Family Plot (1976)
I think Duncanson would agree, this is not the best example of 'artistic and dynamic marquis'
Genre: Comedy Thriller
Starring: Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces; House of 1000 Corpses) Bruce Dern (Monster; The Great Gastby)
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window; Strangers On A Train)
Acting: Individually, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris (Freaky Friday), and William Devane (Marathon Man) are accomplished enough actors, so what's wrong with this picture? I could only say that Hitchcock himself is to blame for... not 'poor performances', but for uninspired characterization that made this more of a 'people working on a movie set', instead of the immersive storytelling this was meant to be. Ouch...
Cinematography: I've grown to love Hitchcock is my own way. Really, I have. I don't mean to leave off his career on a sour note, but by the same right, how can a man who's directed such haunting scenes in the past make another film rife with danger, yet not make those several moments chilling? Am I right in remembering that he was ill at this time? What could have been a terrifying nosedive down a mountain was turned into a comic-strip account of rubbery cartoons bumbling down the road. All that was missing were bleeping and boinging sound effects. Why Hitch? And why not make all the other potentially terrifying scenes funny too, at least to keep it consistent? Professionally shot yes, but was Hitch in a hurry?
Script: I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino, writer of films in which swear words are meat and potatoes. That having been said, I found it so strange and unusual that Alfred Hitchcock would allow any expletives in his films. Maybe it's a sign of the times. Call me old fashioned but I don't think swearing in Hitchcock, makes for good Hitchcock. Blah, this movie just smells like an old boat. Even the potentially most interesting moments, those 'psychic chanellings', were there to explain plot rather than being an exercise in unique flourish.
Plot: Family Plot, as in areas reserved for familial graves, and also as in 'machinations of related people', how witty. If the story was half as witty as that title, this movie would have been twice as good. This predictable film not only doesn't leave any questions unanswered, but they're so nicely bundled in a package with each answer sporting a nice little bow. To think that the Master Of Suspense had any part in this story completely lacking emotion and truth makes me wonder how much he sold out for his shiny new contract. It's like he sat there and corrected little things along the way, knowing the film was a lost cause. Must be nice having such a professional technician on a set.
Mood: It's good to know that Alfred Hitchcock has not forgotten his roots. By that I mean when something is coined as being 'Comedy', Hitchcock does as he did so many years ago with such films as Champagne and Rich And Strange, namely throwing in one passably quirky scene, and maybe two laughs, and slapping 'Comedy' on the Marquis. It's good to know how this felt like those old stinkers from way back, when he had no creative control. This is so without the Hitchcock feel, that I felt gypped.
Ugh, rather than inspiring comedy, this still just makes me mourn the last work of a great director.
Aftertaste: No, I didn't find it that bad, and maybe I'm grading too hard because it's Hitchcock, but much as it was with Jamaica Inn, I found that this movie didn't look like it was directed by anyone with a vision, anyone special, or anyone who cared about leaving a deep mark.
If it's one thing I've learned about Hitchcock, it's that his best movies have his signature on them. Family Plot is just a film with is name signed at the bottom.
As for final thought about my study of Hitchcock, the biggest thing I've learned from his career overall, it's that you have a limited amount of time to make a limited amount of film. Choose wisely, leave a mark that defines you. Make something that people will call yours rather than being 'master of none'... er, even if he was the Master Of Suspense...