Not the Cats’ Meow or for Scaredy Cats…
After a motorbike accident, two loved up Americans are lured for afternoon tea by an enigmatic Englishman. But this leading to a horror of a movie.
The Legacy 1978 Trailer, Screenbound Pictures and photos © Universal Pictures.
The phrase curiosity killed the cat kinda describes The Legacy (1978). As looking at the ensemble cast, I thought this horror film sounded intriguing, with the unlikely never to repeated – unless you know differently – cast including Sam Elliott, Charles Gray, Katherine Ross, Lee Montague, Hildegard Neil and Roger Daltrey.
Film casts like this I reasoned just can’t be ignored. But maybe they should… as the film pure hokum in a 1970s way. This making The Swarm (1978) look like an annoying bee at a picnic. IMDB adds Elliott, said about the film “I wouldn’t rush out to see it. It’s about fifteen years behind its time.”
I believe that the
biggest only legacy from the movie is it led to an off-screen love and over 40 years together (including 35 years of marriage, so far) between Sam Elliott and his co-star Katharine Ross. I’d like to think their first wedding dance was to the title track of this film. An odd choice you think, a soundtrack to a horror film. Read on, as this is not as crazy as it sounds.
The film was from you guessed it 1978. The opening Kiki Dee track is the stuff of romantic movies with our leading pair, but don’t let this fool you. The action then taking place briefly in LA. as Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) and her boyfriend, Pete (Sam Eliott) are given free plane tickets to England after a current job offer falls through. She and the moustached love of her life, take a wee trip and it is off to Englandshire we go…
In rural England, it’s like scenes of postcard twee England at its finest. The scenery was similar to those scenes of England in Three Men and a Little Lady (1990) and Hot Fuzz (2007). You almost expect Withnail and I (1987) to make an appearance in the village scenes. Anyway, Maggie and Pete have cliché filled romantic scenes aplenty. Then they head off to the English countryside on a motorbike.
It all seems so far like a soppy movie of the 70s… even after they are involved in an accident with terribly English Jason Mountolive’s (John Standing) Rolls Royce. As their motorbike was damaged, Mountolive invites them for afternoon tea at Ravenhurst. This HIS (palatial) family home and complete with servants doing Mountolive’s bidding.
Maggie and Pete end up staying longer while their motorbike is repaired. Pete takes a shower, but then the plumbing appears to go awry with the water scalding him. He’s hurt badly as he makes his escape through the glass shower door.
Mountolive’s guests arrive by helicopter the next day. They are an odd group of characters, and all are reportedly famous in their own field. These guests include Clive (Daltrey), a pop star who is in disbelief of his fame and fortune. There’s also
Blofeld, Karl Liebnecht played by Charles Gray. These particular guests are the best reason for watching this film if you need an excuse as they ham it up beautifully.
As Gray to my Darlin Husband’s delight did have a cigarette holder and also had a crazy undistinguishable accent. There are three random others. All have been summoned there as the five heirs to Mountolive’s estate. And
Blofeld Mountolive’s mysterious white cat seems to rule the roost, over the other cats. It seems like Mountolive’s a bit of a crazy cat guy.
The guests tell Maggie and Pete, that Mountolive is dying. He’s cared for by Nurse Adams (Margaret Tyzack). She is a formidable woman who makes 1975’s One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest’s Nurse Ratched look like a pussy cat.
On being invited to their host’s room alone, Maggie discovers that Mountolive’s hooked up to a life support machine and is “wasting away”. Anyway, his
hand claw reaches out and he places a ring on Maggie’s finger. The ring welds itself there and it can’t be removed. This ring is similar to the one, that the other heirs are wearing. These now six heirs – including Maggie – are all present at his bedside.
There are chilling scenes as Maria, a competitive swimmer drowns in what is believed to be unexplained circumstances. However, viewers will have seen she was observed to have difficulties of a spooky nature. Pete and Maggie try to escape from Ravenhurst by horse (with Elliott showing off his cowboy prowess here) or by car, but find the roads always return to the house.
Mountolive’s heirs are then mysteriously killed in weird and crazy ways, as his only heir selected. We see more of that darn white cat who eerily is on the scene as these play out. As the truth about their host, his servants and his guests was revealed. As Dean Martin or is it Fred Astaire would say… it’s witchcraft…
The film falls within many genres such as romance, mystery, and horror. I did love the film’s romantic opening track of this movie, named Another Side of Me. Although you’ll deduce the title is creepily accurate. But it does sound totally out-of-place for a film set primarily in the horror genre.
The film initially played out as more of a murder mystery tale. This as you watch guests murdered in spooky and macabre ways, one by one, until one remains. The true horror of the tale, in the means by which they were killed and more of this, is revealed in the latter part of the film.
The white cat is seen to be always present when those guests met a grisly end. It also appears on and off in other parts of this film. It’s subtly implied there was more to this cat’s presence than it seems, and of the other cats seen in the film. With it suggested they are much more than just the family pet.
After seeing too many crazy horror films, I expected it to then metamorphose into one of the characters or vice versa. Seeing this happen would have added to the horror of the tale. However, this theory was hinted at only by the film’s posters, and in the storyline. So watch this film carefully, for this purrfect twist in the tale (pun intended).
I did enjoy the cast. Daltrey and Gray nearly steal the movie with their tongue in cheek performances. Their characters relate to their respective true-life roles as the lead singer of The Who and the actor who played Blofeld.
Daltrey was quite fun in a manic sort of way, or maybe he’s just at home in front of the camera. Or maybe he’s just home, with him reportedly offering his house for the film set in exchange for a role in the movie. Gray hams up his unrecognisable accent in all his scenes. It’s a delight to see his eccentric character’s rapport with others in the cast.
You can easily emphasise with Maggie and Pete, and as Mountolive invites them to stay, as we travel with them to England. As the true story revealed you can deduce if this was an accident or on purpose that they ran into their host.
The obvious off-screen love developing between our leading American pair is the best thing in this film. It’s lovely to watch Ross and Elliott in their scenes together, with their sweet and natural performances and chemistry. Their scenes together show their true feelings for each other, in a look, a touch and in their obvious on-screen rapport and relationship.
It does seem this pair is in the wrong movie, especially after that misleading title song. Contrast these scenes with Ross in another film on-screen romance in a film she made that year, The Swarm and you’ll be able to tell just how much she adores Elliott.
I haven’t seen many films with Elliott, just their first joint film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) where they reportedly didn’t have a scene together. Years ago I spotted him in Sibling Rivalry (1990) with Kirstie Alley. But he certainly seems loved up in The Legacy, kinda like the cat who got the cream. Their love enhanced their performances, making their romantic chemistry much more credible than some other acting couples in the same film.
Elliott’s moustache also made an appearance, and you are glad of this. Like Tom Selleck, this facial hair is so much a part of Elliott’s on-screen presence as a horse. With both appearing here in glorious technicolour.
But without letting the cat out of the bag, do look out for that rather revealing nude scene from this actor. Let’s just say you might think, but in the words of his co-star Gray’s turn as Blofeld, Elliott is “showing more cheek than usual, my dear”.
Weeper Rating: 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
The Surprise the Cat Blogathon 2019, No 13
This post was added to Dubsism’s “Surprise The Cat” Blog-A-Thon. Other reviews here include Katharine Ross in Voyage of the Dammed, The Swarm, The Colbys and The Graduate. Hildegarde Neil in Space: 1999, A Touch of Class and The Man Who Haunted Himself. Charles Gray in The Devil Rides Out and Thriller. John Standing stars in The Eagle Has Landed and X, Y and Zee (Zee and co) and The Eagle Has Landed.