I, Mephistopheles, of late growing old after an eternity of youth and good looks and tight pants, would like to set a few things straight: I am no longer in the business of making deals, and I no longer want to hear about the business deals I made. These transactions did not need to be turned into plays, books, or movies. My occupation, so freely mulled over by strangers, so callously turned into pop entertainment, was straightforward enough. I was more than fair. My deals were no more interesting than mortgages. So enough with the movies already.
There were no twists, no hidden fees. I offered fame, fortune, youth, beauty, and romance to those who desired these things, in exchange for their soul. We were straight up about the price.
You’ll entangle yourself in more deviant dealings with cell phone companies or health club memberships. (The latter, by the way, is a terribly indirect, time-consuming path to two of my products (beauty, romance) and — when one considers the effort behind the Tantalus of the Stairmaster, the Sisyphean futility of the treadmill, the Hades of spinning—an eternity in the company of my boss is really a bargain for a lifetime of good looks in the company of half-bored Russian models called Natasha.) The point is, retired or not, I am proud of the work I did. We delivered a trustworthy product—as trusty, at least, as that Ronco rotisserie appliance, which has come in handy when friends visit the condo. We delivered.
There were no money-back guarantees. My boss is no fan of it, nor am I. Few were dissatisfied. They enjoyed the results, but miffed by having to stick to their end of the bargain. They reveled in all the attendant benefits and ignored, as one does with mounting credit card debt, the entailing responsibilities. We did not complicate the offered pleasures. We did nothing like what Elizabeth Hurley inflicted on Brendan Fraser in Bedazzled, or in the Stanley Donen version that preceded it, the one that even my boss likes best—and this brings me to my point: enough with these falsehoods.
You’ll want to blame Marlowe for his Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, or the text he cribbed from: The History of the Damnable Life and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus, though in truth the last is nothing but a liberally Anglicized version of a friend’s Historia von D. Iohañ Fausten, from which a fellow German, Goethe, penned his own, to which we owe F.W. Murnau’s movie adaptation, worth watching, if for nothing else, the girls in the translucent veils. I am less than displeased, for similar reasons, with Rene Claire’s La Beaute du Diable, Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, and Claude Autant-Lara’s Marguerite De La Nuit (whose ending, I must confess, I can’t make heads or tails of—and this is coming from someone with an actual tail). These have youth and beauty going for them—not so for Jan vankmajer’s weird little claymation take on my life, Peter Gorski’s film of Gustaf Gründgens’s libelous theatre version, or István Szabó’s Mephisto, where my stand-in appears in an absurd getup not unlike the nightmare outfit that my friend Bono wore, as MacPhisto, solely to rib me with. All in good fun. But enough already—haven’t we had enough? I’m sick of me, and I like me. I think I’m fantastic. So yes. You’ll want to blame Marlowe and all that followed. You’ll want to blame the adaptations that preceded yours for my foul mood, and you’d be partly right. But not completely so.
Those at least left me my dignity. Yours does not. I cannot imagine how the makeup will look in the execrable medium of digital video, for one, or how the cast of unknowns will distort an already distorted story with the nu-metal soundtrack, the Motorola product placement, and, worse of all, that idiotic twist: Mephistopheles (me!) growing a potbelly (a potbelly! me!) and wrinkles (well, yes, true, fair enough) and wanting to grow young, meeting up with a ruined Faust in a Taco Bell in a nondescript suburban sprawl of the Midwest (where else?), telling him that I myself would take the bargain if offered. Wherein my boss appears. Makes the offer. And events proceed, with yours truly, Mephistopheles himself, trading in his soul for youth, beauty, all that. Enough. It wouldn’t happen.
Yes, I’m growing older. I goddamn like growing older. I couldn’t imagine going back to youth, with its attendant hungers—my horns show my age in the sexiest of patinas: I wouldn’t want them all shiny and nubby like they were when I was stuck in my preternatural, sempiternal twenties. I wouldn’t trade what I have now for the world—least of all for a handful of Spring Break bikini’d perkiness.
And so I must ask you, Robert Minero of Minneapolis, to cease and desist using my image. I do not condone your film— or authorize it, or approve of it. Find some other sap to mess with. I’m happy where I’m at, here in Boca, and am happy to report that I’m still lean— as fit as an aging, retired servant of the underworld could be—with good eyesight and an even better lawyer.