Friday, August 16, 2013

Family Plot: Hitchcock's last

Family Plot, released in 1976, was Alfred Hitchcock’s final film. During production, he informed one of his assistants that he would be retiring because he no longer had the physical energy necessary to lead a film crew.

Family Plot suffers from a lack of energy at the beginning. It starts out slowly, too slowly, I thought, but soon picks up speed and is enlivened by a terrific cast. You’ve got Bruce Dern, dependably loony as ever, as an unemployed actor working as a cab driver hooked up with kooky Barbara Harris, a spiritualist whose powers turn out to be greater than she thinks. She’s been hired to track down the sole heir to a fortune, but the heir supposedly died years ago in a fire at age 17. Funny thing, though: his grave is empty.

The villains are played by William Devane who looks and sounds enough like Jack Nicholson that it probably hurt his career as much as it helped it, and Karen Black. There’s a “chase” scene involving an out of control car that should put you on the edge of your seat, and a lot of subtle humor.

Family Plot isn’t great Hitchcock, but it’s a respectable swan song for the great director.

© 2013 Brian W. Fairbanks


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