Family Plot (1976)

Family Plot (1976)
 
 
 

Hitchcock's Flawed Finale

When a guy like me gets kidnapped by a woman, he wants her to be twenty-five - Constantine

Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris in Family Plot

There are those who seem to coo over ever single Hitchcock movie, seeing everyone as some form of masterpiece, I'm not one of them. There is a period in Hitchcock's career which I love those which featured the likes of James Stewart and Cary Grant, and yes I am talking about the well know ones such as "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief". But his later movies left me under whelmed, basically from "Marnie" onwards and whilst none of them are bad movies they seemed to lose something, a sense of class which elevated his earlier movies. As such "Family Plot", Hitchcock's final movie, is one of those which just didn't do it for me and left me for the most disappointed.

Fake spiritualist Madam Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris - Grosse Pointe Blank) discovers that elderly millionaire Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbitt) has an illegitimate relative which she is desperate to find and is willing to pay a handsome reward to who ever finds them. Along with her boyfriend George (Bruce Dern - The Cowboys), Blanche is desperate to discover the whereabouts of this heir in order to get the ransom. Meanwhile jeweller Arthur Adamson (William Devane) and his girlfriend Fran (Karen Black) have been kidnapping wealthy people in order to hold them to ransom. When Blanch and George discover that Arthur maybe the illegitimate heir their paths cross but in a dangerous way as Arthur thinks that his criminal dealings have been uncovered.

Karen Black and William Devane in Family Plot

The actual storyline to "Family Plot" is actually quite good fun with on one hand you have this fake psychic and her boyfriend trying to track down the illegitimate heir to a fortune and then on the other you have this criminal who kidnaps wealthy people in order to be rewarded in jewels. It has that fun factor, that touch of comedy and stupidity to make it all amusing as these two stories cross over. But other than being amusing it didn't really grab my attention, didn't wow me with anything out of the ordinary which to be honest is what you expect from a Hitchcock movie.

Now of course Hitchcock by this time was suffering from ill health and that may explain why "Family Plot" lacks those flourishes which made a Hitchcock movie a class above. But there are some touches of the Hitchcock about it especially in the dark subtle humour which just brings a smile to your face, especially with Bruce Dern delivering an enjoyably amusing performance. Maybe it is a little too subtle in places because at times it doesn't feel dramatic or darkly funny and as such ends up residing somewhere in between almost in no mans land.

Thankfully after a lot of meandering around "Family Plot" does deliver a decent ending which has a touch of the farce about it as the two separate storylines converge and collide. It's still not the best ending I have seen but after what seems like an age of not really going anywhere it does deliver some action and humour.

Now my biggest issue is really down to the casting because with the exception of Bruce Dern the rest of the cast is sadly forgettable. Barbara Harris as Blanche Tyler, William Devane as kidnapper Arthur Adamson and Karen Black as his girlfriend Fran almost seem like generic 70s characters, basically not very memorable. It is thankfully Bruce Dern as George Lumley who ends up grabbing your attention because the character borders on being comically crazy and amusingly watching "Family Plot" now he looks a little like Will Ferrell. But whilst Dern is memorable it's not a great performance because to be honest the movie isn't that great.

What this all boils down to is that "Family Plot" is sadly very disappointing and lacks that touch of class which made Hitchcock movies that little bit special. Yes it's a little amusing in a dark way and has a decent ending but the rest of it is for the most forgettable.

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