The Legacy

Would you describe your life as "a birthright of living death?"
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1978
Director: 
Richard Marquand
Starring: 
Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, Roger Daltrey
The Setup: 
Couple go to England and end up prisoners in some mansion ruled by a wrinkly Satan-worshipper.
Discussion: 

I rented this movie as part of my Sam Elliott appreciation festival [which will culminate with a screening of Lifeguard], and while it satisfied fairly well on that level, in retrospect, I really don't think there's any other reason to sit through it.

This movie was directed by Richard Marquand. And I'm like "Richard Marquand. Richard Marquand. hmmm." Before I discover that he's the guy who later went on to direct Return of the Jedi! George obviously wanted someone that could be easily molded, as poor Richard has nothing but the most pedestrian directing skills.

The movie begins in this bizarre California-styled room that is supposed to represent Katharine Ross' studio, where she works as an architect. Now, she seems like about as much of an architect as Karl Rove seems like a Solid Gold dancer. Sam Elliott is apparently her hunky man-toy, as he apparently has no bankable skills and does nothing but stand around looking sultry and glowering by turns. I suppose this reversal is progressive; she has the abilities and he's a sex toy. It would work for me. If only I had abilities.

Anyway, it seems that Katharine has been hired by a mysterious client in England, and she and Sam decide to go over early and soak up the sights. Look around 2:51 and you'll see that the ludicrous flower in her hair appears and disappears. It seems that they shipped Sam's motorcycle over to England with their luggage, which seems expensive, but I guess they have their priorities.. Now, look at this frame:

I want to live in a world where it is considered normal and appealing to have a romantic picnic by the side of a river with Sam Elliott, motorcycle parked just behind, while a song by Kiki Dee plays in the background. You heard me. KIKI DEE. As in 'Elton John and Kiki Dee perform Don't Go Breaking My Heart.' The song is appealing in a hideously expressive 70s way, and was CLEARLY commissioned specifically for this film, as the music occasionally erupts into pumping disco or dreamily inspirational variations on this theme.

So the young couple are motorcycling, when they're run off the road by a Rolls Royce. The guy in the car offers to take them back to his place for tea while their motorcycle is being repaired. They accept, and are taken back to this huge mansion, where they promptly exchange tongueless kisses and make tasteful offscreen love. Sam, unconcerned that they're in a mysterious house with complete strangers, growls "Come here, I'll keep you warm." And then they peck and HUG. Ooh baby, you've got me so hot, c'mon, let's HUG. Yeah woman, you look so hot in that thong, let's get down, get sweaty, and HUG.

Then Sam decides to take a shower. Depending on your perspective, this may be the highlight of the movie, as you get a nice shot of his ass and, you know, then he takes a shower. In a fashion typical of these crappy 70s tepid horror movies, the water gets really hot [in a menacing way], forcing Sam to fall backward through the glass. There is then some unintentional hilarity as the soundtrack includes all sorts of sounds of him walking through the broken glass in bare feet, while he doesn't react to the obvious shredding of his flesh in any way. He's a tough guy, that Sam.

This is also where their abrupt character reversals start. First Sam is suspicious and Katharine is all "Come on, it's just tea," then suddenly she's worried and he's like "Hey, what's the matter? Let's just relax." These continue for quite some time as the morons take a while to convince that they're in trouble. Him, I can understand, he's just a man-whore, but she's supposed be a brainy architect.

Then Roger Daltrey arrives.

Okay, this is getting tedious. Suffice to say that this movie trots out every possible suspense cliché even invented. Let's hit some of the highlights:

> Listen to the amazingly inappropriate triumphant disco music playing at 50:00, as Sam and Katharine have an amazingly inappropriate country horse ride/escape.

> Listen to the REPRISE of the amazingly inappropriate disco music just 3 minutes later, when Sam and Katharine steal the Rolls.

> Watch the homage to The Birds at 1:23:45.

> Marvel at Katharine's amazingly camp moment in which she screams "No, it's ME! I'm the one!" The poor girl obviously seems to justifiably embarrassed at speaking these lines, and obviously has no idea how to sell them.

> Observe how no one remarks on the bizarre coincidence that the guy who hired Katharine while in America is the very same one who just happened to hit them with his car.

> Curious that the guy who was such a crack shot he could split an arrow now can't hit Sam with a shotgun.

> Please note that it's entirely Katharine's fault that Sam gets shot!

> Sam has a tantrum and tears up the place!

SPOILERS>>>
At the very end, Katharine decides to just accept the power of Satan and be evil. Okay fine, but what's surprising is that Sam goes along with her decision and become enslaved to eternal evil himself, with an affectionate delivery of the line: "You're gettin' tough to deal with, Slim." Yeah! I thought maybe one day you'd take up macrame, but I never dreamed you'd become a bride of Satan! This can either be interpreted as a) a moving testament to a love that transcends the unexpected changes individuals can go through as they grow, for example, becoming a bride of Satan, or b) a sad realization on Sam's part that he is merely an aging man-whore with absolutely no skills other than glowering and delivering hot, sweaty, all-night hugs, and he needs to keep his food source close. I would like to reach out to all the disenfranchised hairy, mustachioed, motorcycle-riding man-whores out there with a message of hope: You needent become exploited hug-toys of Satan's bride. There's a place for you right by my side. Take heart, and keep working out. <<

The tagline for this film is "The Legacy: A birthright of living death." Now, what does that mean? Does that make sense? A birthright of living death? I don't know. Perhaps you, too, have inherited a birthright of living death. If you, or someone you know, has become heir to a birthright of living death, please call the birthright of living death crisis line at 1-866-STOP-BLD. Together we can make a difference.

Should you watch it: 

If you want to see Sam's ass, or maybe if you're really, really bored.