• Legacy, The

    Released by: Shout! Factory/Scream Factory
    Released on: September 15, 2015
    Director: Richard Marquand
    Cast: Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, John Standing, Charles Gray, Marianne Broome, Ian Hogg, Roger Daltrey, Hildegarde Neil, Lee Montague, Patsy Smart
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    Heterosexual American interior decorators Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) and Pete Danner (Sam Elliott) are solicited for a remodeling job at a secluded British estate. At first, their schedule seems too tight for an overseas trip, but the sudden death of a client frees up some time and prompts them to hop a plane across the pond. Once there, they suffer an accident of their own while motorcycling to their destination. Not to worry, though; neither of them is seriously injured, and the chauffer-driven limousine with which they've collided is owned by none other than Jason Mountolive (John Standing), the reclusive millionaire who summoned them to his estate, Ravenhurst, in the first place.

    Maggie and Pete move into the mansion and make themselves at home, along with five other guests, all European. The couple learns that their host is about to die, which strikes them as odd since he seemed perfectly healthy when they first met him. He summons Maggie to his hospital-like room upstairs and gives her a ring with the Mountolive family crest on it. Then, just as Maggie realizes that all the other guests have identical rings, everyone starts dying off in a variety of gory and supernatural ways. First, Maria (Marianne Broome) drowns when the surface of the indoor pool in which she's swimming turns into a sheet of glass. Then record producer Clive Jackson (Roger Daltrey) dies during an emergency tracheotomy to remove a chicken bone that somehow lodged in his throat while he was eating ham. A fireplace flame turns mean and kills weapons dealer Karl Liebnecht (Charles Grey), and an exploding/imploding mirror puts an end to high-class hooker Barbara Kirstenburg (Hildegarde Neil). With only three visitors—Maggie, Pete, and an innkeeper named Jacques Grandier (Lee Montague)—remaining, the latter decides that the Americans are behind the mysterious deaths and tries to kill them. But he's tragically unaware of the Mountolive family's backstory, which Maggie's been uncovering, bit by excruciating bit, throughout most of the film's second half.

    The Legacy probably isn't anyone's idea of a good horror movie. Critics at the time of its release didn't trash it exactly, but few took it seriously either. It stands today as kind of fun in spots but pretty forgettable overall. This is kind of sad, actually, since it sprang in part from the pen of Jimmy Sangster, the man responsible for at least three certifiable Hammer Film classics: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958), and The Mummy (1959), as well as a host of other good films from the classic British studio. It's anybody's guess how much of this mediocrity he's personally responsible for; one is tempted to hope that it's not much. It certainly attempts the feel of a British horror film but without… well, the class. British locales are simply not enough to make a horror film English, or good! Adding to the confusion is an ending cribbed from Dario Argento’s far superior Suspiria (1977), which was making the rounds at the time and racking up critical acclaim along the way.

    It would be unfair not to point out that the film's performances are mostly much better than the material deserves. Only seventies rock-god Roger Daltrey functions on the same dismal level as the screenplay. As breathtakingly magnetic as he was as The Who's frontman during the period in which the film was made, he's a complete dud here. He and Mick Jagger—in contrast to, say, David Bowie or Debbie Harry (or even modern-day singers-turned-actors such as Eminem or Justin Timberlake)—provide all the proof one needs that lead-singer charisma and screen presence are two entirely different things.

    Does all of this mean that The Legacy isn’t worth watching or should be avoided entirely? Depends on who you ask, of course, but this particular reviewer believes that it at least warrants some attention, if mostly as an example of the decline into which Sangster’s career fell after he left Hammer. There’s also the fact that Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross actually met on this picture, though they’d both been in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid together in 1968 (in a way, at least; Ross was the female lead, Elliott consigned to an uncredited bit part). They began dating while filming and married in 1984; they remain so joined to this day. Though Ross has long since gone into semiretirement, Elliott remains active in film, his latest endeavor being the critically acclaimed arthouse release Grandma (2015).

    The film is moderately gruesome for the time, and the body count is sufficiently high for horror fans who like to count such things. As mentioned above, the acting is mostly good, and the cinematography takes some advantage of the locales, particularly during the film’s most effective sequence when Maggie and Pete attempt to escape the estate grounds but find that all roads lead to Ravenhurst.


    Shout! Factory’s Scream imprint has leased The Legacy from Universal, who has shown little interest in releasing its catalogue of horror titles, classic or otherwise, on Blu-ray. The film is presented in 1.78:1, with an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition. During daylight and well-lit scenes, the film has a moderate-to-high level of detail, which is most notable during exterior sequences. The foliage in and around Ravenhurst Estate looks resplendent on Blu, and colors are earthy and naturalistic. Interiors are solid but not exquisitely detailed, depending on the amount of light, with shadows devolving into a pronounced grain field that is kept under much greater control throughout the rest of the film. Darks at time exhibit crush, but since most of the film is brightly lit, this isn’t too much of a problem.

    The film’s soundtrack is supplied in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Sound effects are kept to a minimum, and Michael J. Lewis’s original score seems more at home in an action film than a horror film, but there are no problems with the quality to announce. Because the music often lies lowly in the background, dialogue is always easy to understand; and when there is a burst of music to accentuate a particular scene, there’s little dialogue for it to drown out. English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are also provided.

    Scream has packed its presentation with a nice batch of extras, beginning with an interview with editor Anne V. Coates (13:47). The Oscar winner doesn’t relegate herself solely to her work on The Legacy but also covers her lengthy career in British cinema, finding work on such major films such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1963), and The Elephant Man (1980). Among the things she discusses is her original intent to become a director and why she turned from those plans. Next up is an interview with special effects artist Robin Grantham (10:45), who begins his interview discussing how exactly his connection to Peter Frampton got him into the movies. Unfortunately, Grantham’s accent is a bit thick, making him difficult to make out at times, and there are no subtitles to alleviate the issue. As with Coates, he doesn’t restrict his remarks solely to The Legacy, though most of them are concerned with the film. Both interviews contain tidbits of information that make them worthwhile.

    Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer (1:43), which makes the film look more horror-oriented than it plays out in actuality; a television spot (32), which is a better summation of the film than the trailer is; and a radio spot (29). Rounding out the extras is a photo gallery containing images directly from the film, though there are black and white publicity stills of the stars included as well. The more interesting images come from various posters and promotional materials from around the world.

    The Final Word:

    The Legacy is far from a great film, but it has its fans, who should find this new release a pleasant experience. In virtually every way, the BD is superior to Universal’s previous DVD presentation, making it a worthy upgrade for ardent fans or for those who don’t own the former edition. Visuals are detailed with an appropriate color balance, while dark scenes tend toward crush. Audio is perfectly acceptable. There are some nice extras, not the least of which are interviews with the film’s editor and one of the special effects artists. All in all, it's a nice package, probably better than the film deserves.

    Christopher D. Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Volume 2 of that series (covering the 1930s) is currently available from Midnight Marquee Press, Inc., with Volume 1 (covering the 1920s) due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Sangster's original script had this set in a hospital ....in Detroit. Not sure if he had anything to do with the rewrite. I'm a big fan of Ross & Elliott so this was a no brainer for me to see on its theatrical run and picking up the various home releases.The bd is worth it for me but this really could have used a commentary.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      "Heterosexual American interior decorators" I watched THE LEGACY last year and was bored to tears.