A millionaire, a million-dollar prostitute, a star-maker, a nation-killer, a woman whose lusts are as cold as graveyard snow. Five of the most powerful people in the world, and Maggie (Katharine Ross) makes six, gather in an ancient mansion to inherit a Legacy of bloodsome horror.Written by
Haphazard supernatural thriller punctuated by violent death scenes
"The Legacy," based on a novel of the same name, has Margaret Walsh (Katharine Ross) and her boyfriend Pete (Sam Elliott) taking a mysterious interior decorating job in England for $50,000. After arriving, the two go on a motorcycle trip across the countryside, and are run off the road by a billionaire in his Rolls Royce. Invited to his mansion for tea, the couple meet a series of other guests; industrialists, musicians, a prostitute— who are beholden to the dying owner of the estate. The couple find it impossible to leave the isolated house as each of the guests begin dying one by one.
This unusual supernatural thriller, upon synopsis, evokes rather high expectations— what we have here is essentially a Satanic retread of "Ten Little Indians," complete with a sprawling English castle and sinister cats galore. "Are you... involved in black magic?" asks Ross, point blank to the other house guests. The film definitely has its moments no doubt— a series of bizarre death scenes wiping out the guest list definitely call attention — but the supernatural elements that tie the narrative together remain fairly nebulous and nondescript.
The film does do a fantastic job at establishing a moody, drab atmosphere with the cloudy forest and forlorn aristocratic estate, especially when placed in contrast with the film's first five sunny minutes in Los Angeles. Overhead shots and some nice cinematography are on display here, but some of the film's key moments of tension are nearly destroyed by the hokey musical score. Other have said it, and I will say it as well: the score here is awful. Not that the music in and of itself is "bad," but it is frankly just inappropriate; key action scenes that should play out as moments of terror come across as scenes from an adventure comedy (Ross and Elliot's equine-come-car escape is a major example).
Performance-wise, we have Katharine Ross and Sam Elliott playing off each other well, and British veterans like Charles Gray and John Standing are appropriately sinister. Roger Daltrey also fittingly appears as a wealthy rock musician who is one of the weekend party guests.
Overall, "The Legacy" is a half-boiled supernatural thriller that suffers from two major pitfalls: the first being an indistinct script (a surprise given Hammer veteran Jimmy Sangster's repertoire), and the second being a disastrously ill-fitting score. That said, the film does succeed in reaping the sets of their Gothic atmosphere, and there are a handful of creative scenes scattered throughout, including some unexpectedly violent deaths. It is not a great film, but is worth viewing as a sort of time capsule of the era's genre pictures. 6/10.
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