Scorpion Releasing // 1975 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // February 22nd, 2011
"He can't find my clitoris."
Joan Hotchkis was a "working actress" during the '60s and '70s, mainly on television. While never a big star, she was an appealing, down-to-earth, recognizable presence, offering memorable supporting turns on shows like My World and Welcome to It and The Odd Couple.
Hotchkis also did a lot of theater work, and in the '70s, she developed a character named Bissie Hapgood. Bissie was an unhappy middle-aged woman of means, and Hotchkis created a one-woman show that she performed at various performance spaces. After one performance, she was approached by budding filmmaker Karen Arthur about turning the play into a movie.
Thus was born Legacy, a film adaptation of an off-off-Broadway-style play that looks like...a film adaptation of an off-off-Broadway-style play. This is a very "stagy" film, essentially a one-person performance piece, though Hotchkis and Arthur "open it up" here and there by throwing in scenes with other characters.
Sort of a pre-historic Vagina Monologue (that is, a retro version of Eve Ensler's play, not...oh, never mind), Legacy gives us 90 minutes of the chattering Bissie sharing her thoughts on menstruation, orgasms, her clitoris, her husband, her first lover, her cook, her nanny, her gardener, her children...you get the idea. Bissie visits with her senile mother, has a phone conversation with her shrink, and buys Girl Scout cookies. She appears fully nude, masturbates in a bath tub, simulates sex with two different men, and has a climactic rant that includes just about every racist and vulgar term ever created.
It is, I guess, bravura acting, a courageous turn by Hotchkis; it must have been excruciating and exhausting when she performed it live. Watching a two or three minute clip would suggest an award-worthy performance.
Unfortunately, Hotchkis' hard work is in service of a character who's just not that compelling; as a matter-of-fact, she's downright grating. I get that Bissie is supposed to be the representation of unfulfilled, fragile, "upper-class" women everywhere, the ones who lacked the fortitude to embrace the women's movement and found themselves adrift.
But there's a difference between a representative character and an interesting character, and the shrill, self-absorbed Bissie just isn't that interesting. Her lack of insight is supposed to be insightful in itself, but it's a chore to listen to her carry on for close to 90 minutes. If Bissie had been part of a larger piece -- maybe four or five monologues about women in the '70s -- this would have been much more compelling. Shel Silverstein actually covered this territory far more memorably and efficiently in his song "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," so memorably recorded by Marianne Faithfull.
Arthur directs with occasional flair, and the film opens with a striking image of a nude, elderly woman paddling in a swimming pool -- you have to wonder if Altman didn't see this before he began 3 Women. Overall, the cinematography by John Bailey (Ramona and Beezus) is very good, particularly given the budget and space limitations.
While Legacy might not be a lost classic, you wouldn't know it from Scorpion's treatment of this DVD. While the picture and audio are less-than stellar, they're acceptable, and probably as good as it gets, considering the film's age and budget -- though Arthur, in her commentary, seems disappointed that the picture has been brightened and is not as "moody" as originally shot. Supplement-wise, the film gets a pretty royal treatment. We get two commentary tracks, one from Hotchkis, the other from Arthur. While both tend to ramble a bit and have their share of dead space, they are interesting and provide context.
We also get interviews with Hotchkis and Arthur, as well as with Bailey and editor Carol Littleton, plus a stills gallery.
Note: The IMDb listing for this is a mess. It lists the genre as "Action," includes "Witness Protection" as a keyword, notes that this is "John de Lancie's TV debut" (no one by that name here, and it's not a TV movie), and alleges the film is in black and white.
It's not my cup of estrogen, but as a curio -- of feminist cinema, independent film, and performance art -- it's interesting enough to catch once. Scorpion has done exemplary work on the disc, which rounds this up to a not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Image Gallery