Director: Richard Marquand
Script: Jimmy Sangster, Patrick Tilley & Paul Wheeler
Cast: Katherine Ross, Sam Elliot, Charles Gray, Lee Montague, Hildegard Neil, John Standing, Margaret Tyzack, Roger Daltrey, William Abney
Running time: 100 minutes
My first exposure to this film was through the tie-in novel of the same name, written by American author John Coyne, which I picked up in a second-hand book shop back in the early eighties. I remember finding it engaging enough to read the whole way through and thinking to myself at the time that I’d quite like to see the film at some point. I finally got to see the movie on terrestrial TV some years later and found myself quite disappointed by it, but with this region free re-release on Blu-ray I decided to give it another go.
Maggie Walsh (Ross) and her boyfriend Pete Danner (Elliott) are interior decorators from California. They are contacted by an anonymous British client with an offer they can’t refuse, although Pete almost does. Taking advantage of their pre-paid airfare, they travel to England, and have a bit of a romantic holiday, which soon comes to a, cough, crashing halt when their motorcycle is involved in a traffic collision with a Rolls Royce. The passenger reveals himself to be their mysterious benefactor, Jason Mountolive (John Standing), who invites them to his rambling estate, Ravenhurst.
Mountolive has also invited the five beneficiaries of his estate, all very rich public figures with notorious reputations. The other guests explain that they have been summoned because Jason is dying. Maggie is astonished to hear this because Jason seems to be in pretty good health.
Jason later invites his guests, including Maggie, to his bedroom, an oxygen-tented affair where he lies connected to a life support system. He calls Maggie over to his bedside, where an aged, decrepit, and taloned hand reaches out through the curtains and places a strange signet ring, with the Mountolive family crest (a rising Phoenix), on her finger. The other guests already wear identical rings. Maggie tries to remove the ring, but it has bizarrely grafted itself onto her finger.
Not long afterwards, the other guests begin to perish by mysterious and gruesome means: one of them drowns in the swimming pool; another perishes during a botched tracheotomy, and a third is incinerated by a massive burst of flame from a fireplace that leaves the rest of the room untouched. As the guest list shortens Maggie and Pete try to piece together what is happening, and why, before it’s too late…
Hammer regular, Jimmy Sangster partly scripted this black magic thriller, which boasts some excellent photography and some quite memorable music by Michael J Lewis, who’d previously composed the music for Vincent Price fan favourite Theatre of Blood. Director Richard Marquand later went on to direct a small movie called Return of the Jedi.
Although it takes a while to properly get going, I have to say I quite enjoyed The Legacy, certainly more so than on my previous viewing. It has a kind of Cat and the Canary/ Ten Little Indians vibe about it that I really like. It helps that the acting is of a high calibre and that I’m also a big fan of Sam Elliot who’s always good value, whatever he’s in.
I watched the slighter abridged US cut of the film that runs a couple of minutes shorter than the UK version (which is also on this disc) because Powerhouse have remastered this version and given it a top notch high def’ sheen. However, for those who want to know exactly what they’ve missed, Powerhouse has thoughtfully provided a featurette called An Extended Legacy: Version Comparison (10 mins), which, basically, does what it says on the tin and compares the differences between the two versions.
Powerhouse Films are distributing The Legacy on Blu-Ray. As per usual for Powerhouse Films there are plenty of special features including:
Audio Commentary with Kevin Lyons, editor of Fantastic Film and TV website – Kevin sees The Legacy as being very underrated and thinks it’s aged very well. Apparently actress Katherine Ross had only recently been nominated for an Oscar when she did this film, and she and Sam Elliot became a married couple not long after shooting the film.
An Editing Legacy (14 mins) – an interview with editor Anne Coates who thinks the film is pretty good. Anne is mother to director Anthony Hickox.
The make-up effects of The Legacy (49 mins) – an interview with Robin Grantham, who provided the special effects for the film. He recalls that they shot for 6-8 weeks and the burnt man-flesh was actually roast pork!
Ashes and Crashes (4 mins) – Second unit director Joe Marks recalls setting up the vehicular stunts.
Theatrical Trailer (1.43 mins) – Sadly just in full screen.
Image gallery – 58 stills including four posters.
Between the Anvil and the Hammer (27 mins) – a documentary film about the Liverpool Police directed by Richard Marquand. We learn some weird facts, including the fact that each officer is given a piece of string to be used to walk home stray dogs!