Family Plot


Action / Comedy / Thriller


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October 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM


Alfred Hitchcock as Silhouette at Office of Vital Statistics
Bruce Dern as George Lumley
William Devane as Arthur Adamson
Karen Black as Fran
849.99 MB
23.976 fps
2hr 0 min
P/S 2 / 8

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by christopherbanks 9 / 10

Underrated Hitchcock swansong (possible spoilers)

`Family Plot' is generally regarded as a disappointing entry into the Hitchcock canon, further burdened by the fact that it became his final film – whereas other lighthearted Hitch pictures like `The Trouble With Harry' (another underrated gem) could be accepted for what they were, `Family Plot' buckles under the critical weight and expectation of what should constitute the final film of a cinema master.

Once you throw all that in the bin, however, `Family Plot' is a marvellous, light-hearted comedy/thriller.

Hitchcock had begun, in his later films, to cast lesser-known actors because (a) having been established in the era of the studio system, he saw no need to pay exorbitant sums for actors whom he viewed as just as important in the film-making process as technical crew who were paid less and (b) he wanted to avoid the audience making assumptions about character based purely on who had been cast in a role.

The performances of the four leads in `Family Plot' are consistently excellent. Barbara Harris is hilarious, showing touches of Madeleine Kahn in her role as fake psychic Blanche, Bruce Dern is endearing as her flakey sidekick Frank McBride, Karen Black brilliantly plays it straight-down-the-line (despite the silly disguises she wears) as a partner in crime to kidnapper-jeweler Arthur Adamson, played with deliciously subtle menace by William Devane.

The music, provided by John Williams in a first-time collaboration with Hitchcock, works a treat, avoiding the bombastic overtones of some of his worst Hollywood-esque scores and harking back to the classic days of Bernard Herrmann.

Being drawn into the web of the intricate plot that sees these four characters being drawn together, and seeing the sparks fly in the witty dialogue (penned by `North by Northwest' screenwriter Ernest Lehman) is enough – but the set pieces (a rollercoaster ride in an out-of-control car in the mountains, the kidnapping of a priest in the middle of a service, to name a few) elevate this film to a delightful popcorn experience that you will want to return to again – there are subtleties and layers in the performances that will be guaranteed to keep you coming back for more.

Reviewed by ([email protected]) 7 / 10

Better than Expected

Having seen "Torn Curtain" about a year ago, I wasn't all that enthusiastic about seeing another of Hitchcock's "late" works (indeed, his final film). "TC" was absolutely abysmal, as reflected in my comments there, so I had no great expectations for "Family Plot." I was pleasantly surprised, however. Although true Hitchcock buffs may not rank "FP" alongside the "classics" like "Psycho" and "NxNW," "FP" is an evenly-paced film with strong central characters, an interesting supporting cast, good acting, humor, innuendo, mystery and, of course, suspense. A good all-around film by the master in his final effort. It won't leave your palms sweating and your blood running cold, and there are a couple of flaws that a younger Hitch might have caught (I, for one, wonder how Blanche's car got fixed so quickly -- hard to believe it wasn't totaled in the first place).

Nonetheless, Family Plot will hold your attention and keep you guessing until the very end. I'm glad I took the time to seek it out and watch it.

Reviewed by zetes 7 / 10

No, not great Hitchcock, but entertaining nonetheless

Family Plot differs from all the other Hitchcock films. It lacks suspense, for the most part, and it is not as funny as many of his films. Instead, it is just an amusing little yarn. I like the way the film starts with two separate plot lines which gradually merge. Even if it is not the most original thing in the world (especially since two of Family Plot's stars were main players in Robert Altman's Nashville), it still makes the film interesting. If anyone else had made this film, it probably would be more fondly received by the public, although I doubt anyone would still be watching it today.

The two characters with whom we begin the film, whom we would consider the heroes, are the best, and are played lovingly by Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern. She's a hack psychic milking old ladies out of pensions, and he's a cabbie who cannot find enough time both to drive his cab and participate in Harris' schemes. Although the characters aren't as well developed as those in numerous other Hitchcock ventures, they're entertaining.

The other couple, Karen Black and William Devane, fare less well. They're more crafty in their crimes, perpetrating large-scale kidnappings for enormous ransoms. Karen Black's character is very underdeveloped, hardly showing any depth. What character she does have is not entirely believable, since Karen Black seems too nice to play a hardcore criminal. William Devane is decent as the sinister mastermind, but the history provided to his character is far more brutal than is believable (he locked his adopted parents in their bedroom and set fire to their house).

I liked the idea of the small time crooks clashing with the professionals, and I liked the outcome of the film. All in all, it is decent and worth watching. It does not feel anything like a Hitchcock film, so I wouldn't expect anything like Vertigo or Rear Window when approaching this, his swan song. 7/10

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