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John’s Horror Corner: The Legacy (1978), where black magic, greedy heirs and meaningless house cats gather in the English countryside.

August 1, 2018

MY CALL: There’s a reason you’ve probably never heard of this. It’s a very low impact, unoriginal. But it’s still a decent film—even if it hardly feels like a horror movie. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Legacy: I can’t think of any similar films, but the story rests on the 70s satanic cult fearidemic. You really ought to watch The House of the Devil (2009) instead.

After receiving a lucrative and mysterious work offer from across the Atlantic, Americans Margaret (Katharine Ross; The Stepford Wives, Donnie Darko, The Swarm) and Pete (Sam Elliott; Frogs, Ghost Rider) travel to England for the job.

Sam Elliott (Road House, Tombstone, Thank You for Smoking) has always been one of the most skeptically cautious yet ruggedly cool cats in film. And that came across just as well here in the 70s. Although, in the present case, his character (Pete) could have done with yet a bit more skepticism when the wealthy Mountolive offers to host them after a motorcycle accident maroons them in the English countryside. Shortly after arriving to his antiquated mansion, several affluent guests arrive wardrobed in heavy fur coats, even heavier pretention, and a surprising knowledge of the Americans.

As the mystery of Mountolive’s failing health and the true reason for this gathering become apparent to Pete and Margaret, the other guests don’t seem so understanding of their desire to leave.

Mountolive’s (John Standing; The Elephant Man) manor is festooned with ancient artwork and overrun with cats. Like Amityville real estate, the house (or an occupant) takes malevolent action against its guests in a most unspectacular fashion typical of 70s cinema (or perhaps even 60s). A scaldingly hot shower hardly raised this filmgoer’s brow, the pool scene lacked the desired impact (e.g., a lackluster drowning), and no one ever cares when someone chokes to death on their dinner or gets chased by a pack of dogs. The only worthy death scene was the fireplace immolation (and seeing the remains), the tracheotomy was moderately effective, and the impaling mirror scene was a callback to Suspiria (1977).

Director Richard Marquand (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) seemed to have made an adventure murder-mystery using a supernatural horror script. It’s a solid film, but so many components of the film simply don’t match. Better suited for a romantic adventure or family-friendly western or even a children’s movie, the score never comes close to fitting the desired tone of the film. It’s amusingly baffling, but the truth is, it squanders any potential for a dire or dark atmosphere. Sure, the film takes place largely in daylight, but people are dying and monstrous clawed hands are putting cursed rings on people. Moreover, people’s reactions never seem to match the urgency of situations or things witnessed. It’s like the actors weren’t told what their characters just saw.

All the while we have cats in half the scenes, either in plain sight or heard in the background. There’s even a cat on the movie poster. Why? There was not a significant cat scene to be found. Are cats associated with dark arts, black magic and witchcraft? Sure. But peppering them throughout a film with no explanation seems silly. I was wondering if they harbored souls of past victims of the house or were sentinels of a master. Perhaps, but we viewers were privy to none of that.

Ultimately, this was an interesting and underwhelming film that felt like it misfired its genre quite a bit in terms of direction. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but don’t regret watching it either.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    August 1, 2018 7:36 am

    Wow, this takes me back!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 1, 2018 7:51 am

      I had never even heard of it until I saw the poster jpeg on Twitter last month.

  2. August 5, 2018 12:47 pm

    I watched this a few times on the tele when I was a kid, but the only thing I remember about it is Roger Daltry choking on a chicken bone and that withered creature in the bed. Or something.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      August 5, 2018 7:12 pm

      YES! After the film made it abundantly clear that he ate no chicken! lol


  1. John’s Horror Corner: Rabid Grannies (1988), a fun, low budget, slapstick schlocky film about geriatric demons. | Movies, Films & Flix

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