Before having the privilege of seeing these semi-recent films, my primary exposure to horror movies was with the older classics that ran on The 4 O’Clock Movie, Monday-Friday as part of Connecticut-based Channel 30's station library. Those movies instilled a lasting love of horror in me but it was The ABC Friday Night Movie that allowed me to feel like I was starting to catch up with the times.
In The Legacy (scripted by Hammer vet Jimmy Sangster and directed by Richard Marquand, who would go on to helm Return of the Jedi), Katherine Ross and Sam Elliot play a couple who travel to England for a high-paying interior decorating gig. Once there, they’re involved in a rural motorcycle accident and while they wait for the needed repairs, they become guests at a strange gathering within the walls of the wealthy estate of Jason Mountolive (John Standing). Other guests arrive during their stay (including Rocky Horror Picture Show's Charles Gray and The Who's Roger Daltry) and it soon becomes apparent that something deeply sinister is taking place. All the other guests have achieved impossible wealth in their own various fields, they seem to all belong to some sort of secret order, and when Ross and Elliot repeatedly try to leave the estate, something always keeps the pair from escaping.
On top of that, these well-to-do guests on the estate grounds are being killed off one by one in events that look like accidents but are really (surprise!) the handiwork of malevolent supernatural forces. What is Ross’ connection with these people and why does her destiny seem tied both to this estate and with the incredibly ancient and putrefying form that lingers behind the drapes of a hospital bed in a specialized chamber? All those questions and and more are answered (not answered well, perhaps, but answers are still provided) before the credits roll on The Legacy.
To watch The Legacy now only prompts me to wonder what about it originally held my interest. Even though characters are being bumped off steadily throughout the course of the film, outside of a young woman swimming in an indoor pool who suddenly finds that the entire surface of the water has inexplicably turned solid – forcing her to stay under and drown – none of the character deaths in The Legacy deliver the kind of ghoulish, gut-grabbing flourishes that '70s audiences who had already made the spectacular Omen films into hits would've expected (Damien: Omen 2 was released earlier in '78).