Family Plot (1976)
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Alfred Hitchcock's final film was adapted from Victor Canning's novel The Rainbird Pattern by Ernest Lehman, who previously wrote the screenplay for Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Barbara Harris plays Blanche, a phony psychic, hired by wealthy Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbitt) to trace the whereabouts of her nephew, who'd been given up for adoption years earlier and who is now heir to a fortune. Blanche's cohort is "investigator" Lumley (Bruce Dern), who is fully prepared to milk the last dollar out of Julia before locating the long-lost nephew. Meanwhile, we are introduced to elegant kidnappers Adamson and Fran (William Devane and Karen Black). The fates of the two couples are inextricably intertwined by the search for the missing heir. … More
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Critic Reviews for Family Plot
A rolling boil of sex and violence beneath the bland surfaces of suburban placidity.
Hitchcock has a deviously complicated tale to tell, and he's going to tell it with labyrinthine detail, and he's not going to cheat.
Hitchcock's last (53rd) film is a post-modern, self-reflexive work, which deserves a more serious look and better grade than granted by many critics.
... full of allusions to past Hitchcock. A car is parked on Bates Avenue; a gas station man tells a cab driver it is dangerous to light a match; the kidnapers tell each other how danger makes them tingle; and the female kidnaper used a blonde wig.
It's not exactly top-tier Hitchcock, but it features enough good stuff to make it at least worth one viewing.
It's a movie that's haunted by death, with lengthy sequences played out in cemeteries.
An Alfred Hitchcock thriller with many interesting things happening in the movie's small places
Hitch's swan song and a pretty good one.
Once you tap into the film's gentle satire of its characters and genre, its strengths become apparent.
Audience Reviews for Family Plot
Hitchcock's final film is an outstanding finish to a brilliant career. Hitch was obviously still sharp as a tack directing this one.More
This was Hitchcock's final film, and, as far as this sort of thing goes, I suppose it could have been worse.
The plot is a convoluted and sometimes confusing lighthearted mystery romp involving 'psychics', kidnapping, ransom, and, of course, the dead (or presumed to be). It's not as funny as maybe it should be, and, while I am okay with humor, I think this might have been far more effective and interesting if it was played darker and more serious. Don't get me wrong, it's interesting stuff, but I think it could have been even more so if done differently.
I liked Karen Black and Bruce Dern, and, while the not as notable cast (at that time) are fine, I think this would have been better if it had some major star power behind it.
The music by John Williams is pretty good, and the film has a nice look to it, but I can just tell that Hitch was probably not trying all that hard here. I know it's cliche to rant about the dip in quality of his later work, but all things considered, this could have been far, far worse.
This might be lesser Hitch, but it's still kinda decent, so sure, give it a watch.
An appropriate swan song for Alfred Hitchcock's career, Family Plot is light and thoroughly entertaining. It's a clever mystery involving multiple identities and ensuing confusion with the master's comedic touches as well. Family Plot may not seem typical Hitchcock to some, but it reminds me of The Trouble with Harry as a few others. Those only familiar with Psycho and Vertigo would be surprised at his amazingly varied career. Remember how funny Hitch was on his TV show.
Family Plot is cast well. I love the chemistry, especially the verbal jabbing, between Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern. William Devane is perfect as the debonair jeweler and kidnapper hiding a dangerous past. Ed Lauter's great too; he usually plays a jerk (think Longest Yard), but here he's even creepier.
This film is a greatly nuanced comedy about death. It's a nice contrast with AH's previous film, the R-rated shocker Frenzy. Considered together, I think they typify his career. This isn't deep philosophy, its entertainment. As the master stated, "drama is life with the dull bits left out."
Arthur Adamson: Isn't it touching how a perfect murder has kept our friendship alive all these years.
"There's no body in the family plot."
Family Plot is a pretty good going out party for the Master, Alfred Hitchcock. It's lesser Hitchcock for sure, but lesser Hitchcock is still pretty damn good. This film brings together a lot of Hitchcock's signature techniques and wraps them up nicely in two hours. Now, years after being made, Family Plot is a pretty good introduction to Hitchcock. It wouldn't be a bad movie to watch first, before diving into his several masterpieces like Psycho and Vertigo.
The movie follows a couple, one a phony psychic and the other, a taxi driver who is a pretty good little investigator. Blanche(the psychic) is asked to locate a family heir who has been missing for several years. Her and Lumley(the taxi driver) don't have to much to go by, but they soon start following up leads which lead them to another couple. These two are jewel thieves and one has a huge secret. The film brings the two couples together in a smart and intricate way. Hitchcock, like usual, doesn't try to keep major details from us. He let's us in on all the secrets and let's the suspense build from the characters mission to find out what we already know.
There's a reason he is known as the "Master of Suspense." He knows how to build it. He knew that suspense isn't built by surprises, but by knowing what's going on, but not what's going to happen. Sure, this isn't the greatest example of that in his work, but it is still a good one. He's not into huge plot twists at the end. Think how Psycho would have turned out in another director's hands. We sure wouldn't have been let in on the Norman Bates/Mother thing that early.
There's one thing I have a problem with and it is a dumb ending. I didn't care for it, but it didn't ruin the movie either. Overall, Family Plot is just another solid thriller from Hitchcock. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
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