Family Plot (1976) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: The trickster Madam Blanche Tyler lures the elder millionaire Julia Rainbird that believes she is a spiritualist. After a séance, she discovers that Julia is tormented by her past, when she forced her sister and single mother Harriet to deliver her baby for adoption to avoid a family scandal. Runtime: 120 min Release Date: 09 Apr 1976
This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, alongside things like Notorious, Psycho, North By Northwest, Frenzy, and Foreign Correspondent. Though Hitchcock applied the magic directorial touch to many of the sequences, I can't help but feel it is a small team of performers who make this a fun film to watch over and over again: William Devane, Barbara Harris, Karen Black, throw in Ed Lauter too--and most of all, of course, the marvellous Bruce Dern. I know that some of them were not first choices in the casting process, but what you end up with here are two teams of schemers who collide in <more>
splendid ways, all because one man's horrid past starts to intrude on his equally despicable present. You can hide, but you can't run.I love the strong element of coincidence in the film, normally the mark of a tacky film. And how many of these serpentine machinations on display really do stem from coincidence? The first coincidence is a real one: Bruce Dern almost hits strolling stranger Karen Black with his car--and of course these two are destined to cross paths several times throughout the film. But Dern and Harris, as this wonderful contrast to the other sneaky pair of the film, Devane and Black, appear as ditherers, scatterbrains, goofs, even. We have the precise, cleanly- executed super-calm approach of Devane and Black versus what looks like a losing side in the bumbling obliviousness of the admittedly lovable Dern & Harris dysfunctional combo.Or not dysfunctional, after all! Under all the histrionics, bickering and clowning around, Dern and Harris manage to function as plodding yet determined detectives--and they have an advantage over Devane's superior intellect: they are coming at him, slowly, from an angle he does not expect...his past. The few scenes with cops--wonderful scenes, playful scenes-- just indicate that if George Bruce Dern and Blanche Barbara Harris don't succeed in tracking a criminal and his reluctant female accomplice to his lair the hard way, no one will. The kidnapping-for-swag will go on and on because the villains are too perfect. Enter successful dysfunction, in just the most wonderful way shown in any movie.I love all the intertwining, and I love Ed Lauter coming in from the sidelines and being that cool fifth-guy-in--and I love a last Hitchcock movie that has, of all things, self-absorbed faceless teenagers in a car, who--after accidentally forcing an oncoming car off a cliff, just sort of drive off to continue their partying. After all, who cares? Whimsy in death. And I do cherish the little wink at the end--as if it's Hitchcock himself taking the first brick out of the "Fourth Wall" and saying 'I'm just about done pretending". I love Frenzy, but I prefer a charming, breezy exit. With just a hint of menace. Vastly under-appreciated movie.
Let's bury the plotter in a cemetery plot (by Dr_Coulardeau)
This nice psychic thriller must have been done by a complete pervert, and everyone knows of course Alfred Hitchcock was THE perfect pervert. Such a plot only happens in the USA, not to speak of California of course. No proper records of births and deaths. One can navigate from one identity to the next in a jiffy. But then imagine two sisters. The younger one gets pregnant out of wedlock. The family is a big name on the local urban stage. So the child had to disappear. It is adopted into anonymity by the chauffeur of the family. But no luck the kid with his local friend, and accomplice, set <more>
the house on fire, killing the two adoptive parents, and the child, but no one finds the body, but who cares? So he is considered dead though never officially recorded as such. He gets a new life under another name and becomes, who knows how but we can imagine, a rich jeweler. But to be rich is not enough. He has to get richer but by dangerous and exciting ways. So he becomes a professional abductor of rich people that he gives them back against big diamonds. A big professional first and then the bishop of the local city, Los Angeles probably, at least that's all we can see. The main character though is a psychic who is dealing with the older sister of before who is going to die and she wants to clean up her plate, and her soul not to speak of her mind, before going into the ground. So she is managed into revealing her secret and the son of her sister has to be found. And the surprises are going to start there. Good luck and enjoy the rest of the film. Of course there will be a lot more innuendo, qui pro quo, salmagundi and baloney. And the prize will be so much more than the initial payment envisaged for finding a lost heir because of the two criminals and the latest two diamonds. Why did Alfred Hitchcock bother to produce such an entertaining little thriller at the end of his life? Because there is a tremendous amount of humor, like the rodeo or chase or crazy gig on the winding road in the mountains over Los Angeles, and they will manage to survive their dead brakes and the killing mechanic will end up in flames in the scenery. And the scenery is really beautiful. Humor in how a priest gets a rendezvous with his girl friend up in the mountains by taking four kids on a hike up there. And the poor taxi-driver cum private-eye cum chauffeur of the psychic cum savior of her cum catcher of the criminals is so funny in his multiple unpaid professions and his multiple perambulating over-exploitations by his own girl friend. And so many other funny little situations. But the film has another charm: it is the social irony and light sarcasm that Hitchcock aims at this hypocritical society of California and Los Angeles. Alfred Hitchcock was settling some accounts then with his adoptive country, without burning the house to kill the adoptive parents: they did not deserve that much. And of course he managed to get us lost and give us a complete vertigo with his favorite tricks of staircases going up and down, right and left, to and fro, front and back and even catty-corner and all around. It is of course a metaphor of the society he is depicting but it is also a representation of his inside and crooked mind. Stairs are an obsession in that man and he is trying to entangle us into them to enslave us to their steps, to his steps, and we just can follow, enjoying each step and all the mezzanines between the flights, and fly we do, quite a lot indeed, with the perverted wings of that psycho psychic.Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
A lovely little film! I'd never heard of it, although I was overly familiar with all the well-known Hitchcock titles. Let me let you in on a well-kept secret: this is a much more entertaining, amusing, exciting, intriguing and suspenseful piece of film-making than famously over-rated bores like Vertigo or The Birds, clunkers which are nothing like as great as they're cracked up to be.This story is beautifully plotted, wittily written, excellently acted, charming and keeps you guessing all the way. I suppose it's old-fashioned, but I never felt that to be a disadvantage. Everything <more>
gets wrapped up nicely, the villains get theirs, and the good guys get theirs. Can't think how I'd never even heard of it until today.
Underrated Hitchcock swansong possible spoilers (by christopherbanks)
`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 <more>
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.
Murder Mystery as Comedy: last Hitchcock Film (by alicecbr)
Get ready for the tricks and suspense you've seen in other films, but be sure to get the commentary on DVD. Barbara Harris looks just like Hitchcock's daughter, as you'll see from the interview, just a younger version. A extra lesson: You will never get a facelift once you see the interviews with Karen Black. If she had allowed herself to age naturally, she would have been so much more attractive than the gargoyle you'll wince at seeing.Here's a treat: the winding mountain road and no brakes scenario as never you've seen it. I loved the comic touches and the risqué <more>
language. It is indeed a unique film. If you happen to love the mountain of California and San Francisco, you'll also love the cinematography. The stills are mostly of Hitchcock in the graveyard, which makes you wonder if he wasn't a little clairvoyant himself. The whole movie centers around a phony psychic and her attempt to cheat an old woman out of her money.In our cynical world of today, you'll expect them just to dress Dern up as the missing heir, but nope, they play it straight. Having read of Hitchcock's misogyny, you'll appreciate the cuts and slices between the lovers. Both pairs of grifters have their own love thing going. Rather touching to see the fidelity among the crooks. Inspired writing, indeed.Hitchcock did have a pacemaker installed while this movie was being made, so you have to wonder if his own thoughts of his impending death might have caused as much concentration on the graveyard scenes. Buy the DVD; the added features will make the movies itself 3 times more interesting.
Hitchcock's Last Masterpiece, was his Last Film (by popcornforbreakfast)
Family Plot is Alfred Hitchcock's last film, and what a way to end an extremely successful career. While competing with Jaws and The Exorcist, you can say that suspense was changing, yet Hitch decided to stick with what made him famous - CLASSIC suspense, that is, innocent people in dangerous situations, misfires, MacGuffins, and iconic ICONIC villains. You wonder why some people don't care for it, or even never heard of it. Family Plot includes all that makes a great motion picture. An all-star cast that all did outstanding, an humorous, engrossing screenplay by Ernest Lehman, an <more>
unknown, yet great score by John Williams, and classic Classic CLASSIC Alfred Hitchcock.
I think if you approach this movie beforehand knowing it's not going to be a "Vertigo" or "Rear Window," you'll have some fun. Sure it's fluff, but it is entertaining nonetheless. Even kooky, vegetable-like Karen Black aka "The World's Worst Actress" seems to have benefited from working with Hitch and pulls off an adequate performance. Never cared for Bruce Dern and here he's his usual Willard looking self. Barbara Harris was a true delight, "Don't blaspheme, George." and found her character of Madam Blanche quite amusing. I even <more>
found the run away car scene entertaining, if not a bit over the top. All in all, I liked the story and liked the way it wrapped up in the end. Hitchcock's last gift to us all.
I really like this movie. It's a great little story that's fun to watch. This is Hitchcock's last movie and I think it's as good as any. I guess you could call this a mystery with a little humor injected into it. Does it have suspense? I don't know. But what else would you call it? I think it's a pretty good mystery and all the characters are quite believable. I think the choice of actors for each part was good. I give this movie an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. I'd rate it higher, but it's got some mild swearing and a bit of sexual innuendo. But all in all it's <more>
Yes, You Really MUST See this Twice - At Least!!!! (by bragant)
FAMILY PLOT has earned a permanent footnote in cinematic history simply because it turned out to be Alfred Hitchcock's last production. Unfortunately, it did not do very well on its initial release because many found it too comic and lighthearted in tone and not "suspenseful" enough. Even Stephen King described it as a "turkey" in his book DANSE MACABRE! I think the real problem with this underrated delight is that this is one of Hitch's most complex, densely-written stories - Ernest Lehman's script is awe-inspiring, almost novelistic, and chock-full of double <more>
meanings and implications which may not strike you on a single viewing. Like all the characters in the movie, FAMILY PLOT is not what it seems to be. On the surface, we have a light, comic thriller involving a psychic Blanche/Barbara Harris and her actor boyfriend, Lumley Bruce Dern who have been hired by a rich old woman to find her missing nephew, the heir to a huge fortune. The missing nephew turns out to be the thoroughly repellent Arthur Adamson William Devane, in a role originally intended for Jack Nicholson - who would have been PERFECT in the part but who wanted too much money! , a sociopath who, with the help of his girlfriend Fran Karen Black , kidnaps important people and holds them for ransom. But Adamson is not just a thief - he is also a killer. When he realizes Blanche and Lumley are trying to find out information about him, he assumes - incorrectly and ironically - that they are undercover agents looking to arrest and expose him as a kidnapper. Of course, Blanche and Lumley know nothing of Adamson's crimes, and thus put themselves in great danger without realizing it. In a way, I consider FAMILY PLOT to be Hitchcock's most perfect work of sheer suspense - after the first 10 minutes, the audience always knows more than any of the characters, and all we can do is wait for them to come together, which makes for some very anxious moments! FAMILY PLOT'S comic tone is belied by some dark moral undercurrents rife with unsettling implications. The dominant characters, Blanche and Adamson, are in fact very similar people, although in dramatic terms one is the heroine and the other the villain. Adamson is a liar, a thief, and a con artist. Blanche a fake psychic who bilks lonely old women out of their money is also a liar, a thief she essentially steals from her clients by faking her "powers" and a con artist motivated by greed. Both heroine and villain also dominate their lovers - Blanche uses her sexual hold over the rather naive but smart and loving Lumley to get him to adopt all sorts of identities to further THEIR plot, and Adamson does the exact same thing to Fran, forcing her to assume false appearances in the course of furthering HIS plots. Although one couple is labeled as "good" and the other as "bad", morally, they are not so far apart from one another. Indeed, everyone in the film manipulates and lies to others to achieve none-too-pleasant ends. Even old Julia Rainbird, whose guilt over ostracizing her dead sister and the girl's illegitimate child sets the story in motion, has used and deceived others for her own selfish goals. The vision of humanity in this film is essentially dark - people are monsters of greed and deceit, willing to use anyone and everyone for money, and even risking the lives of those they love in the process. This makes the film's undeniable humor even more disturbing - what are we really laughing at when we laugh at these sad and confused people? The performances by the four principals are top-notch, especially by Harris as the ditzy "psychic" who isn't the dumb blonde she appears to be, and by Devane as the evil killer who presents himself as a respectable businessman. The movie also contains two truly spectacular Hitchcockian "set-pieces" - the justly famous scene where Blanche and Lumley are trapped in a speeding car has me on the edge of my seat every time! and a brilliant sequence which begins with the "drop-off" of a kidnapping victim and ends with the long-awaited meeting of Blanche and Adamson. Hitchcock always gave us what we didn't expect, and FAMILY PLOT is no exception. This movie was way ahead of its time and deserves a better reputation than it has. My favorite bit of dialogue: "You're a Capricorn, aren't you?" "No, I'm a Leo." "That's what I thought."