Like Kwaidan, this was another latecomer to my Horrorthon, a movie I suddenly remembered and then had summoned to my side by the dread demon Netflixxe. I'm guessing some of you might recognize this movie from when it played on TV as "The Legacy of Maggie Walsh." The only things I noticed that were probably cut for TV were 1) the word "shit" once, 2) about one cumulative second of gore, and 3) one shot of Sam Elliot's ass.
I don't know why, but I always resent having Sam Elliot shoved in my face. Every movie I've seen him in presents him as this wise, folksy, hero type, but for my part his dense, unrestrained hair and smug, good-guy assurance make me repeatedly furrow my eyebrows in perturberance. Is part of my resentment that I myself can sense his appeal? Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. For as with Big Lebowski, Road House and Frogs, this movie will brook no nonsense on my part that suggests Sam Elliot is anything but lean, sexy, honest, and dependable. Somehow, this is his 70's birthright, and on we go.
The always appealing Katharine Ross plays Maggie Walsh, who with boyfriend Pete Danner heads to England at the behest of a mysterious client who absolutely needs her interior decorating genius. (See? Aren't you annoyed that Sam Elliot gets Dustin Hoffman's girlfriend from The Graduate? And jeez, "Pete Danner," what a total "cool guy" name. Ugh.) While motorcycling in the woods they have a minor accident with a limosine. The limo's passenger, Jason Mountolive, insists they stay at his mansion to recuperate.
Once there, it seems Maggie was expected, and is treated as an honored member of six-person group. All of the othes are hugely successful, indebted to Jason Mountolive, and have just arrived at the mansion in some vague ceremonial capacity. One of them is the narrator from The Rocky Horror Picture show, and another one is Roger Daltry.
Before "The Six" (as members of The Six call themselves) can actually meet, one of them dies from supernatural causes. Maria is performing underwater aquabatics when she comes up for air and finds the surface of the water has become inexplicably solid. Finding her dead in a pool of totally normal water, the company is baffled, as Maria was such an excellent swimmer. Even Pete and Maggie can attest to her prowess, having seen her do this:
Later that night Maggie is invited to a meeting with Jason Mountolive, who has not been seen since they got to the mansion. It turns out he's unbelievably ill and dying, as Maggie discovers when she enters his room and hears his raspy voice from amid a curtained hospital bed surrounded by pinging machines. While the rest of The Six (Five) watch, she approaches.
And with serious spryness for an almost dead guy, the now hideous Mountolive grabs her hand and sticks a ring on her finger. She faints, and when she wakes up she can't get the ring off...
This movie falls into its own plot with a silly but lovable fait accompli. Dinner guests keep dying, Maggie discovers a centuries-old portrait that looks just like her, the possibilities of bona fide Black Magic are accepted with ridiculous ease -- all in this enjoyable English mansion whodunnit setting. There's a Satanic will at work that is the opposite of that in The Omen: Rupert Thorne had to accept the lie of Damien's birth, but while Maggie's compatriots are all knowingly committed to evil and have committed evil acts, Maggie herself just has a ring jammed on her finger and she's in the soup.
Nevertheless, watching this movie is like eating a bowl of your favorite ice cream. It offers that familiar comfort only a good 70's made-for-TV movie can, but with real-movie production values. I remembered The Legacy of Maggie Walsh as a flick we enthusiastically discussed as kids, grooving on the pool-death scene, or the scene in which Pete and Maggie try to leave the estate but every road leads them back, or just on the sensationalist appeal of Satanic power. Unlike the more serious Omen, this one somehow retained its goofy fun.