The Legacy (1978 film)

The Legacy is a 1978 British-American horror film directed by Richard Marquand and starring Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott, and The Who's Roger Daltrey about a couple who are summoned to a British mansion, where they stumble upon its family's curse.[1]

The Legacy
Theatrical poster
Directed byRichard Marquand
Produced byDavid Foster
Written by
Music byMichael J. Lewis
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 1978 (UK)
  • September 14, 1979 (USA)
Running time
96 min.
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$2,500,000 (estimated)
Box office$11,364,985

The film earned an estimated $4.2 million in rentals during its initial release.[2]


Maggie Walsh (Ross) and her boyfriend Pete Danner (Elliott) are interior decorators from California. They are retained by an anonymous British client. Their reluctance to abandon their current client in Los Angeles is alleviated when that client dies suddenly in mysterious circumstances. Taking advantage of their pre-paid airfare, they travel to England and are immediately involved in a traffic collision with a limousine. The passenger reveals himself as their mysterious benefactor, Jason Mountolive (John Standing), who invites them to his rambling estate, Ravenhurst.

They arrive to find that Mountolive has also invited the five beneficiaries of his estate, all public figures with notorious reputations. The other guests explain that they have been summoned because Jason is dying, "wasting away" above stairs. Maggie is astonished to hear this because Jason seemed vigorous just minutes earlier.

Jason receives his guests in his bedroom, a sterile chrome and glass environment where he lies connected to a life support system. His bed is shrouded by white curtains that obscure his appearance. He calls Maggie to the bedside, where a monstrous hand reaches out of the curtains and places a signet ring with the Mountolive family crest on her finger. The other guests already wear identical rings. Maggie tries to remove the ring, but it has grafted itself to her finger.

Shortly afterwards, the other guests die by mysterious and gruesome means: Maria, despite being an excellent swimmer, becomes trapped under the surface of Jason's indoor pool and drowns; Clive Jackson (Daltrey) gets a chicken bone lodged in his throat during dinner (although he was not eating chicken at the time) and perishes during a botched tracheotomy; Karl Liebnecht (Gray) is incinerated by a massive burst of flame from a fireplace that leaves the rest of the room untouched. A mirror in Barbara's bedroom explodes, piercing her with glass shards, then restores itself without a crack. Jacques suspects Maggie and Pete of engineering these inexplicable deaths, and chases them onto the roof with a shotgun. The weapon jams and explodes in his face, knocking him off the roof to his death.

Maggie and Pete find a collection of newspaper clippings. These reveal that each of their fellow guests had been accused of high crimes or implicated in major scandals, yet always escaped punishment or censure thanks to Jason's intervention. Jason's mother was Lady Margaret Walsingham and his father was the Lord of Mountolive; both families included notorious practitioners of black magic and witchcraft. Lady Margaret and her husband were burned at the stake for heresy. Maggie realizes that she is Jason's great-granddaughter, and that the retainer was a ruse to lure her into the midst of Jason's other beneficiaries.

As the last remaining heir to Jason's legacy, Maggie stands to inherit the vast Walsingham-Mountolive financial empire. She confronts Jason. With his last breath, Jason confesses that he sacrificed the other heirs to the devil in order to pass on his sinister powers to her. He instructs her to choose six heirs of her own, who will likewise be sacrificed when the time comes so that the lone survivor will also inherit the powers bestowed by Satan.

Pete forces his way into the room and tries to prevent the transfer of power by sabotaging Jason's life-support system. He is too late; Maggie has accepted her legacy and is now "Lady Margaret". The household staff declare their allegiance to her. Maggie selects Pete as her first beneficiary. She gives him a signet ring which immediately grafts itself to his finger.



Critical reception was mixed,[3][4] with People magazine negatively comparing it to The Exorcist.[5] Dread Central wrote a mixed review for The Legacy, stating "It’s hard to hate a movie that spends most of its time being so off-the-wall ridiculous. The Legacy doesn’t remotely work in the way it was intended to but, despite a few dull stretches, there’s plenty of nonsense on display to enjoy."[1]'s review was also mixed, and praised Daltrey's acting and the film's settings, while criticizing the film's upbeat soundtrack and plot holes.[6]


The original music score was composed by Michael J. Lewis. The opening-credits theme song ("Another Side of Me") is performed by Kiki Dee.


The film spawned a tie-in novel written by John Coyne.[7]


  1. "Saturday Nightmares: The Legacy (1978)". DreadCentral. January 30, 2010.
  2. Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 257
  3. "The Legacy Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  4. "THE LEGACY (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  5. "Picks and Pans Review: The Legacy". People. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  6. "Film Review: The Legacy (1978)". Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  7. The Legacy by John Coyne - The Fantastic Fiction
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