be as a writer and director--and here he did both. Also, there are a small number of folks out there who actually LOVE Russell's work and seem to think he was a genius. I just think he either had an undiagnosed head injury or was really, really, really fond of LSD when he was making this film--and because of that, normal folks really will want nothing to do with it.


The real-life Franz Liszt had an incredibly bizarre life, with plenty of erotic encounters. He also wrote gorgeous music. This should have been a great movie.

Unfortunately, Ken Russell goes even more nuts than usual with his Ken Russellisms. Gratuitous breasts? Check. Sparkly crosses? Check. Sexy nuns? Check. Phallic symbols? Check. Adolescent girl behaving shockingly? Check. The only thing missing is the water that usually gushes symbolically through his pictures.

Roger Daltrey comes off as a complete idiot in interviews, yet gives incredible performances in everything from Pete Townshend to William Shakespeare. He tries to save Lisztomania with his acting (he can go from farce to high drama easily)and his good looks (though he's gorgeous with his signature curls straightened, why exactly DOES his hair get straighter as the film progresses?)

Many of the supporting actors help a bit, too, including a tiny but memorable, pre-Rocky Horror scene from Little Nell.

I've seen Tommy many times, but I don't think I'll ever watch Lisztomania more than once. However, I'm not sorry I saw it. I would love to own the soundtrack--Liszt and Wagner sound terrific redone as 70's guitar-rock.

At a mere 103 minutes, there is too much padding. I recommend that people watch as I did, with a hand on the fast-forward of your remote.

Lisztomania is too mired in its own coolness and allegory. Many scenes start out promisingly, and many of the visuals are shocking or impressive at first, but then the scenes go onnnn and onnnn...


Probably the worst of Ken Russell's great composer biopics, but still wildly enjoyable. Throwing caution (and every other bit of sanity) to the wind, Russell concocts a real trip with this one. It's a most contemporary period film. Roger Daltry is Franz Liszt as pop star but he's not really acting...he's Roger Daltry. He's also pretty dull but Russell had the the good sense to fill the supporting cast with the likes of Paul Nicholas (late of TOMMY), sexy Fiona Lewis and the always welcome Ringo Starr (as the Pope). Russell doesn't so much direct a movie as he creates a pre-MTV video. It's all senseless, over-the-top fun. A big deficit, aside from the vapid Daltry is the film's unnecessary length...surely the REAL story of Liszt would require some length, but with a running time over 90 minutes, this particular LISZTOMANIA is about 30 minutes too long. Look fast for an Oliver Reed cameo.


Simply put, this is one those films that you rent with a group of friends, and the *real* humor comes from watching the reactions on their faces. Was Ken Russell sane when he directed this? Ringo Starr as the pope (wearing cowboy boots), Rick Wakeman as an Aryan Frankenstein, flame-throwing pianos, nude women worshipping a glowing obelisk, voodoo dolls, penile pole-dancing, mock-Chaplin scenes...the list goes on and on....


I really don't even know where to begin to convey how dreadful this movie turned out to be. Words pale next to what you are subjected to. For years I kept hearing what a genius Russell was, Women in Love, The Devils, and Tommy... and when it came down to it... I watched all of these movies with that uncomfortable feeling that I was not enjoying myself and really thought I should be. Especially with Tommy. Thirty minutes into the movie I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin because it was obvious we were being exposed to MTV -like vignettes featuring prominent artists in bizarrely staged scenes.

Over time I never lost that feeling on Ken Russell movies. It was always the feeling that someone knew how to do it right... but chose to do it in a sensational manner instead. He comes across to me as a director who chose to ignore story, character development and emotional connection in favor of trying to freak the viewer out visually. By doing this.. he took subjects that could have been important and reduced them to semi-pornographic peepshows that don't even have the capacity to excite us. He missed the point...everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.


What can be said about this bizarre film? Anyone expecting anything relating to Liszt or his music will be sadly disappointed. The structure is that of a bad dream or a stream of consciousness poem, yet I remain unconvinced that anything in it is truly poetic.

Being by Russell, it is a series of images, some of them striking, others hyper sexualised, grotesque or merely baffling. I must admit it held my attention, even if the proliferation of bare breasts and phallic imagery is a bit much at times.

The story, such as it is, revolves as much around Liszt's son-in-law Wagner as the man himself. Taking their cue from his alleged proto-Nazi sympathies, Wagner is depicted first as a costumed superman then as a machine-gun-toting Hitler.

There are a few good in-jokes here and there. An early one is when Brahms is told by Liszt "you're p*ssed" (it helps to be British to get that one) and later when Rick Wakeman turns up dressed as Marvel comics' Thor "You look like you came out of a comic book".

Oddly enough I felt the most dated part of this was exactly what was meant to make it seem the most contemporary in the mid 70s, namely the music. Horribly synth arrangements of the works of Liszt and Wagner, and worse still songs based, for instance, on Lieberstraum, with terrible lyrics even by the standards of the time. Badly sung, too, surprisingly by Daltry who struggled to stay in tune.
Golden freddi

Golden freddi

19th century castration fantasy--delineating the extravagance of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt's sex-saturated young life until his eventual death by the symbolic stabbing of a voodoo needle (a myriad of maladies in actual life)--done-up in the spirit of a naughty British schoolboy bored by his classical lessons and entertaining himself by looking up his music teacher's skirts. Writer-director Ken Russell's cartoon-strip nightmare begins promisingly, with a hilarious slapstick joust between Liszt and his lover's husband, the Count d'Agoult (it's a naked swashbuckler, like something from an inventive blue movie). But soon it becomes apparent that Russell's vision is going to be all a pastiche, from silent movies to "Frankenstein" to German Expressionism to bows of unassuming self-reverence. The surreality of Russell's concept doesn't even make sense in the mad forum he has created--there's a narrative thread, yet nothing hangs together--while the creative production design upstages most of the actors. *1/2 from ****


I enjoyed Roger Daltrey's performance in Tommy, and I'm really into rock musicals, so I figured I'd give this one a try. Why did I bother??? It was SO UTTERLY BAD, with the only redeeming quality being Little Nell's brief (yet memorable) appearance. Go straight for Tommy and skip this crap if you can!!!


At one level this is critic proof: it's just a romp, a student review, pitching composers as rock stars for a teenage audience. Just another Russell excess. No need to be serious.

Then again it fritters its opportunities and wastes the audience's time. It indulges two rock singers with their vocal turns when it could have used the more powerful music of Wagner and Liszt.

The superficial comparison with 1970s' rocks stars is trivial when Wagner did flee revolution and did push the boundaries of music in a substantial way. The intention of his Ring cycle was more profound than any rock band and yet he is presented in an anachronistic manner as a raving cabaret joke. Neither composer has any serious musical force to them at all: they just gallivant through a series of tedious gambits.

The script is rubbish: it's simply telling what is happening and why in a setup with another silly staging. The acting is incompetent and a vanity project which exploits the gullibility of its market to see their pop stars.

Russell sabotaged his career with such nonsense and then he would return and make something that was actually worth the time.

On the other hand Liszotmania could be lost or ignored forever and no one would have missed a thing.