The Legacy is a traditional haunted house mystery movie in the Agatha Christie vein of a whodunit. Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) and Pete Danner (Sam Elliott) own an architectural business. When an unnamed English client offers them a big order, Danner is apprehensive due to the unusual way in which the inquiry was made. As an incentive, though, the mysterious client has forwarded a $50k sweetener to clinch the deal - quite a bit in the late 70's. This allows Danner and Walsh to make a holiday of their visit to England so that they can conclude the deal and during their break and whilst there they embark on a motorcycle tour of the English country. Part way through their tour, Danner has to violently leave the road, narrowly missing an oncoming car. The occupier of said car, to make amends for their accident, offers to fix their bike and invites them home for tea. When Walsh and Danner arrive, things start to get more eerie, as more guests arrive and the real secret of the house becomes apparent.
Possibly the biggest claim to fame is that this movie is helmed by Richard “Return of the Jedi” Marquand, closely followed by the casting of Sam Elliott. The movie is certainly well directed and both principal actors embody their rolls fairly well. Despite this, The Legacy is not up there with The Shining or The Omen, in the horror stakes...which, thinking about, it is just as well as the movie is more of a murder mystery than anything else, and is all about uncovering the mystery of the house and figuring out why the guests are (quite imaginatively) dying. Horror moments are few and far between, though little unexplained nods and winks throughout the movie do build tension lending the mundane a surreal unease.
What lets this movie down is the pacing and poor judgement of story branching. Mostly, this kind of movie works best when the cast is trapped and cannot escape. The feeling that they are all fish in a barrel makes the whole atmosphere oppressive and tense. In The Legacy, however, Danner and Walsh make a mad dash on horseback at one point. This is a futile gesture as the fleeing couple are mystically drawn back to the house, no matter their course, but the openness of the countryside breaks the ambience previously generated. The story seems to take forever, too, despite being a moderately short movie. If the events were to take a single night, or whole day, then things would be much more compact. All too often, The Legacy feels overly drawn out, with slow drudgery and is too infrequently interposed with some good intense scenes.
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