Family Plot (1976)

family plot poster 1976 movie hitchock final film
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Hitchcock still makes an average movie more interesting

Lacks Hitchcock's signature inventions, sad final movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Family Plot

Studio:  Universal Studios

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Comedy

Release Date(s):  April 9, 1976

MPAA Rating:  PG

family plot bruce dern barbara harris final hitchcock

This kind sums up the feeling toward this movie…boredom and fun

Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris) is a charlatan psychic on the verse of a great payout.  A wealthy widow is trying to find her long-lost illegitimate heir and believes that Blanche could be the key.  With her boyfriend George Lumley (Bruce Dern), Blanche sets out to find the lost son and take a piece of the payout for herself.  Unfortunately, the man is looking for has endeavors of his own.  Arthur Adamson (William Devane) is a kidnapper and diamond thief that is working his own jobs with his girlfriend Fran (Karen Black) and he doesn’t want to be found.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Family Plot is Hitchcock’s final film.  Following Frenzy in 1972, Family Plot adapts the 1972 novel The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning.  The movie was released to mixed to positive reviews.

Hitch’s final cameo…his classic silhouette

Family Plot was released just before I was born and it is sad to think that I’ve never been alive during Hitchcock’s filmmaking days.  Even sadder is that Family Plot is a rather poor way for an innovator like Hitchcock to end.

The plot isn’t bad but it has more untouched potential.  I wish that the film was darker.  It isn’t much of a comedy but it could have been a really good dark comedy if Hitchcock had pushed it further like he did with some of his previous films.  Things like the out of control car and the ending could have been even more tense and exciting if they had been developed better.

The cast is so-so.  I like the actors involved but it too isn’t their best work.  Hitchcock had hoped to cast Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino for William Devane and Bruce Dern, but Nicholson was shooting One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Pacino was too pricey.  Black, Devane, Dern, and Harris do a good job with the unbalanced plot, but it isn’t to the level of some of Hitchcock’s other players.  There a good number of character actors in the film as well including Ed Lauter, Who’s the Boss’s Katherine Helmond, and Cheers’ Nicholas Colasanto.

family plot final shot alfred hitchcock barbara harris wink

Goodbye, Hitch

Hitchcock has an ability to make even a so-so film more interesting, but in Family Plot, a lot of Hitchcock’s stylized filming is absent.  Hitchcock always tries to innovate and there is very little innovation here.  It is shot as a pretty standard film and despite some good moments like Barbara Harris confronting Black and Devane in their garage, the movie lacks a lot of tension.

Family Plot is probably only good because Hitchcock’s name is tied to it.  In 1976, movies were getting edgier and this feels like a throwback.  The comedy aspect of the movie almost feels like a dark version of a Disney comedy like No Deposit, No Return and the suspense isn’t quite enough.  Hitchcock prepared to make a film called The Short Night after Family Plot but died in 1980.  Hitchcock ends Family Plot with Barbara Harris winking at the camera…a fitting way for Hitchcock to go out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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