Family Plot (1976)
Puns are the highest form of literature.
Watching Family Plot (1976) again, it felt more than ever like I was watching an old-fashioned Hollywood movie made at least a decade earlier. This is primarily due to the use of Poor Man’s Process for filming the car scenes, of which there are several. However, the pace and scope of the film evokes a simpler time and, in 1976, seems like a throwback.
This is, of course, Alfred Hitchcock’s final film and I wouldn’t begin to compare it to his others. Naturally, it’s “not as good,” but I wouldn’t expect it to be. I’d simply hope it wasn’t a bad movie, and it’s not. It includes signature Hitchcock components like a cameo by the director and a notable scene of extreme suspense.
The latter occurs when George Lumley (Bruce Dern) and Blanche Tyler’s (Barbara Harris) car has been sabotaged and they speed down a winding road in the hills. They avoid other cards and motorcyclists before they run off the road, slow down on the incline of a hill, then daintily fall over on their side. After being on edge for the length of the scene, I released the tension with a laugh.
The biggest fault for me is at least two sequences that build to what you expect would be a bang, yet instead finish with a whimper. On one hand, the lack of fanfare is anticlimactic. On the other, the denial of expectation is surprising. Otherwise, Family Plot is an enjoyable ride with interesting characters ad funny moments.
Instead of Hitchcock, let’s talk about the screenwriter, Ernest Lehman. He’s as famous as Hitchcock for his corner of the movie business, having written The King & I, North by Northwest, West Side Story, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’d scrutinize Family Plot more from the circumstances of the story and character interactions than I would from the direction.
Compared to other movies that revolve around disconnected characters meeting in coincidental plot twists, it’s not one of the best, but it’s better than some. I recommend it for just a solid moviegoing experience that’s reminiscent of two legendary talents, plus rising stars of the time like Karen Black, William Devane, and Ed Lauter. It’s good, simple fun.
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The name I'm giving him (first letter of first name must be first letter of last name, Hitchcock) is:
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