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Dealing With The Devil

Updated on November 9, 2015

Let's Make A Deal

An age-old tale of dealing with the devil.
An age-old tale of dealing with the devil. | Source

Origin Of The Story

Devilish imagery is a recurring phenomenon in various art forms, ranging from opera to literature to the silver screen and even contemporary music (e.g. hip hop).

This devilish imagery can be attributed to the Faust theme otherwise known as the legend of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's tragic play entitled, "Faustus" or "Faust".

The theme is based on a magician who lived in the area of northern Germany during the reformation period of 1517.

The Faust figure is a scholarly one but he is filled with bitterness and despair.

He forsakes God and makes a pact with the Devil, one that commits his soul to eternal damnation in return for the gain of power and knowledge in this life.

The Faust character can be associated with the "tragic hero" and his hamartia was pride in which death ultimately occurs for him.

His story has been revived and revamped numerous times across various genres.

Faustian (adj): a situation in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power & success for a delimited term.

Adaptation To The Page

Page adaption of the Faust story by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Page adaption of the Faust story by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. | Source

Adaptation To The Stage

The Faustbuch (Faust book) is one of the earliest surviving collections of tales that inspired works like Goethe’s Faust.

Ballads were written and sung to music about Faust.

An English ballad on Faustus was registered in 1588 and the same year Christopher Marlowe used the Faust theme as inspiration for his work entitled "Dr.Faustus."

Later, an adaptation of C. Marlowe's play and the Faust theme was found using puppets; this took the genre from tragedy to comedy.

Eventually, the story leads to Faust being saved rather than dying in the end.

Soon after, society underwent a cultural climate change with the beginning and end of the Enlightenment Movement of 1687, which gateways into the French Revolution of 1789 and introduced romanticism.

Goethe's tragic play Faust of 1890 is a romantic lyric drama. It showcases poetic language versus the naturalistic drama from earlier works.

Adaptation To The Screen

An adaptation of the Faustian legend can be found in the 1967 British comedy-fantasy-romance film entitled, "Bedazzled".

The film was released on December 10th, 1967 and was directed by Stanley Donen, according to IMDb.com.

The modernizing of the Faustian theme can be found via Stanley Moon (played by Dudely Moore) who is the Faustian figure in this film.

He is a short order cook and madly in love with Margaret (played by Eleanor Bron), who is the Marguerite figure in this film.

She plays an unsuspecting waitress who works at Whimpy Burger with Stanley.

He feels his existence is unimportant and prepares to commit suicide until George Spiggott (played by Peter Cook) barges into his room and ultimately prevents him from doing so.

Film Poster

Bedazzled (1967) — Giving the devil his due
Bedazzled (1967) — Giving the devil his due | Source

Film Trailer

Bedazzled (1967) Summary

George Spiggott is the Mephistopheles figure in this film:

George persuades Stanley into selling his soul to him for seven wishes.

With those seven wishes, Stanley attempts to win Margaret's attention by becoming an intellectual, a 1960s rock star, and a wealthy industrialist.

However, all of Stanley's best-laid plans go haywire leaving him with a feeling of more despair regarding his life.

He eventually wises up about the deal he had made with George and realizes he has much to live for.

Ultimately, George pitied Stanley, destroyed their contract, and allowed him to keep his soul.

And, George had already exceeded his quota of collecting one hundred billion souls, so he had no need for an extra one.

This was supposed to end the war between George and GOD. However, when George goes to meet GOD, on the pretenses that he would be allowed back into heaven, he is once again rejected.

Saint Peter then explains to George that when he gave Stanley back his soul, he had done a good thing for the wrong reason.

So, George attempts to entice Stanley to come back to him in hopes of collecting his soul but Stanley refuses.

He chose to head back to his job at Whimpy Burger and finally found the courage to ask Margaret out on a date.

She wasn't enthusiastic in her response to him; however, she did not turn him down either, which left his spirits high.

The final scene of the film depicts George as enraged and threatening revenge on God by unleashing technological curses of the modern age on the world.

Another Screen Adaptation

Movie Review & Film Summary
Movie Review & Film Summary | Source

Film Trailer

Bedazzled (2000)

Another adaptation of the same name, "Bedazzled", was released on October 20th 2000; it seems to be geared toward a young adult American audience.

The film is another comedy-fantasy, as categorized by IMDb.com, and still encompasses the Faust legend.

However, in this film, a woman is introduced to the audience as the devil figure.

Elizabeth Hurley plays the sultry devil in the film and ultimately lures the Faustian figure, Elliot Richardson (played by Brendan Fraser), into her world.

This world is much different from that of the suicidal techno geek yet very similar to that of Stanley in the 1967 British adaptation of Bedazzled.

Bedazzled (2000) Film Summary

The devil offers Elliot seven wishes to gain anything he wants, which is primarily the affection of his love interest, Alison Gardner (played by Frances O'Connor).

She is similar to Margaret in the 1967 adaptation of “Bedazzled” and the Marguerite figure from the Faust legend.

Elliot must also give the devil his soul upon completion of all seven wishes.

He and the devil sign their contract in a nightclub in Oakland, similar to that of the nightclub George took Stanley to in the 1967 adaptation of “Bedazzled”.

Soon after signing this contract, Elliot also uses his wishes in attempts to win Allison's attention.

He wishes to become rich and powerful, an intellectual, witty and well-endowed, emotionally sensitive, a superstar athlete, and the President of the United States.

Be Specific

Elliot finally asks to be President of the United States to improve the world and get the woman of his dreams. But, the devil turns him into Abraham Lincoln.
Elliot finally asks to be President of the United States to improve the world and get the woman of his dreams. But, the devil turns him into Abraham Lincoln. | Source

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

When each of Elliot's wishes go haywire, much like Stanley's, he meets with the devil and she blames him for not being specific enough when making his wishes;

George accused Stanley of the same in the 1967 adaptation of “Bedazzled”.

Elliot then returns to work, and contemplates on his remaining two wishes.

Suddenly, the devil pops up on his computer screen while he is at his desk.

She points out that Elliot's original wish was for a big mac and coke during their first meeting and she granted this wish prior to Elliot signing the contract; nevertheless, the wish would still count as one of his seven wishes.

In the 1967 adaptation of “Bedazzled”, George also grants Stanley a wish before he signed the contract and George also counted it toward one of Stanley’s seven wishes.

So, this is when Elliot loses his temper and storms out of his office yelling at the computer screen on his way out; however, no one else in the office can hear or see the devil on the screen.

No One Ever Reads The Contract

Elizabeth Hurley: 10 Hottest “Bedazzled” Moments
Elizabeth Hurley: 10 Hottest “Bedazzled” Moments | Source

A Really Good Friend

Divine Intervention

Elliot then goes to church to ask for help and is presumed to be drunk.

He is then thrown in jail over night.

That is where he meets his new cellmate (played by Gabriel Casseus) who tells him that he cannot sell his soul because it is not his to sell.

He goes on to say that Elliot's soul belongs to God, and although the devil may try to confuse him, in the end he will come to the realization of who he truly is, and what his purpose is.

Elliot asks his new cellmate to identify himself but the response is simply, "a really good friend", which implies that he is GOD.

In the 1967 adaptation, Stanley also receives intervention from some of the seven deadly sins, who attempt to warn him about George before it is too late.

What Was In The Contract?

Ultimately, Elliot wants out of his contract.

The devil refuses, so Elliot decides not to make his final wish.

The devil then teleports them both to Hell and transforms herself into a huge black-horned monster.

The devil tries to intimidate Elliot into making his final wish and he does.

He wishes for Alison to have a happy life - with or without him.

This wish represented a selfless act that voided the contract between Elliot and the devil, so he was able to keep his soul in the end.

Fair?

“Fair? Who do you think you’re talking to? I don’t recall anybody ever accusing me of being fair before. I think I’m insulted.” -Elizabeth Hurley
“Fair? Who do you think you’re talking to? I don’t recall anybody ever accusing me of being fair before. I think I’m insulted.” -Elizabeth Hurley | Source

The Game Of Chess

Elisabeth Hurley & Gabriel Casseus playing chess
Elisabeth Hurley & Gabriel Casseus playing chess | Source

Last Scene

Lastly, Elliot meets a new neighbor, Nicole Delarusso (also played by Frances O'Connor), who greatly resembles Alison.

She has similar interests, mannerisms, and dressing styles to Elliot.

Elliot begins to help Nicole unpack and they start dating.

During the last scene, while this new couple is strolling on the sidewalk, the devil and Elliot's former cellmate are seen playing chess in the park.

Both the devil and Elliot's former cellmate are dressed in white attire unlike the other people seated around them.

They are watching Elliot and Nicole stroll together; further revealing that Elliot's former cellmate was not human and probably God since he was the devil's chess opponent.

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Film Poster

Tagline: "Evil has its winning ways."
Tagline: "Evil has its winning ways." | Source

Another Screen Adaptation

The Devil’s Advocate is another adaptation of the Faust legend.

IMDb.com categorizes this film as a drama-mystery-thriller, which was released on October 17th, 1997.

The former president of the Directors Guild of America, Taylor Hackford, directed this film.

In this film, John Milton (played by Al Pacino) is the Mephistopheles figure.

This character is also named after the author of Paradise Lost.

Milton comes close to enticing his own Faustian figure, Kevin Lomax (played by Keanu Reeves), into a detrimental pact.

Also, the story-line for "The Devil’s Advocate" is based on a book by Andrew Neiderman, which has the same title.

This book is about another Faustian figure, with a similar name to that of the main character in the film.

In the book, Kevin Taylor also joins the criminal law firm of John Milton and Associates.

Get The Book Adaptation Now

The Devil's Advocate Summary

In both the film and the book, John Milton assigned Kevin one of the biggest cases of the year.

Kevin throws himself into his work and began to see a pattern of strange, dark occurrences happening within the firm.

Winning was everything to Kevin, the unbeatable lawyer from a small Florida town.

And, as he won every courtroom battle, and saw many criminals walk away scot-free, he realized he had become the "devil's advocate".

The hamartia involving this "tragic hero" is vanity.

He was well aware that he was letting guilty people walk free yet he was blinded by the glitz and the glamour when John Milton rewarded him with luxuries for winning cases.

Film Trailer

Demonic Apperances

Mary Ann witnessed these kinds of disturbing demonic appearances.
Mary Ann witnessed these kinds of disturbing demonic appearances. | Source

Heed Her Warnings

Kevin's wife, Mary Ann Lomax (played by Charlize Theron), ultimately suffered the consequences associated with his vanity.

She warned Kevin about the city and his job.

She told him that there were strange occurrences happening in her house and to her physically.

Kevin ignored Mary because she seemingly showed signs of mental illness, much like that of Marguerite in the Faust legend, and he continued being consumed with his work.

Due to his lack of attention and compassion toward his wife, Milton raped and mutilated her body.

Mary Ann's End

Vanity Equals Danger

Kevin saw Milton in court with him at the time of Mary's alleged attack; so he believed that she must have injured herself.

Without much consideration, he has his wife committed.

This is much like the Marguerite figure from the Faust legend because she was also wrongfully accused of killing her child and thrown into jail.

While Mary was committed, she received a visit from Alice and Pam who were Kevin's case managers at the firm.

Pam later appeared to Mary as a demon through a mirror.

Mary then attacked Pam with the mirror and locked herself within the room alone.

As Kevin tried to break down the door and will Mary to let him in, she took a piece of broken glass from the mirror that she attacked Pam with and cut her own throat, killing herself in the process.

Meaning of Free Will

The confrontation between Will to Power and Will to Pleasure (Dionysus) in the movie is epic, unforgettable and a real issue of modern times.
The confrontation between Will to Power and Will to Pleasure (Dionysus) in the movie is epic, unforgettable and a real issue of modern times. | Source

Realization

As he walked out of the hospital in shock, the time seemed to be at a stand still.

Alice then revealed to Kevin that Milton was his father.

Kevin immediately confronted Milton, who cheerfully admitted to raping his wife, Mary Ann.

Kevin then shot Milton in the chest, but the bullets had no effect.

Kevin soon realized that Milton was his father and also was the devil.

Milton explained that he merely "set the stage" for Kevin and he was not to blame for any misfortune that happened to him or to his family.

Kevin realized his vanity and how he did not properly attend to his wife, Mary Ann.

The Fury Of Milton

Plans Foiled

Milton then explained that he desired for Kevin to conceive a child: the Antichrist, with his half-sister.

He offered Kevin anything that he wanted to make the pact with him; which is similar to the “Bedazzled” adaptations of the Faust legend.

But, Kevin asked Milton about the matter of love and when Milton dismisses that as overrated, Kevin rejects his devilish heritage, enforces his free will, and shoots himself in the head, thus killing himself and simultaneously ruining Milton's grand scheme for the birth of the Anti-Christ.

Then the scene rewinds back to the opening scene of the film, where we find Kevin facing his reflection in a restroom mirror inside the Florida courtroom.

Last Scene

Back To The Beginning

This time, Kevin decides to quit the case and leaves the courthouse with his wife, Mary Ann.

A reporter begging for an exclusive interview about his decision to quit this case suddenly pursues him.

The reporter jokes about Kevin being "a lawyer with a conscience".

Kevin initially refuses the interview, but the reporter’s persistence gets Kevin to take his business card and he eventually agrees to give an exclusive.

When Kevin and Mary Ann finally leave the courthouse, the reporter shape-shifts into John Milton, who smiles into the camera and adds the closing line: "Vanity... definitely my favorite sin."

Other Faust References In Film

Title
Year
Description
Rosemary's Baby
1968
Guy Woodhouse offers his wife to the devil for wealth and success
The Mephisto Waltz
1971
People transferring their personalities from one body to another with Satan's help, each such change "paid for" by committing a murder
Poor Devil
1973
a TV movie comedy about a bumbling minor devil (Sammy Davis Jr.) trying to get the soul of bumbling human (Jack Klugman) on orders of Lucifer (Christopher Lee)
The Devil and Max Devlin
1981
A crooked landlord, now deceased and in hell, is offered redemption by the devil if he succeeds in getting three others to forfeit their souls in exchange for his own
Oh, God! You Devil
1984
A struggling musician makes a deal with the devil and finds out that fame and groupies are not worth the consequences
Little Shop Of Horrors
1986
Audrey II offers Seymour riches and women in return for human sacrifice
The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie
1989
The Toxic Avenger made a deal with the Devil in order to get money for the eye operation for his blind girl friend, Claire
Spawn
1997
A military soldier/assassin sells his soul to a demon warlord named Malebolgia to become his eternal servant and leader of his army in Armageddon, in order to return to Earth to see his beloved fiancée, Wanda Blake.
Ghost Rider
2007
A young stunt rider sells his soul to the inter-dimensional demon Mephisto to cure his father's cancer. As with Faust, the demon takes liberties with his end of the bargain, his father surviving his cancer only to die in an accident
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
2009
Doctor Parnassus, a prominent storyteller, made a deal with the Devil that would allow him to keep telling his stories, unaware that the world would move past its interest in his narrative style
Dealing with the devil in popular culture

Album & Film Cover

“Wayback Wednesday”
“Wayback Wednesday” | Source

Music Adaptation: Hip Hop

The Faust legend has infiltrated many different forms and has even trickled down into hip-hop music.

Snoop Dogg (born Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr.) released an eighteen-minute film and soundtrack in 1994 called Murder Was the Case.

It was directed by Dr. Dre and Fab Five Freddy and it chronicles the fictional death of the artist and his resurrection after making a pact with the devil.

The first verse gives reference to the Faust legend, in terms of the Mephistopheles figure and the Faust figure:

“As I lookup at the sky/My mind starts trippin'/a tear drops my eye/My body temperature falls/I'm shakin' and they breakin'/tryin' to save the Dogg/Pumpin' on my chest and I'm screamin'/I stop breathin'/ damn I see demons/Dear God, I wonder can ya save me?/ I think it's too late for prayin', hold up/A voice spoke to me and it slowly started sayin'/"Bring your lifestyle to me I'll make it better,"/How long will I live?/"Eternal life and forever"...

— Snoop Dogg

Murder Was The Case

Standout Lyrics

When you synthesize these lyrics, you can gather the similarities of the Faust legend and this classic hip hop song.

Snoop Dogg hears the devil’s voice persuading him to give up his soul, so he can be granted another life with more luxurious incentives.

By the second verse, Snoop is living the high life, as a "G" in Long Beach, and he's blinded by the glitz and glamour (i.e. similar to Faust on the mountain).

The lyrics also mention Snoop's pregnant girlfriend in the beginning of the song but seemingly left her out of the following verses (i.e. similar to Faust forgetting about Marguerite), but by the third verse he is shackled for all of eternity.

Conclusion

This arrangement between an ambitious person and the devil is an ongoing tale.

The surrender of moral integrity in order to achieve some sort of success, otherwise known as making a "pact with the devil", is one of the most recreated story-lines ever.

The Faust legend has inspired numerous artistic and cultural works for centuries from historic interest, high art, cinema, and modern representations in pop culture.

And, it is awfully entertaining.

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