© 1976 Universal Pictures

Family Plot (1976)

It is easy to dismiss Hitchock’s last film as one of his “light” works because of its comedy, made-for-TV production values and the director’s failing health during the time of shooting. But Family Plot still bears some of the director’s old masterful touches and his impish sense of humor. The story concerns two parallel couples, a pair of sophisticated jewel robbers (Karen Black and William Devane) and a struggling taxi driver and pseudo psychic (Bruce Dern and Barbara Harris). The script by Ernest Lehman, who previously worked with Hitch on North by Northwest (1958), supposedly split the story evenly between the two couples, but reportedly Hitch got quite a kick out of working with Dern and Harris and tilted the plot to feature them more  during filming. It is their scenes together that make the film a joy to watch and give a new slant to the Hitchcockian couple. While Dern and Harris are no Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Hitchcock, freed from oppressive producers and official censorship, could play with compromising positions and innuendo to an extent that he had never been allowed. The sequence in which their sabotaged car races down a mountain road is the most famous in the film, but the dialogue in the kitchen which has Harris chomping on a hamburger while badgering Dern to make her another is a personal favorite of mine.

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