Saturday, June 14, 2014

Last Flix: Family Plot

You have to wonder if Hitch knew that this would be his last film.  Today's movie is Family Plot, the final film of Alfred Hitchcock.  He was apparently in ill health throughout production, so it must have crossed his mind.  The movie tells the parallel tales of two couples- one of innocent hucksters and one of bad criminals.  How do their two paths across?  It is a bit circuitous, but works as a mystery complex enough for a big audience.  The tone is a bit odd, as it is lighter than the man's earlier works.  Some people have labeled them as Hitchcock satirizing his earlier work a bit, but...I don't know.  The story is lighter, but still has a bit of intrigue.  He also apparently wanted Al Pacino to play the Lead, but he reportedly asked too much money (based on his clout from The Godfather).  It worked out well for you at least, Bruce Dern.  The film is also the one that brought us one last Film Convention from Mr. Hitchcock.  To find out which one (and to see how this works as a send-off), read on...
Our heroine is pretending to be Psychic as a way to make money.  She's 'not bad' since she still helps them (even if she is lying about being psychic).
This lady explains that she has a nephew that has never been claimed as an heir (as it was born out of wedlock).  She asks 'her friend' to find him before she dies.  The payday: $10,000.

Wow, inflation really took the flair out of movies more than 30 years old, huh?
In the other plot, this blond woman in black shows up to complete a ransom.  This introduces the Woman in Black character idea that would be used by people like Brian De Palma.

To be fair, his work is basically 'I'm like Hitchcock,' so that's no big surprise.
The woman- Karen Black- and the man- William 'I Sell Gold to Old People Now' Devane- are jewel thieves and kidnappers who are out for their own good.

If you don't figure out how these stories connect quickly, then I question your IQ.
The 'good' lady uses her boyfriend- Bruce Dern- to do the actual investigating for her, since...well, since his time is less important than her's.
As it turns out, there are a few people keeping the secret of the lost heir, since...well, he's a criminal now.  Yeah, the logic for why there is a conspiracy to keep his death faked is a bit tenuous at best.

Hey look- it's the Coach from Not Another Teen Movie (aka Ed Lauter).  Without him, Captain America and Johnny Storm wouldn't have learned how to play Football.
While all sorts of kind-of-intrigue goes on, they work in a random reference to Psycho.  Check out the Street Sign if you can't spot it.
Skipping ahead, the duo get 'too close to the truth' and are targeted by Lauter.  He sets up a disappointing P.O.V. Car 'Chase,' but ends up running himself off of the road.  Oops.

This doesn't throw them off of the case, but actually presses them in further.
The duo separately end up at the heir's place, but stumble across the kidnapping plot- which now includes a Priest from earlier- in the process.  They manage to trap the pair in their own 'stash room' and go to call the Cops.

As a bonus, they will just keep that diamond from earlier.  Remember kids, it's not illegal if YOU didn't steal it.  The End.
Alls well that ends well, I suppose.  No matter how this movie turned out, there was no denying that Alfred Hitchcock had an amazing Film Career.  He was one of an elite set of Directors to successfully work from Silent to Color Film.  He also managed to remake some of his own work from Era to Era without most people making a big deal about it.  If you doubt me, check out many of the cheap Hitchcock DVDs out there that include the Silent version of The Man Who Knew Too Much- they're quite cheap.  His work was also so great that even the Parody Films of his work are classics- e.c. High Anxiety.  Having now said all that, Family Plot is a weird way to go out all the same.  I guess it works on some level because it wasn't 'just another Hitchcock film.'  Regardless of quality, if he had made another film like Psycho (sadly, the book 'Psycho II' came out two years after his death), it might have felt 'the same.'  It is also worth noting again that he refused to hire the lead he wanted- Al Pacino- due to him asking for (Dr. Evil finger) $1,000,000 for the role.  It is a shame that the two couldn't have worked things out.  Mind you, Bruce Dern is quite good here, as are pretty much everyone.  I wasn't as in love with the female lead, but that is mostly because her character is just so damn goofy.  I think she played the part well- it just wasn't my kind of character.  As a simple mystery that is played well enough, Plot is worth a look.  If you want more history, this is the only film collaboration between Hitchcock and John Williams.  It is also the last time you'd get to see this...
Next up, I have to cover something for Father's Day.  The 1990s were a breeding ground for this kind of trash, so I'm sure that I can dig something up.

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