Monday, January 1, 2018

Neither Blood Nor Legacy


Mills and Boon meets George A. Romero as Michael Petrovitch shifts from misty-eyed romance to the annals of the undead.

IN July 2017, Screenbound collected these three pictures in a handily disposable budget DVD. Adapted from his own novel by ITN newsreader Gordon Honeycombe, NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND sees Anna Robinson (Susan Hampshire) taking a winter break in Jersey from a lifeless marriage, where she falls in love with introverted Hugh Dabernon (Michael Petrovitch). Hugh has a strange affinity with the rugged coastline, and his antiques dealer brother George (Frank Finlay) takes a disliking to Anna, who threatens the insular Dabernon lifestyle. While the inseparable couple are in the North of Scotland, Hugh suddenly has a fatal heart attack, and is issued a death certificate. Through the strength of love he is reanimated; now without conventional speech (conversations are limited to what may well be Anna's imagination), Hugh physically deteriorates, leading the lovers to a watery grave.

Originally optioned by Hammer, director Fred Burnley attempted to ensure that the film would not be known as "another Tigon horror movie" (Tigon would be rebranded LMG by the time of release), but regardless of genre expectations, it was labelled by Time Out as "one of the worst films of the decade." NEITHER THE SEA NOR THE SAND - nor entertainment - is a ponderous love story without charisma, and a supernatural tale with little Fortean interest (reincarnation within Dabernon history is briefly hinted, as is Robinson being a witch). With no connection on screen, Hampshire and Petrovitch are doomed from the onset, Hampshire's theatrics grating with Petrovitch's distant portrayal; when Hugh's rigor mortis starts to set in, there is no difference to our male lead's performance. What remains is ninety minutes of meaningful stares and glances.

The Peasants are revolting: Oliver Reed not so much chews the scenery than spits it out in BLUE BLOOD.

Directed by Andrew Sinclair, BLUE BLOOD is a delirious story of Devil worship set and filmed at Wiltshire's Longleat House. Gregory (Derek Jacobi) is a young aristocrat who complains of modern England while maintaining a servant lifestyle, which includes new German Nanny Beate (Meg Wynne Owen). Entrusting control of the house to butler Tom (Oliver Reed), and in a complicated relationship with his estranged singer wife Lily (an icy Fiona Lewis), the Lord succumbs to the unholy practises of the under classes, governed by his leading manservant. Adapted from Alexander Thynn's novel The Carry-Cot by Sinclair, Thynn is the 7th Marquess of Bath and grew up in his family's seat at Longleat (and to further the in-house connections, BLUE BLOOD features Thynn's wife Anna Grael as Gregory's mistress Carlotta). UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS on acid, Reed's ham performance is either extraordinary inept or one that plays to the general foolishness; moving like an automaton, Tom's Satanic control is built up by a series of almost freeze-framed red-hued images of black masses and sacrifice, usually depicting Owen, Grael and Lewis draped around him while holding a bloodied knife.

THE LEGACY is another tale of Mansion-based Satanic shenanigans. Designers Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) and Pete Danner (Sam Elliott) leave California to work for an anonymous British client. On reaching their destination they are involved in an accident with a limousine, which is actually owned by their benefactor, Jason Mountolive (John Standing). Inviting them to his estate, Mountolive introduces Walsh and Danner to five guests, who die in a variety of ways: Maria (Marianne Broome) drowns; Clive (Roger Daltrey) chokes to death; Karl (Charles Gray) is burned alive; Barbara (Hildegard Neill) is pierced by a splintered mirror; and Jacques (Lee Montague) falls from a roof. All had chequered pasts, and were spared punishment due to Jason's unorthodox interventions: his mother being Lady Margaret Walsingham, a practitioner of witchcraft. It transpires that Walsh is actually Mountolive's great-granddaughter, and Jason's last acts were to kill the other heirs so Katharine can continue Satan's work.

British character actor John Standing is under the emaciated
makeup of a dying Occultist in THE LEGACY.

Although graced with exquisite cinematography both externally (the lush country setting) and internally (white cats on marble staircases), this tepid Anglo-American production suffers from an inappropriate upbeat soundtrack and lengthy dull patches between the body count. Directed by Richard Marquand, THE LEGACY is all too twee to adhere effectively to the twin 70s fixations of black magic and haunted houses (to further amplify the Seventies feel, we have an opening credits "love-in" with a song from Kiki Dee). The original treatment was written by Jimmy Sangster and "polished" by British SF author Patrick Tilley and Paul Wheeler; Sangster unsurprisingly disowned the film as the "tinkering" involved moving the setting wholesale from a rundown Detroit hospital to the grounds of Mountolive's Ravenhurst.