ON DVD & BLU-RAY
The Legacy (1978) starring Katharine Ross Blu Ray (Indicator)
A mysterious invitation
Katharine Ross plays Maggie Walsh, a Los Angeles architect who is invited to England by a mysterious client. She decides to head out there with her boyfriend Pete Danner (Sam Elliott) in tow and enjoy a few days of holiday before finally meeting with this mystery person. While they are out enjoying a motorbike ride in the country’s rural lanes, a limousine comes the other way, causing them to swerve and crash. While they escape largely uninjured, their bike is damaged
Out of the limousine steps Jason Mountolive (John Standing) who, in a seemingly benevolent gesture, offers to let them stay at his mansion while the bike gets repaired at a nearby village. After a while of staying in the lavish home, however, the couple begin to notice some odd details and occurrences. Why do the servants act as if they have been expecting them? Why does the shower temperature control suddenly break when Pete uses it, seemingly hell-bent on scorching him to death? Why is that mysterious white cat wandering about? Most of all, why have five other wealthy guests suddenly arrived hot on their heels?
Maggie soon discovers that she, along with the other five, each have a chance of receiving an undisclosed inheritance bequeathed to them by Jason who, contrary to his earlier healthy appearance, now turns out to be a hideously disfigured old man who is confined to an elaborate life support system. Suddenly, they start dying, one by one, in a series of bizarre supernatural incidents.
Watch a trailer (N.B. an archive trailer - quality is not reflective of the Eureka Entertainment release):
Entertaining setpieces lift a so-so horror
While the The Legacy isn’t exactly a clone of The Omen (in fact, the plot bears far greater similarities to Agatha Christie’s classic novel And Then There Were None), it was clearly inspired by it in terms of its obsession with corrupted affluent settings and also in its supernatural death setpieces. In fact, while it’s not a particularly great film, it does at least derive some easy enjoyment from these aspects. The death scenes - by drowning, burning, glass shards and a chicken bone choking which ends up with a failed attempt at alleviation via a gruesome tracheotomy - are quite neatly done. There are also some occasional lively action scenes as one or both of the central couple deal with various assassination attempts, scuffles with the stablehands and the like.
However, the script itself (written by Hammer alumnus Jimmy Sangster) is silly and somewhat messy. Moreover, the film feels like it has been made by people who don’t know how to do horror. It looks and plays more like a glossily melodramatic TV miniseries than the creepy, spine-chilling effort that it should have been. The musical score is more inappropriately rousing than sombre and the look of the film is too bright and slick to generate much atmosphere. While Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci’s films had nonsensical plots, their nightmarish ambience made the more absurd aspects work in their own fashion. This one conspicuously fails to pull off the same trick.
The acting ranges from so-so to decent. Katharine Ross and Pete Danner make for a convincing onscreen couple - in fact, they got together in real life shortly after the film was completed, tied the knot in 1984 and have remained married ever since. Charles Gray pops up as one of the guests and recycles his Ernst Stavro Blofeld act to the extent that you wonder why we never see him onscreen with the aforementioned white cat (a wasted opportunity for an on-the-nose reference if there ever was one). Another of the guests is played by Roger Daltrey of The Who fame, who apparently allowed the filmmakers to shoot some scenes around his home in exchange for his part in the film.
The Legacy is at its best during its final 15-or-so minutes, when we get a crossbow-vs-sniper-rifle shootout, Sam Elliott smashing up shedloads of medical equipment and an unusually sly twist ending. On the whole, however, it does little more than fritter away time in an acceptable but rather underwhelming manner.
Runtime: 100/102 mins
Dir: Richard Marquand
Script: Jimmy Sangster, Patrick Tilley, Paul Wheeler
Starring: Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, John Standing, Ian Hogg, Margaret Tyzack, Charles Gray, Lee Montague, Hildegard Neil, Roger Daltrey
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
There are two versions of the film here: the 100-minute US release in which is presented HD quality and the slightly longer 102-minute UK release which is presented in SD. The HD version looks very good with sharp images, excellent contrast and fine (somewhat autumnal) colour grading. The audio is reasonable but some of the quieter dialogue is difficult to pick up.
As mentioned above, the film has been presented in two different versions, with a 10-minute featurette explaining the differences. While there are a couple of very brief additional gore shots in the longer version, most of the cuts were made to inconsequential material in order to make the film a bit tighter.
We also get a new audio commentary with Kevin Lyons (editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television) plus interviews with the film’s editor Anne V Coates, makeup effects creator Robin Grantham and second unit director Joe Marks. All of this plus an image gallery, a 40-page collector’s booklet and an original trailer.
Arguably the most interesting archival feature is a 1973 documentary directed by Richard Marquand called Between the Anvil and the Hammer. It takes a look at the Liverpool police and their relationship with the community, providing a fascinating snapshot into a thankfully bygone era when the city fell into a state of economic decline along with a resultant spiralling crime rate.
The Legacy is a load of old tosh but at least it’s relatively diverting tosh. There’s also a decent package of extras here.