A U.K./U.S. co-production which would be one of the last theatrical efforts penned by a former Hammer Films legend, Universal’s THE LEGACY arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
In Los Angeles, Maggie Walsh (Katherine Ross, THE SWARM) makes a call to her bank to assure that a $50,000 check has cleared, as she has been hired to come to England for an unspecific architectural job by a company called Wigans & Trumble Development. Her live-in boyfriend Pete Danner (Sam Elliott, LIFEGUARD) is at first reluctant to go with her, but is he’s quickly convinced to accompany her. While riding their motorcycle through the English countryside, they are hit by an oncoming Rolls-Royce driven by chauffeur Harry (Ian Hogg, MACBETH) along with the passenger, charming millionaire Jason Mountolive (John Standing, TORTURE GARDEN). The couple comes out of the accident completely unharmed, but their bike is in serious need of repair, so Mountolive invites them to his enormous manor for tea. The hospitality exceeds their expectations, as they end up as overnight guests, but through a series of circumstances (some very strange and awkward), they just can’t seem to leave the place. Soon, a helicopter lands on the grounds dropping off a group of wealthy eccentrics including Karl Liebnecht (Charles Gray, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT), Jacques Grandier (Lee Montague, HOW I WON THE WAR), Barbara Kirstenburg (Hildegarde Neil, THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF), Maria Gabrieli (Marianne Broome, ALFIE DARLING) and Clive Jackson (The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey, LISZTOMANIA). As their host Mountolive is now dying and bedridden (and looking rather inhuman), he requests Maggie’s presence as he forces an odd-looking ring on her finger, the same one worn by each of the aforementioned guests (and her attempts to remove the ring are useless). Mountolive is actually the head of a black magic cult, and the reason why Maggie has been hurled into all this is because she is the reincarnation of his late mother and is set to take over the sect once he has expired.
The original script for THE LEGACY was written by legendary Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster (responsible for the screenplays for THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF DRACULA, THE MUMMY and quite a few others) at a time when he relocated to Hollywood and was writing scripts for numerous episodic TV series. Although you would think the gothic trappings of an English country manor and its ill-fated visitors was his idea (“I’d given up on them years before” he wrote in his autobiography), his original concept had the bulk of the plot taking place in a rundown hospital in downtown Detroit (Patrick Tilley and Paul Wheeler also had a hand in the final screenplay). It was obvious that the film was influenced by the recent trend of sophisticated satanic horror cinema (THE OMEN and that lot) and it appears to also use Dario Argento’s recently released SUSPIRIA as a shock template (when a horrible looking sharp-nailed hand reaches out behind a white-curtained cover to lunge at Ross, as well as a glass shard impaling death scene). Critically panned by many upon release, THE LEGACY got a lot of exposure on HBO and those who saw it back never forgot its numerous violent death scenes which range from very bloody to downright hokey, with one very unsettling sequence where an expert swimmer unexplainably becomes trapped under the surface of an indoor pool. With something of a high body count and a definite English air about it, at times the film comes off more like an Agatha Christie adaptation (crossed with a bit of Dennis Wheatley) as slickly (sometimes too much for its own good) directed by Richard Marquand, who would go on to do EYE OF THE NEEDLE, JAGGED EDGE and RETURN OF THE JEDI before passing away at a young age in 1987.
Ross (who was also victimized conspiracy style a few years earlier in THE STEPFORD WIVES) and Elliott (who didn’t make many types of these films, but is basically playing the same “take charge” macho outsider as he did in FROGS) have nice chemistry on screen, and off screen as well: their union on the set of this film lead to wedding vows in 1984, and they’re still happily married to this day. The rest of the cast is made up of dependable British stalwarts (it’s especially great to see Gray again in this kind of setting, here putting on an accent as a German military surplus leader) as well as Daltrey, in only his third film and a much smaller part as he was previously the lead in two subsequent Ken Russell productions. Daltrey tends to get hammy, but makes the most of his obnoxious recording industry character, and has a memorably morbid death scene which involves him choking on a chicken bone and then having a botched tracheotomy performed on him by an insensitive nurse (Margaret Tyzac, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) on top of a banquet table! Sangster wasn’t the only one associated with Hammer who was involved with the film: the veteran cinematographers were Dick Bush (TWINS OF EVIL, DRACULA A.D. 1972) and Alan Hume (THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE). Also, parts of it were shot at Bray Studios, the famous former home of Hammer. Michael J. Lewis, who did the wonderful score for THEATRE OF BLOOD, has a miss here, as the music largely sounds more akin to a romantic TV movie (pop star Kiki Dee, who scored big with “I’ve Got the Music In Me” and the Elton John duet “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) does the vocals on the theme song, “Another Side of Me”.
Also known as THE LEGACY OF MAGGIE WALSH (as it was sometimes broadcast on television as), THE LEGACY was first released on DVD in 2004, and now it fits perfect in Scream Factory’s line of modern horror Blu-rays. The film is presented in a new 1080p transfer in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and it looks excellent with remarkably good detail, life-like fleshtones and strong, well-saturated colors. The transfer has a fine-grained, film-like texture and it doesn't suffer from any detectable artificial DNR tampering, and black levels and contrast look correct throughout the presentation. The English audio comes in a mono DTS-HD Master Audio track which has good fidelity and dynamic range; in other words dialogue, music and sound effects all come through nice and clean. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Extras include an interview with editor Anne V. Coates (13:47) who has worked on such films as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and most recently on FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, and she was also married to the late director Douglas Hickox (THEATRE OF BLOOD). She talks about how she’s known as an “actor’s editing” and that she’s always been particular about the various directors she worked with. THE LEGACY was a project that appealed to her (she saw it more as a thriller than a straightforward horror movie) which she also did second unit work on (and she’s fonder of the film now then when she worked on it, and tells an anecdote about her two youngest children and Roger Daltrey). Make-up effects man Robin Grantham (10:46) discusses his career and working on such films as THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT for producer John Dark, and he labels THE LEGACY a “big production” compared to the other low budget British films he was working on during the period. He describes doing the gory effects for Daltrey’s on-screen tracheotomy, the death scenes of some of the other characters, as well as what his biggest effects challenge on the film was. Also included are a TV spot (which claims the film was adapted from a “best seller”), a radio spot, the theatrical trailer and a nice photo gallery. (George R. Reis)
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