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directed by Karen Arthur
USA 1975


There are cracks forming in upper class housewife Bissie Hapgood's (Joan Hotchkis, BREEZY) rigidly well-ordered existence. She can't find the "shocking pink" Christmas ornaments for her punch bowl birds next centerpiece (she bores her Mexican maid over the phone with the details). The good butter knives keep disappearing from the silver (and the designer is no longer in business). She and her husband can't have dinner with a friend because it is on the night when she sends her smelly German au pair to the Y for English lessons and she can't make the Japanese gardener understand that he can't sod the ground because they are planning to dig it all up and put in a sauna. Oh, she's also sexually unsatisfied, her husband is distant, her son still wets the bed, her daughter doesn't need any advice about becoming a woman, and her ailing mother has developed a nervous tick in which she cries randomly. When one of those "soft as butter" butter knives slips down into the garbage disposal, it's a personal apocalypse. Joan Hotchkis developed his one woman show at the Actor's Studio and it was directed on stage by her acting teacher Eric Morris in return for her help on his first acting book (Morris has since written a couple more books on acting "beyond the method"). The titular legacy is one of shame about sexuality and the condescending and racist beliefs underlying the upper class privilege and resentment (Bissie's ear-splitting, bigotted, and vulgar diatribe is the film's standout moment). Director Karen Arthur was a DGA trainee on Arthur Penn's NIGHT MOVES where she met focus puller John Bailey (CAT PEOPLE), whose wife Carol Littleton (E.T.) was cutting industrial films at the time. The three saw Hotchkis' play and approached her to make it into a film. Produced on a low budget (partially funded by an AFI grant) using Hotckis' own home, her parents home, and Arthur's apartment (as well as her Pontiac Firebird), LEGACY is based on a one woman show, but it is an ambitious collaboration between Hotchkis, Arthur, Bailey, Littleton, and composer Roger Kellaway (the latter four collaborated again on Arthur's second film THE MAFU CAGE and continued some of the aesthetic and narrative elements seen in LEGACY). Arthur mentions the parallels between LEGACY and Cassavetes' A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE (made around the same time) and that is perhaps more appropriate than REPULSION. Slammed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times (for some choices that may have been deliberate on the part of Hotchkis regarding her character), the resulting film is worthy of rediscovery and reappraisal.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 2 May 1976 (USA)

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DVD Review: Scorpion Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Scorpion Releasing

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:28:39

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.63 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Scorpion Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by writer/actress Joan Hotchkis
• Audio Commentary by director Karen Arthur
• The Legacy of Joan Hotchkis: interview with Joan Hotchkis (4:3; 33:29)
• Starting a Legacy: interview with Karen Arthur (4:3; 46:00)
• Shooting a Legacy: interview with editor Carol Littleton and cinematographer John Bailey (4:3; 18:06
• Still Gallery

DVD Release Date: February 22nd, 2011

Chapters 12



Scorpion have transferred this 16mm film from a 35mm wetgate blow-up and placed the 4:3 image in a 16:9 palette. Apart from reel change marks and some scratches around those points, the transfer is very clean and the encode seems to retain the film's natural grain and softness (a lot of natural light was used and few takes were shot so Hotckis sometimes moves too far back or forward for the focus puller to catch up). The audio has a little hiss but the dialogue is always clear and Kellaway's score bold in the mix. Actress/writer Joan Hotchkis and producer/director Karen Arthur are on hand for separate commentary tracks and interviews (both speculate on how Hotchkis' brain tumor - diagnosed after the film was finished - may have affected her performance). Arthur discusses her background as a dancer, actress, and her transition to directing. Hotchkis describes how her upbringing was similar to that of the character (and how they differed in her choice to be an actress and to write and talk frankly about the inelegant topic of women's sexuality during the sixties and seventies).

Cinematographer John Bailey and editor Carol Littleton are also interviewed together. Bailey says the long take aesthetic (appropriate to the stage origins of the play) and careful choreography made it possible to shoot the film in twelve days, while Littleton discusses how the long takes and limited coverage made it difficult to trim, cut, and rearrange sequences (the production could not afford an assistant editor so Karen Arthur doubled in that position and is cited as such in the closing credits). A stills gallery rounds out the extras.

  - Eric Cotenas


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