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Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Edition Vol. 15: Hitch's final film is a strange, surprisingly funny beast of a movie....
Universal / 121 Minutes / 1976 / Unrated / Street Date: October 30, 2012
[As preparation for our comprehensive review of Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, we're investing each of that massive Blu-ray sets films one by one chronologically. If you missed them, check out our reviews of Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho. The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, and Frenzy.]
Alfred Hitchcock's last film, Family Plot, is a bit more comedic than most of the director's work that I have seen. He's always had a keen sense of irony when creating his films, but Family Plot relishes it a bit more. Set in Northern California, and based upon the novel The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning, Family Plot is essentially two stories told in parallel fashion that eventually intersect.
Bruce Dern plays George Lumley, an out of work actor, attempting to find the latest get rich quick scheme. His sex-starved girlfriend, Blanche (Barbara Harris), is a hack clairvoyant. When Blanche meets with a well-to-do widow, Julia Rainbird (Catherine Nesbitt), who is determined to find her missing nephew, she seizes on to the opportunity to help her. Rainbird offers a reward of $10,000, and Blanche sends Lumley off on a wild goose chase to find Edward Shoebridge, who is believed to be the missing nephew.
The other parallel story centers on a high-rolling kidnapper named Adamson (William Devane), and his reluctant assistant and girlfriend Frances, portrayed by Karen Black. As the film opens, they are retrieving the ransom from the kidnapping of Victor Constatine, a shipping big wig. Adamson's front is that of a legitimate town jeweler. Lumley and Adamson's paths eventually cross when Lumley's search for Shoebridge leads him to Mr. Maloney, a gas station owner. The other twist regarding Maloney (Ed Lauter) is that he essentially takes care of Adamson's dirty laundry.
Family Plot was the last film that Hitchcock ever directed, and its overall tone is interesting. A feeling of sadness, even nostalgia, permeates the film. It seems to wink at the audience, literally at one point. It may have been fate that Hitchcock made this his final work. Who knows, perhaps if he'd been able to continue directing, he may have created an out-and-out comedy?