Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
FAMILY PLOT (1976). Director: Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock's final film out of fifty-four may not be a masterpiece, but it is a very entertaining, under-rated movie with some clever twists and an interesting plot. Elderly and wealthy Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbit) wants the [phony] medium, Blanche (Barbara Harris) to locate the illegitimate child, now forty, whom her sister gave up at birth so she can make him her heir. Blanche enlists her cab-driving boyfriend, George (Bruce Dern) to help with the search, but is unaware that the heir, now known as Arthur Adamson (William Devane) and his girlfriend, Fran (Karen Black) are behind a series of big-ticket kidnappings -- we learn this early on -- and think Blanche and George are after them for their crimes. Ernest Lehman's excellent script brings both couples and all four main characters to vivid life, and all four actors deliver superlative performances. Nesbit and Ed Lauter as an associate of Arthur's are also splendid. The relationship and banter between Blanche and George is particularly amusing. As this is a light-hearted thriller, even the scene when the couple are nearly killed driving down a winding mountain road when the brakes fail is played as much for laughs as for scares. Handsome production, well-photographed by Leonard J. South. Fran and Arthur live in a very beautiful, exquisitely decorated townhouse. It's interesting to note that only Lehman's and Hitchcock's names are shown durng the opening credits; the actors' names aren't seen until the cast list scrawl at the very end!
Verdict: A swell way to end a long and distinguished career, although the actors may not have been amused. ***.