Family Plot

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Blanche (Barbara Harris) makes her living as a psychic, but in a strange twist, she has no real gifts in the paranormal realm. Yes, she is a fraud and with her boyfriend George (Bruce Dern), she takes money from desperate people who need a look into the other side. Her newest client is an old widow, Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbitt) and her mission is to contact the woman’s sister, as the woman thinks her sister is visiting her via dreams. So after a session of “channeling,” the woman hires Blanche to track down her nephew and as a result, the woman’s sister will be put to rest forever. So Blanche sends George out on a wild goose chase to find this person, but it seems as though there is a more complex mystery here than first expected. At the same time, a pair of skilled kidnappers are on the prowl and come into contact with Blanche and George, which results in a series of unbelievable events.

This picture sports the usual elements we expect from Hitchcock, but not in the usual sense we’ve expected them before. This is played out in serious fashion, but in truth, this is a light hearted parody of sorts, in which Hitchcock revisits some of his older films. So if you’re not into seeing some references to scenes in other Hitchcock works and a tongue in cheek approach, then this isn’t a movie you should seek out. I happen to think it makes an interesting addition to his resume, as it stands out so much from the others, which is good I think. So this one does have a solid entertainment factor, even if it lacks substance and doesn’t stack up well against Hitchcock’s other efforts. But sometimes you just have to have fun and this is a perfect chance to do, especially if you’ve seen a lot of other pictures by Hitchcock, so you can pick up all the references. This isn’t one his better efforts, but it does offer a fresh take on Hitchcock’s career, which makes this one worth a look. This disc has some nice extras, but the video is not too good, so I think this one is best suited as a rental.

This was his final motion picture, but Hitchcock didn’t go out with the bang he should have. I suppose Family Plot is a more than solid movie, but when compared to the rest of his resume, it just doesn’t measure up. I still like this movie and it has some of the usual Hitchcock touches, but you can tell it was a troubled production. He was forced to suspend the shoot after heart problems, but Hitchcock returned to the set and finished the film in the end. I do wish he could delivered one final masterpiece with this film, but Family Plot is a solid effort and a welcome addition to his resume. If you want to see more Hitchcock’s films, then check out Topaz, Blackmail, The Lady Vanishes, Marnie, The Paradine Case, and Dial M For Murder. The cast here includes Barbara Harris (Nashville, A Thousand Clowns), Karen Black (Capricorn One, Easy Rider), William Devane (Hollow Man, Space Cowboys), Ed Lauter (The Longest Yard, Thirteen Days), Bruce Dern (Diggstown, The King of Marvin Gardens), and Cathleen Nesbitt (Separate Tables, Pygmalion).

Video: How does it look?

Family Plot is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This transfer does the best it can with the materials, but in the end, it simply can’t make the source materials look very good. The flaws start with a heavy layer of grain in most scenes, which puts a real damper on the other elements here. The colors seem very faded most of the time and in more than a few scenes, the hues shift and pulse, which is a real distraction indeed. The contrast seems strong throughout, but the seems to be the only good thing this image has going for it. I would love to see some restoration work done here, as the film deserves a better treatment than this, to be sure.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included mono track seems solid, but I do wish the musical score could be fuller, as it is terrific. The score is done by John Williams and as usual, it is excellent and I think a new remix would have been great for the score. But the other elements wouldn’t benefit much from the new mix, so I suppose this one is adequate in the end. The sound effects are decent enough, but never demand much beyond the limits of mono, so don’t expect much depth here. No problems with dialogue, which seems clean and clear at all times. This disc also includes a French mono track, as well as Spanish and English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The focus of the supplements is Plotting Family Plot, a fifty minute documentary on how the film was produced. This is a rich and in depth look behind the scenes, which takes a special look at the trials during the production, such as Hitchcock’s waning health. Interviews with cast & crew members abound and they reveal a lot of information, much more than is present in most of the other featurettes in this collection. I was very impressed by the piece and in truth, this alone makes this disc a must see for Hitchcock fans. You can also view a selection of production photos & promotional materials, storyboards for one sequence, production notes, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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