[box cover]

Family Plot

We at The DVD Journal like to think we're willing to go against the grain, and thus we wish we could report that Alfred Hitchcock's last film, 1976's Family Plot, was a lost masterpiece that was misunderstood in its era. Perhaps we could, humbly, open it up to a new generation of filmgoers, as many of his post-Psycho films have been similarly rediscovered. But unfortunately, Family Plot isn't up to Hitch's best works — or even his almost-great projects. Barbara Harris plays Blanche, a bogus psychic who will be paid $10,000 if she can find a missing heir, given up for adoption, for one of her clients. Bruce Dern plays Blanche's loving boyfriend George, and he gets stuck with all the legwork, but unfortunately (for George, at least) the missing heir is a brilliant kidnapper/jewel thief (William Devane) who doesn't want anyone poking in to his life. As George and Blanche get closer to the truth the danger increases, though they remain oblivious to it. Family Plot is a light comic thriller, something Hitch perfected with North By Northwest and To Catch a Thief, but what makes those films so superior is the precision of plot and dialogue — this one's not wound tight enough. The best way to enjoy Family Plot is to think of it as a two-hour episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, because it plays like a TV movie — static head shots, bad blue-screens, an overwrought musical score (done by a young John Williams), and pedestrian cinematography (regrettable for a Hitchcock film). Were Family Plot a TV movie, with the lowered expectations that go along with such projects, it might rank with Duel and Salem's Lot as one of the more entertaining of the '70s. However, as an official piece of The Master's oeuvre, the occasional moments of Hitchcockian flair only point out how drab the rest of it is. The cast features a lot of '70s staples (including Karen Black and Ed Lauter), but the documentary included on the DVD, "Plotting Family Plot," mentions that Hitch's first choice for the Bruce Dern role was Al Pacino. The documentary itself is fluffy — there's not much to say about Hitch's last film, but it does offer interviews with Dern, Black, Williams, and Devane, and it mentions that Roy Thinnes played Devane's part until it was known that Devane was available — after about a week of shooting — and Thinnes was let go. Universal's DVD edition of Family Plot is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), but the print has noticeable wear, while audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Also included are storyboards for the car-chase sequence, on-set photos, two trailers, and the usual production notes and cast and crew bios. Keep-case.
—DSH


Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page