Color, 1978, 99 mins. 40 secs. / 102 mins. 13 secs.
Directed by Richard Marquand
Starring Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, John Standing, Ian Hogg, Margaret Tyzack, Charles Gray, Lee Montague, Roger Daltrey, Hildegard Neil, Marianne Broome
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Paramount (Blu-ray) (Japan RA HD), Universal (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

A The Legacyhighly unlikely collision of The Legacytalent in the late '70s resulted in this memorable slice of comfort food British horror, a sort of patchwork of Ten Little Indians, Suspiria, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby. Universal gave the film a big push when it opened in U.S theaters in 1979 (a full year after its U.K. run) hot on the heels of its high-profile version of Dracula, and though it never earned a lot of respect from critics or viewers at the time, it's an endearing, completely irrational body count favorite with a fun occult angle and a lush, throwback look reminiscent of gothic chillers made decades earlier.

After getting a significant check for a new job in England, interior decorator Maggie Walsh (Ross) and boyfriend Peter (Elliott) fly from California to England with a plan to enjoy the scenery for a few days before they get to work. While motorcycling in the country, they're run off the road by a car belonging to the area's richest resident, Jason Mountolive (The Psychopath's Standing), who ushers them back to his sprawling mansion, Ravenhurst, while their vehicle gets repaired. Upon arrival they're greeted by the sinister Nurse Adams (Tyzack) and learn that a legion of well-to-do guests is arriving to pay their respects to Jason, who's been responsible for their wealth and fame. Inexplicably, it turns out Jason (who's also Maggie's mysterious new client) is suddenly languishing in a frail state The Legacyon the The Legacytop floor completely surrounded with sterile plastic sheets. Upon summoning Maggie, an ancient metal ring is suddenly forced upon her finger -- and try as she might, she can't remove it. The visit turns into an extended stay with the new guests including Karl (The Devil Rides Out's Gray), Barbara (Neil), Maria (Broome), Jacques (Montague), and Clive (The Who front man Daltrey). One by one the attendees get bumped off via violent accidents ranging from drowning in a swimming pool with a sudden hard surface to a bloody tracheotomy in the middle of dinner, with Maggie soon discovering that her presence may not be so random after all.

The Legacy was the brainchild of none other than prolific Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster, who wrote most of the golden age monster classics and came up with this story before the involvement of two more writers, Patrick Tilley and Paul Wheeler. Sangster's knack for gimmicky thrillers was also established by this point and can be found here in the string of elaborate, gruesome death scenes, which aren't that high on gore but do stick in the memory. The supernatural trappings extend past the death scenes to include a surreal getaway attempt by car, a boiling hot shower scene for Elliott, an ominous white kitty cat, and the gnarled, clawed hands that bestow that ring to Maggie. After completion, the film was even the source for a much-publicized tie-in novel by John Coyne that actually came out before the American release and seemed to be on stands everywhere. It's still great fun if you're in the right mood, with Ross and Elliott sharing good chemistry together and playing nicely off the bizarre assembly of European thespians including a wonderfully droll Gray. There's also an adorably overheated, catchy score by Michael J. Lewis (Theater of Blood) that's likely to be a matter of taste, complete with a lyrical theme song by none other than The LegacyKiki "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" Dee.

The Legacy has been a steady presence on home video since the early VHS days and its one-off network TV airing under the The Legacytitle The Legacy of Maggie Walsh, with the inevitable DVD release hitting from Universal in 2004 with only the trailer as an extra. The film made its Blu-ray bow in 2012 in Japan, again with just the trailer, but the transfer left a bit to be desired as it was taken from the older master created for the DVD with fairly weak colors and contrast. In 2015, Scream Factory issued a much-improved and expanded Blu-ray featuring a fresher scan that brought out the intended vivid colors, especially the vibrant greens that populate the scenery right from the pseudo-Garden of Eden prologue scene. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is quite effective and uses some very aggressive channel separation throughout, with optional English subtitles provided. Extras on that release include "An Editing Legacy" (13m48s), an endearing chat with the legendary (and now sadly deceased) pioneering editor Anne V. Coates about her collaborators including director Richard Marquand (Eye of the Needle, Return of the Jedi) and her perception of the film as a thriller rather than a horror film. Then "The Make-up Effects of The Legacy" (10m47s) with Robin Grantham manages to name drop Lisztomania and goes into that queasy tracheotomy scene among other highlights.

In 2019, Indicator gave the film a greatly expanded special edition for its U.K. Blu-ray debut with a nice surprise in the form of two versions. The standard U.S. theatrical version is presented from what appears to be the same solid scan; some scenes look virtually identical but color timing varies in others, with some colors (in the opening and closing in particular) looking more saturated and some of the nocturnal interior scenes graded a bit darker. It still looks great, and the English LPCM 2.0 stereo track is pleasing as always (with optional English subtitles provided again). However, there's also the earlier U.K. theatrical cut taken from an open matte SD master (apparently all that remains now), and it's an interesting variant as it The Legacyturns a bit over The Legacytwo minutes longer. (It's worth noting that it isn't just extended as the U.S. version also has a brief exclusive scene of its own.) The differences are minor overall with little scene extensions and extra bits of dialogue, but fans will be glad to have these back in (especially since a little bit made its way into that network TV version, which escaped with a surprisingly small amount of censorship at the same as well). A new audio commentary by Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television, is a welcome defense of the film and a fine argument that it's been underrated over the years (which is true) while reeling off plenty of facts about the locations (including debunking a Daltrey anecdote), the cast, Marquand's career, the novelization, and more. In addition to the two earlier Scream Factory featurettes ported over here, the new video interview "Ashes and Crashes" (4m1s) is a short recollection from second unit director Joe Marks about the handful of scenes he shot including the fiery demise of one key character and the early car crash scene, while "An Extended Legacy" (10m16s) charts the various differences between the two cuts. An early Marquand short from 1973, Between the Anvil and the Hammer (27m6s), is an in-depth documentary about the lives of police officers in Liverpool where dire social conditions have created a challenging set of problems for the entire populace. A valuable time capsule, it's also intriguing as an example of Marquand using the tactics of kitchen sink realism to paint a picture of a profession trying to extend a hand in a community in danger of collapsing. Also included are the trailer and a gallery of 57 stills and lobby cards, with the British ones featuring some great captions ("What power imprisoned Pete in the shower and tried to kill him?"). The limited 3,000-unit edition also comes with an insert booklet featuring new liner notes by Julian Upton, an archival location report, a note by Sangster, samples from the novelization, an overview of reviews from the initial release, an intro to Between the Anvil and the Hammer, and film credits.


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INDICATOR (Blu-ray) (UK Version)

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Reviewed on July 6, 2019.