How far would you go to inherit everlasting life? When Margaret (Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives) and her boyfriend Pete (Sam Elliot, Frogs, Road House) have a car accident in the English countryside, the other driver offers to take them to his lavish country estate to make amends. But once there, they are surprised to learn that all of the other houseguests are already expecting them! It's not long before the couple's fear turns into terror when the guests (including Roger Daltrey, Tommy) begin dying in unspeakable ways. Now it's clear, the true master of the house is a supernatural force that will stop at nothing to find the rightful heirs for an unimaginably horrible legacy.
In the film, Margaret Walsh is an architect living in Los Angeles, who has just landed a $50,000 interior design job from an English client. It is set to start in 10 days. To get a head start, Margaret convinces her boyfriend Pete Danner, to accompany her to England early so they can enjoy the sights of what England has to offer, before going to work. Shortly after arriving, they hop on a motorcycle, and go for a ride in the English countryside. However, things do not end well, when they are ran off the road by a Roll Royce, being driven by a chauffeur. With their bike now damaged, and in need of repair, the couple accepts an offer from the obviously wealth owner of the car, Jason Mountolive. The offer is to go back to his place for some tea. From there, Margaret and Pete eventually arrive at Jason's lavish mansion in the hills. They arrive to an empty house, save for the house staff. But, as their stay would extend through the night, they are shocked to wake up to a number of guests arriving. Five to be exact. And the strange thing is, is that, they seem to already know all about Margaret and Pete prior to their arrival. After awhile both Margaret and Pete come to find that each of the house guests come from a variety of different backgrounds, and that they are all friends of the owner of the house, Jason Mountolive - who has been mysterious in his absence since they arrived. They still have no clue as to why they are here, and why no one seems to want them to leave. It is soon revealed, that although Jason looked healthy on the day of the accident, supposedly, he is very sick and dying. A fact that still makes no sense to both Margaret and Pete. But eventually, it all becomes more clear(or at least somewhat), when Jason finally pulls back the curtain on a centuries old secret, when it comes to the legacy of his bloodline. It is one that involves witchcraft, and the power of Satan. Of the six house guests now gathered, it is eventually revealed that one of them has been chosen to inherit the wealth and power in which Jason holds, following his demise. So what does that mean for the other five? Death, of course! Soon, the seemingly supernatural force within the house begins to claim its victims one by one. Finding themselves now trapped within a maze of witchery and blood-lust, Margaret and Pete must desperately find a way out. However for them there seems to be no way to escape the inevitable, as the past, and future, is already written in blood.
There have been a lot of American film productions, which have been set and filmed in England, of course. But this is especially true when it comes to Horror films. Film's like Sam Peckinpaw's STRAW DOGS and THE OMEN(). The English countryside, for whatever reason, has served as the ideal setting for all things Horror. 1978's THE LEGACY proves no different, as, here, England plays host to another ghastly story. This time, one of supernatural mayhem, at a slow pitch. The film stars Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott, as a coupe named Margaret Ross and Pete Danner. Katharine is an architect, and so Pete is just along for the ride, when she is offered a nice job in England. However, little did they know how helatious the ride would be. It starts with a pretty routine and innocent crash, one that lands the couple at a huge Victorian mansion. That is where everything gets a little strange. Their host, Jason Mountolive, suddenly disappears, and then the house is left occupied by six house guests, along with its staff. It's strange indeed, as the guests frolic about, talking about their diverse pasts, and so on. But the longer their visit plays out, it's clear that the reason for everyone being present at the house, is part of a much more anticipated plan. When Margaret and Pete begin to smell something fishy about the whole thing, they attempt to escape, but to their surprise, the other guests are desperate to keep them there. At one point they do elude the other guests, but in a bizarre turn of events, they end up right back at the house. So what is it keeping the couple at the mansion, and why? Well, me revealing such, would be a major spoiler for those whom have yet to see the film, but I will tell you that over the course of it, Margaret and Pete do a little investigative work, and what they find, all points back to Margaret. Yes, there is indeed some witchcraft and black magic involved, and the fact that Margaret knows very little about her family's history, has a lot to do with the reasoning of the story told.
Structure-wise, the Richard Marquand directed film, is very old school. Like a lot of the many Horror greats of the era, THE LEGACY is one that is very story-driven. It takes its time as it develops its story. During this time, we get to know our characters fairly well, as they are well detailed and thought out, which makes the progression of the film that much more solid and impressionable. When it comes to its Horror elements, again, like its counterparts,THE LEGACY approaches the Horror in a way that is slow, but effectively creeping. Unlike a film of more modern times, things here take time to truly seep in, instead of rushing fast to a vivid conclusion. Yes, there is the the blood and a little gore too, but the film chooses to build up a sense of dread first, which in the end, makes things much more effective. That is something that I like about 1970s Horror. With films like this, the vision of the bigger picture is not lost. Their main objective was to disturb, and not necessarily scare the audience, and to do that, scenes were carefully plotted. Unfortunately these days however, most Horror films get by lazily with a few jump scares, here, and a few jump cuts, there, and are done with it, which is truly unfortunate for us. I just wish that more films would take note from one like THE LEGACY.
As for the actual deaths, and how they play out in the film, I would be quick to compare them to a film such as the Karen Black starring, BURNT OFFERINGS. In that film, I found the kills to be nicely stagged and shot in a way that I would view as being almost "elegant". THE LEGACY is quite the same when it comes to this, as it isn't always concerned with showing the graphic details, but rather focusing on the way, in which they are captured on screen, thus in the eye of the viewer. Coming away from the film, the viewer is more likely to remember the deaths most by the way that they look, rather than the amount of blood that was shown. Each of the deaths are nicely conceived both in the way they are executed, and also the way in which they tie into the story. Well into the film, Margaret and Pete discover evidence of past crimes committed by each of the house guests, crimes that they are presumed to be guilty of, but were acquitted for. In a bit of brilliant writing, the film takes a nice turn when everyone begins to die by something which relates to those crimes(drowning, choking, fire, etc). So here, people aren't dying just because. There is actually a reason for it.
And when it comes to the film's acting, that is pretty good as well. Katharine Ross, and Sam Elliott, whom met on the set of this film, and later married, here portray couple, "Margaret Walsh", and "Pete Danner". During the filming of this film, the two Actors fell in love, and their chemistry with each other is undeniable on screen. The two worked very well together in a way that feels very real. And that's because it was. The two of them have been married ever since. Ross to us, is very likable, as the young architect, which makes it very easy for us to feel for her as she struggles to escape what seems to be the inescapable. Likewise is the survival of Pete Danner. After all, Danner is portrayed by only one of the most coolest guys on Earth, Sam Elliott, and so, over time, he becomes as equally cool. Other key performances come from John Standing as "Jason Mountolive", and yes, one, Roger Daltrey of Rock band, THE WHO, who portrays the rather obnoxious music manager, "Clive".
In the end, other than being only a little slightly confusing upon a first time, viewing, a feel that THE LEGACY is a pretty solid film all around. With its well developed story, and it's creepy style of Horror plotting, there is a lot here to both enjoy, and anticipate.
While the film has previously received a DVD release, this particular Blu-Ray release from SCREAM! FACTORY, marks the first time that the film has been released in HD. And while the release sort of lacks in terms of special features, aside from 2 interviews, the film does have a nice new HD transfer, which was made from the film's interpositive. I had never seen the film previously, but judging by the existing trailers of the film that were available, i'd venture to say that the film had never looked that great. Personally, after seeing the trailer, I expected the film to look pretty rough around the edges, even on Blu-Ray. But fortunately, I can say that this release, both looks and sounds great for a film of it's age. The picture is well balanced and the natural film grain, is well preserved. I think that fans of THE LEGACY, both old, and new, will enjoy this release, as far as appearance is concerned(Note that the trailer below is NOT from this release and is from another source).
Besides the interviews with the film's Editor, Anne V. Coates and Special Effects Artist, Robin Grantham, also included in the release are the film's radio and TV spots, a photo gallery, as well as the film's Theatrical trailer.
Below are details regarding the 2 included interviews :
Interview with Anne V. Coates - (13m 47s) :
This is an interview with THE LEGACY's Editor, Anne V. Coates. Here she explains how she became interested in film, and ultimately editing. She also tells us that on THE LEGACY, she also worked as a second unit Director, and had a hand in shooting some of the film's vehicle scenes. She goes on to recall her memories of working with the cast and crew. Other topics are, of course her editing LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, her son, Director Anthony Hickox(WAXWORK), and her recent job of editing FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. This interview is both informative and fun, as Coates speaks very candidly, and fondly.
Interview with Special Effects Artist Robin Grantham - (10m 46s) :
THE LEGACY's Special Effects Artist Robin Grantham recalls his beginnings and what led him to working on the film. He sheds some light on a disagreement, and ultimately, a compromise between the film's Director and Director of Photography, which resulted in the look of the film. He also goes into how each of the film's effect instances were achieved. At a little over 10 minutes in length, this segment seemed to go by rather quickly. However, we still get a nice amount of insight into the on-goings on the set.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
While THE LEGACY is not a "perfect" film per say. I have to say, that I pretty much enjoyed the film. It was my first time ever seeing the film, and I feel that it is a film that works best as such. The less that you know about it before going in, the better it will be. A lot of the time, I found myself puzzled about what I was seeing. One of the best things about the film, was the process of figuring things out. I would recommend this film, if you, like me, enjoy slow moving Horror films, that aren't necessarily boring, but effective. THE LEGACY is an example of how a great Horror film can can be built on character story alone, while not necessarily focusing on the visuals of gore.
Special Features include :
- NEW HD Transfer From The Interpositive
- NEW Interview With Academy Award Winning Film Editor Anne V. Coates (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA)
- NEW Interview With Special Effects Artist Robin Grantham
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Radio Spot
- Photo Gallery
This film will be released on Blu-Ray on September 18, 2015