Inside every porno filmmaker, I suppose, is an aspiring mainstream director. The pay is better and you're not as bound by genre conventions, no matter what critics of Hollywood say. The ambition was there, however briefly, in Gerard Damiano, who enjoyed a moment of fame -- somewhere between notoriety and celebrity -- when his film Deep Throat became a surprise hit in 1972. He followed that up with another quasi-crossover hit, The Devil in Miss Jones, in 1973. If anyone was positioned to attempt a crossover into true mainstream filmmaking, it was Damiano. In fact, he had already taken his shot. Filmed in the year Deep Throat was released, Legacy of Satan played double bills with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but to my knowledge the Deep Throat connection went unmentioned. That's just as well, since it would only have created false expectations for a movie that seems closer to a PG rating -- at least in the version I saw -- than the R it received. It's a shame that Damiano didn't wait until after Deep Throat had hit before trying this, as he could almost certainly have gotten a bigger budget to work with. Instead, while displaying some pictorial ambition, Legacy looks cheap and slapdash, and while more money might have gotten the director better actors, the shabby screenplay is all on him.
The story plays out like an old eight-page horror comic in which wild things happen with little regard for why they happen. After a demonic ritual -- the villains worship an entity called Rakheesh rather than Satan -- plays out under the opening credits -- we sit in on a husband and wife, George and Maya, talking to their friend Arthur, who's quit his job to become a sort of spiritual seeker. Arthur proves to be a kind of talent scout for the cult leader, Dr.Muldavo, who enthuses over a photograph of Maya as if she were his reincarnated lost love. This visibly irks Muldavo's mistress/henchwoman Aurelia, but since she's a mute there's not much she can say about it.
Maya begins to have disturbing dreams and behaves disturbingly, too. One fine day, just before they're scheduled to visit Dr. Muldavo at Arthur's invitation, she deliberately slices her finger and makes George suck the blood. The Rakheesh worshippers are blood drinkers, you see, Aurelia being the current supplier for Muldavo. George isn't sure what to make of all this, while Maya is subject to mood swings that only add to her husband's confusion.
At Chez Muldavo, Maya and George are slipped a couple of Mickeys. For Maya it's like a hit of Reefer Madness-grade marijuana, setting her prancing about the room, while George basically passes out. He's quickly locked away so Muldavo can put the moves on Maya, but before any unholy marriage can be consummated, jealous Aurelia frees George and arms him with a magic, or at least a glowing sword. She gets stabbed for her trouble, but George avenges her by slashing Muldavo's face with the burning blade, sending the cult leader pitching over a balcony.
George and Maya run for it, but Maya -- how like a female -- asks for a rest. But aha! George was too late after all. Maya has turned, and asked for a time out only so the cultists could catch up and kill her husband. Now she tends to poor Muldavo, who survived the fall but has suffered a hideous, constantly worsening facial burn. Only fresh blood can save him, so Maya sets about exsanguinating some cult members -- but to no avail. To her despair, Muldavo succumbs, leaving her to plead with Rakheesh for some sign that they'll be together again. We get the sign at the very end, when Maya turns her head to reveal a scar like her late beloved's growing on her face. In the absence of any actual character development (or "arc") for Maya, Legacy gives us little more than a nearly random sequence of strange behaviors -- and nobody else has nearly as much development as Maya. Nor can any of the cast act, as far as I could tell here. Legacy fails as transgressive cinema. What I saw appears to have some gore cut out, unless I'm only noticing editor Damiano's ineptitude, and there's no nudity whatsoever. It ends up reminiscent in ways of Andy Milligan's work, with which Legacy was sometimes associated in double-bills, but without Milligan's splenetic attitude. There's no real personality at all here, and I wouldn't be surprised if students of Damiano assured us that some of his pornos are better cinema. Maybe things would have been different if he did this a little later, flush with success and possibly roaring with ambition, but maybe he'd already found his true medium, and horror movies simply weren't it.