The Legacy | Blu-Ray Review
You may not directly recall the name of director Richard Marquand, though in many ways he’s a notable director from the 1980s thanks to items like the pulpy Glenn Close courtroom drama Jagged Edge (1985), and a Ken Follett adaptation Eye of the Needle (1981). Oh, and he happened to helm Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. The British director died of a stroke at the age of forty nine, which explains the abrupt end of a flourishing filmography. He made the jump from documentary and television series to feature with the forgotten 1978 British horror film The Legacy, which starred notable American stars (and real life couple) Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott. Based on a story by Jimmy Sangster, a writer of many Hammer Studio films, the screenplay was also co-written by Patrick Tilley (his last credit) and Paul Wheeler (who would exclusively work in television afterwards). The end result is a familiar idea locked in a sometimes ambient but mostly sluggish genre effort.
Margaret (Ross) and her boyfriend Pete (Elliott) are mysteriously invited to England to collect a large sum of money being offered to finance their artistic endeavors. Thrilled at the prospect, they fly out of Los Angeles and tramp about the English countryside on a motorcycle. But when they’re nearly run off the road by a friendly, rich gentleman, Jason Mountolive (John Standing), they’re obliged to spend the evening on his lofty estate while the motorcycle is repaired. But there’s something strange about Mountolive’s residence, beginning with the staff and a weird white cat. Suddenly, a cadre of other guests arrive, and Margaret begins to suspect the accident was meant to happen. And these folks have arrived for some kind of bizarre ritual. But then, something begins killing the guests.
There’s some fun to be had here, thanks mostly to the beautiful Katharine Ross, an actress who appeared in a number of iconic American films in unforgettable roles, like The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the genre juggernaut The Stepford Wives. Husband Sam Elliott had a small role in Butch Cassidy, but apparently it’s The Legacy where the two stars actually met and developed a relationship. But besides a surprise shower sequence showcasing Elliott’s derriere, he’s rather smug and even wooden here—it would be over a decade before Elliott would come to be recognized as a film actor, his signature voice and well-preserved visage appearing in a number of films (whereas Ross rarely makes film appearances).
The Legacy suffers from many similar cinematic instances where actors fall in love off-screen, as that energy is mysteriously absent from the actual film. Though the potential for atmosphere is high, considering the isolated mansion where the mysterious set of guests begin to be killed in ways Agatha Christie had formulated already decades prior, everything about The Legacy feels a bit tepid and musty. Nothing is anywhere near as arresting as its famous poster of a surly white cat head atop a woman’s hand resembling a bird’s talons (though be sure to check out the Polish interpretation of the poster). However, the begetting of the ring sequence does happen to be a lone point of actual intrigue. Even The Who singer Roger Daltrey pops up in a useless appearance as a zany, mop headed member of the secret clan, dispatched with the same flaccid monotony as all the others.
Shout Factory dusts off this enterprise with perhaps a nicer transfer than the film deserves. Shared DoP credits from Alan Hume and Dick Bush may explain the title’s odd lack of visual energy, as if all these spooky elements were just supposed to unspool themselves. Presented in 1.85:1, this is a nice high definition transfer of a mediocre property, as evidenced by the lack of excitement in the extra features (only special effects artist Robin Grantham and editor Annie Coates show up for an interview—though its actors, particularly Elliott, distanced themselves from the title early on).
Anne Coates Interview:
Editor Annie Coates appears in this thirteen minute interview to discuss her initial influences and work on The Legacy.
Robin Grantham Interview:
Special Make-up Effects Artist Robin Grantham is interviewed in this ten minute segment, discussing how he began his occupation (through a connection with Peter Frampton’s father).
As its title indicates, this is supposed to be a terrifying tale concerning ‘an unimaginably horrible legacy.’ An exaggeration, to say the least, considering The Legacy is quite imaginable (and predictable), fans of vintage genre may be interested in taking a look, particularly if you have a Sunday afternoon to fritter away.
Film Review: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆