The Legacy Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Richard Marquand
Written by Jimmy Sangster, Patrick Tilley and Paul Wheeler
1978, 100 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 15th, 2015
Katharine Ross as Maggie Walsh
Sam Elliott as Pete Danner
John Standing as Jason Mountolive
Ian Hogg as Harry
Margaret Tyzack as Nurse Adams
Charles Gray as Karl
Lee Montague as Jacques
Roger Daltrey as Clive
Hildegard Neil as Barbara
Marianne Broome as Maria
Maggie Walsh receives an enticing job offer in England, and is surprised by the generous advance. Her boyfriend Pete is understandably wary, as no details have been provided other than to say it is a well-paying design project. He reluctantly agrees to join her, making this a working vacation of sorts, as the architect/ interior design team can spend a few days checking out the countryside as well as the potential employer. Once they arrive in England, everything is wonderful until a small accident leaves them stranded with a broken motorcycle. Jason Mountolive, the owner of the other vehicle in the fender bender, assures them everything will be made right and insists they join him at his estate for tea while they await repairs.
The house is nothing short of breathtaking and our travelers are in less of a hurry to leave. Maggie and Pete are surprised to learn that a room has already been prepared for them and they are expected to attend dinner. The whole thing is a bit overwhelming, but before they can get their bearings, the other guests arrive. This is not your typical assembly, as each person is an upstanding member of society, including a hotel tycoon, a music producer and assorted magnates of the business and publishing industries. Everyone works for Mountolive and has assembled per his request, but seem more interested in meeting their new American counterparts. Things turn sinister once people start dying in unexpected ways, perhaps supernatural in nature. Pete is frustrated to find that it is far more difficult leaving this party than simply walking out the front door and driving away. Maggie is determined to uncover more of the mystery as it seems she is somehow directly connected to these events.
The Legacy feels like an Agatha Christie story as presented by Hammer Films, not reaching the heights of either, but somehow familiar to both. Jimmy Sangster (Horror of Dracula) wrote countless Dracula and Frankenstein screenplays for the latter and is largely responsible for the vibe here. His script drags out all the necessary elements of the “old dark house” motif, as a new batch of Brits are summoned to an oversized manor for cryptic purposes. This film gets kicked around a bit for not being scary enough and I can agree with that to some extent, but must admit to enjoying it more as an adult than a teen. Most of the “scares” are telegraphed and the central mystery is a bit obvious, yet the movie remains entertaining and deserves a second look. Occult thrillers were all the rage in the 1970s, and director Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi) has done his homework in order to deliver a fresh spin on a familiar story.
Katharine Ross (The Graduate) and Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski) have terrific chemistry on screen and off (the couple married in 1984) as Maggie and Pete, the unsuspecting Americans. Elliott displays some early curmudgeonly traits, but also provides the necessary voice of reason, while Ross does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to figuring out the nefarious intent of the supporting players. Roger Daltrey (Tommy) brings a boost of energy to the gloomy surroundings as Clive the musician, and is always engaging despite his limited screen time. Charles Gray (Diamonds Are Forever) is commanding as Karl, a former soldier decorated by no less than Adolf Hitler during the war, yet he remains likeable regardless of the implications. Margaret Tyzack (Prick up Your Ears) plays the dutiful Nurse Adams with a quiet reserve that keeps her character beguiling.
The Legacy delivers an interesting riff on the classic murder mystery that isn’t for everyone. Contemporary audiences are likely to figure things out pretty quickly, but fans of this type of material are in for a treat, as the film feels like a twisted companion to an earlier cinematic era. The murder set-pieces are imaginative highlights; one or two haunted me as a kid and remain effective today. There are some pacing issues that bog down the middle act, but the majority of the picture works and the performances across the board are strong. I can easily encourage discerning genre fans to check it out, perhaps on a dark and stormy night.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Legacy looks terrific thanks to a new transfer from our friends at Scream Factory. Colors are strong and black levels are solid, a necessity for the rich atmosphere of the picture. Flesh tones are occasionally muted, but this appears to be by design. There are a few bumps in the opening scenes, but for the most part this is a nicely remastered image that longtime fans of the movie will greatly welcome.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is simple and effective with well-balanced music and effects cues that do not interfere with dialogue levels.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The real score here is An Editing Legacy (14 minutes), a wonderful interview with legendary editor Anne V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia), who is very cheery and instantly likeable. She discusses her work not only on this picture, but offers several anecdotes spanning an impressive career. There is a nice moment where she is asked about her son, and genre fans may find her answer intriguing.
Robin Grantham is happy to share his memories in an entertaining interview titled simply The Make-Up Effects of The Legacy (11 minutes). He reflects on how he got into the field of special effects and reveals how the assorted death scenes of The Legacy were created.
The marketing campaign for the picture is examined with a television spot, a radio ad and the original theatrical trailer. These are all best viewed after watching the movie, as they are loaded with spoilers.
A photo gallery slideshow (2 minutes) offers a look at promotional items including posters and lobby cards.