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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

The Legacy Richard Marquand 1978

More Like "The Crotchecy"

Another in a series of gory supernatural thrillers that popped up in the late seventies (Omen II, Exorcist II, The Sentinel), The Legacy is dull, padded, and entirely unoriginal. Considering that the screenplay hinges upon the dubious premise that California is heaven on earth and the English countryside is the locus of the purest of absolute evil, one might assume that the writers have at least sampled British cooking. The rationale behind the other major theme of the film might be a tad more difficult to uncover: namely, the exhaustive physical study of its leading man, the moustachioed and machismoed Sam Elliot.

In truth, this is less a filmed motion picture entertainment than a love-letter to Sam Elliot's musky nether-regions. We've got a loving, lingering shot of Sammy's admittedly supple buttocks sauntering their meaty way to the shower, when a simple medium shot would have more than sufficed. We've got numerous shots of Sam sitting on couches, staircases, divans, daybeds, and other lounge furniture, always with his legs spread wide and his crotch thrust enticingly toward camera. Indeed, in one scene set in the sitting room, Sam's basket dwarfs star Katharine Ross entirely, taking up nearly half of the screen and understandably distracting this reviewer from the dialogue, which was presumably something about some sort of pact with the devil.

Oh yes -- that's what this movie is really about: devil worship. It seems that a bunch of old Europeans (yes, that includes Roger Daltry -- even though only 31 at the time of filming his rockstar lifestyle had already lent him an air of the stale and world-weary) have sold their souls to some old guy name Jason, who at any given time is either hiding in the attic like Bette Davis in Burnt Offerings or driving around the English countryside as we Americans imagine the British incessantly tend to do (there is likely also tea involved). Enter Maggie (Ross) and Pete (Elliot), an annoying American couple who whisk themselves off to jolly old tra-la-la at the bequest of some unknown benefactor/employer who is going to pay them an exorbitant amount of money to build something (considering the way the film plays out, it could be an enormous pedestal for Sam's gonads).

When Frick and Frack arrive in the UK, they encounter a scenario no doubt familiar to most Americans who have traveled abroad: they are unceremoniously run off the road and subsequently invited to a countryside mansion for tea. Of course, a handful of rich aristocrats arrive and begin dying off in needlessly elaborate ways in the house, and before you can say "Agatha Christie slept here", Pete is hot on the trail of the killer. Sort of. He's actually preoccupied with posing around the house most of the time, hands on hips and knees jutting out like an extra from an old cowboy picture. Regardless, he eventually starts to figure out that something is going on after he and his wife repeatedly fall victim to all sorts of convenient accidents and silly little inconveniences like their motorcycle being dismantled and the roads around the mansion becoming a repeating, inescapable infinite loop (yes, the film actually makes us sit through this boring couple driving around the English countryside in a Model T. Thankfully, they at least fuck it up royally in the process).

One gets the idea that director Marquand (better known for Jagged Edge and, well, Return of the Jedi) liked Sam Elliot's shitbox so much that he bulked up what was originally a throwaway role into something approximating a hero; Sam is given entire scenes where he skulks around the property while Katharine presumably soaks in a hot bath, and while nothing at all of interest happens, they do their darnedest to make us think that something has. Why's Sam on the roof?! 'Cause he is. Why'd Sam just hop on a horse and kick that old man in the face? 'Cause he can. Half of the scenes with Sam serve as padding, while the real interesting stuff (you know, about the witchcraft and the devil and possession and the limitless power of Satan and all that) is skirted around.

In truth, this would all be intolerably boring were it not for a few elements that keep the thing afloat, one of which being the fixation on Mr. Elliot's assets, which if nothing else offers a reprieve from the boring and predictable dialogue. Also on hand to save us from a nap is a starched old English nursemaid (played by Margaret Tyzack, who in addition to being an actual convent attendee, was one of the few women in 2001: A Space Oddysey) who obviously has some hand in the strange events going on at the manor but is marvellously cool about the whole ordeal (the revelation of her true nature at the end is one of the few delights this movie offers). Otherwise, the assorted rich folk are mildly amusing but not eccentric enough to really entertain (the woman who is drowned in the pool near the beginning is somewhat bitchy, at least, but doesn't make it far out of the gate, and Rocky Horror's Criminologist Charles Gray is sadly wasted as a dull Kraut), leaving the bulk of the burden on the slim shoulders of Ross, who is generally likeable enough but here given absolutely nothing to work with, unless you count her husband's wedding tackle. In the convoluted climax and finale, she is revealed to be just as weak and shallow as you would expect a woman from California to be (ouch!), and the cop-out ending leaves so many items unaddressed that it's laughable.

My biggest gripe with the movie is that the fluffy kitty on the cover (obviously a purebred Himalayan or Persian) is not the kitty that appears in the film (while perfectly plucky in his own way, he is a simple shorthair, and not nearly as glamorous as his Fancy Feast-looking showboat cousin). In all, a missed opportunity for anyone other than Sam Elliot crotch-fetishists (and I know you're out there). Honestly -- can you really take any film seriously that presents Los Angeles as an Edenic paradise next to the misty, rolling hills of England? Next thing you know, they'll be saying that the American Midwest is filled with inbred families of cannibals. Hey wait a minute....

Rating (out of 5):