To kick off the week I took in The Legacy (1978), starring Stepford Wife Katharine Ross and Roadhouse tough guy Sam Elliott as an American couple who encounter bizarre happenings at an English manor. Yeeagh!
Maggie and Pete (Ross and Elliott) are New York architects (or something- it's never really explained what they do) who get a vague job offer from an unknown employer- they get paid $50,000 as an advance and are told to report to England in a week to get all the details. Despite such scant information, Maggie is hot to trot and convinces Pete (who's rightfully dubious about the whole thing) to come along. They leave for England right away so they can have a little sightseeing vacation before getting down to work.
Then we have the credit sequence, and we're immediately reminded that the movie was birthed in the 70s: the sensitive musical montage. That's right, there are shots of the young couple buying oranges, walking hand in hand, laying atop a blanket in a field...while we're treated to some primo Kiki Dee soundtrack action. Yes, Kiki Dee, she who couldn't break Elton John's heart if she tried. Sometimes I feel like every movie from the 70s, whether a horror flick or not, had to have a 'theme song'. You know what I mean? Usually performed by someone you've never heard of, the song gets its own shout-out in the credits. It's kind of distracting, but that could just be me.
As the strains of Kiki fade away, Pete and Maggie are driving down a winding road on a motorcycle, going rather fast. Around the corner comes a car, there's swerving, there's a spinning camera, there's Pete and Maggie on the ground. Don't worry- they're alright, but the motorcycle needs some repairs before it can be driven again. The fellow being chauffeured in the car, Jason Mountolive, tells the couple that he'll arrange for the repairs to the bike, but in the meantime they simply MUST come back to his house for a spot of tea. Those crazy Brits! Cheerio, ol chap! Ta ta! Spare a pence, guv'nah?
They arrive at Jason's pad- one of those sprawling English manors snuggled into the rolling hillside- and the host tells his guests to go on inside and make themselves comfy. Then he pops a few pills and drives off. Okey-dokey...no matter that they're left alone, because Pete and Maggie interpret "make yourselves comfy" to mean "go have it off", and so they do. Pete decides on a post-coital shower, and while he's rinsing off the stench of their sweet sweet lovemakings, the water...gets really hot! And Pete can't turn it off! He crashes through the glass shower doors to avoid getting burned and makes a mess everywhere. Is there something evil afoot at the Mountolive residence? Or is it simply...bad plumbing? Ooo-eeee-ooo!
Soon enough, 5 other guests arrive via helicopter to liven things up a bit. Host Jason, however, is nowhere to be found. Or is he? Is that him watching everyone from afar, all wheezy and shaky? And why does his creepy staff- including the really creepy Nurse Adams, who may or may not have the ability to turn into a cat- keep whispering amongst themselves that "The master is fading fast"?
Soon, one of the guests, Maria, is cavorting alone in the pool, doing what looks to be one-half of a synchronized swim routine. When she comes up for air, though, she finds she cannot break the surface of the water! It's as if someone has laid plexiglass atop the pool, or Maria is just adding some mime-ery to her swim routine. Either way, she can't get her head above water and she sinks to the bottom, then floats. Uh oh! When they find her body, the guests all assume Maria hit her head or something and drowned- except for Pete, who notices that there's no marks on the body. Is there something evil afoot at the Mountolive residence? Or is it simply...an accident? Ooo-eeee-ooo!
Later on, Pete is left to his own devices while Maggie and the 4 remaining guests are summoned to the host's room. Jason, who was a man in his 40s earlier in the day, is now a wheezy, wrinkly old thing, bed-ridden behind some sort of hyperbaric curtains. He's hooked up to all sorts of machinery, monitored by the suspicious Adams. Jason rasps to his audience about "the legacy"- that the ring each of them is wearing binds them to him, and when he dies only one of them will take his place and inherit everything. Maggie's a bit confused, since she isn't wearing a ring. Jason beckons her to his side, though, and a hand that looks like it's made out of beef jerky thrusts out from behind the curtain and grabs her wrist! Suddenly...Maggie is wearing the ring! And she can't get it off! Is there something evil afoot at the Mountolive residence? Or is it simply...that Jason didn't know her ring size? Ooo-eeee-ooo!
Maggie and Pete decide that it's the former, and try to make a break for it. They steal some horses, gallop into town and steal a car...but no matter which road they take, they end up back at Jason Mountolive's house! What the-? How is that possible? After several attempts at escape, the couple just gives up and heads beack inside for some grub.
At dinner, Maggie asks fellow ring-wearer Roger Daltrey (yes, from The Who) if everyone's into black magic. Surprisingly, they all say yes, and it's no big whoop. Then Roger Daltrey chokes on some ham and dies.
From this point on, you may be shocked to learn that it gets a little convoluted. Maggie uncovers some truths via my favorite cinematic method: the damning newspaper clippings left lying around! Yes, Maggie discovers that everyone at the house has a sordid past...Jason "bought their lives" and now their punishment fits their crime. See, like, you know how I said that Roger Daltrey choked on some ham, right? And stuff? Well, it turns out that a long time ago he gave one of his bandmates some drugs...and the bandmate choked on the pills and died! And stuff!
Eventually there are only two competing heirs remaining: Maggie and the evil Frenchman Jacques. Jacques is up on the roof, shooting at Pete with a shotgun. Pete is shooting back with a crossbow. They shoot each other, but not fatally- then Maggie rushes out to Pete's side as he lays on the grass bleeding. Jacques raises the shotgun, Maggie raises her hand, and the shotgun gets clogged and blows up in the Frenchman's face! He falls off the roof to his death, and now Maggie is the final heir! She goes to Jason's side to claim her prize. He's really about to bite the dust now, and he wheezes: "Take my necklace...and my powwwwwww-ahhhhhhhhhh!". Oh, in case you didn't know by now, he means the power of Satan. Eventually, Maggie will find 6 worthy potential heirs to her legacy, kill 5 of them, and pass the necklace and the powah onto the survivor. Maggie seems fine with all of this, for some reason.
Meanwhile, Pete is battling mano a mano with Nurse Adams. He pushes her down the stairs, and I kid you not...she meows all the way down. Yes, apparently she COULD turn into a cat. Pete makes his way into Jason's room, goes nuts, and smashes everything...but he's too late! Maggie is the new master of the house! She has inherited...The Legacy! And in one of the most ridiculous, pulled-out-of-the-writer's-ass endings ever, Maggie and Pete are perfectly a-ok with the fact that she's now a vessel for Satan. Maggie gives Pete her ring, meaning he'll be one of the six potential heirs some day...also meaning, she may end up killing him at some point! But that's cool! It's all good! And witness the exchange that ends the movie:
"You're getting to be tough to deal with, Slim."
"I know. I've got the power!"
"Yeah, I know you have. Now what're you gonna do with it?"
"Anything I want!"
OK...what the fuck? She didn't get her GED, she didn't get reconstructive surgery, she didn't leave her abusive husband... she inherited the powers of Satan! How can they just accept that so easily?! They wanted to escape the house earlier in the day, and now it's like they won fucking Powerball! Ah, well. I love this whole subgenre, even if the movies are more confusing and ludicrous than they are frightening or...well, good. That's why I'm dedicating a whole week to 'em! And I give the inaugural flick...6 and a half out of 10 beef jerky fingers!