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"FAMILY PLOT"

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Hitchcock's final film, "Family Plot", has never worked its' way into the body of his work, Indeed, if truth be told, this final film does seem to be most un-Hitchcockian. Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern and Karen Black and William Devane do not inhabit the same tilm.  In fact, the lighter side and the darker side of the film never do mesh.  At the very end, the very different plotlines do mesh, but they mesh in a horribly ironic way.  Would a man who is obsessed with stealing diamonds (kidnapping people for them) really care that he was actually the heir to a family fortune?  It is well-known that Hitchcock had to bring in a co-director. He was not able to complete this film on his own.  And, in the process, it does seem to have gotten away from him.  

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This is actually one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I think it should be re-evaluated and given its due. The script is fantastic. All four leads are perfectly idiosyncratic. 

 

With Hitchcock, murder is about movement. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get parallel lines. NORTH BY NORTHWEST, everything goes at a diagonal angle. In PSYCHO it is horizontal with vertical movements of violence. In VERTIGO, we get a dizzying array of directions. And in FAMILY PLOT, we get perpendicular crimes that literally intersect. This a very well-thought out picture, and even if Hitch did have some help, his vision has not been compromised and his stamp as an auteur is all over it. 

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This is actually one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I think it should be re-evaluated and given its due. The script is fantastic. All four leads are perfectly idiosyncratic. 

 

With Hitchcock, murder is about movement. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get parallel lines. NORTH BY NORTHWEST, everything goes at a diagonal angle. In PSYCHO it is horizontal with vertical movements of violence. In VERTIGO, we get a dizzying array of directions. And in FAMILY PLOT, we get perpendicular crimes that literally intersect. This a very well-thought out picture, and even if Hitch did have some help, his vision has not been compromised and his stamp as an auteur is all over it. 

Did you ever read the book, "The Rainbird Pattern"?  Hitchcock did like to make significant changes.  There is quite a difference between "Marnie", the book and "Marnie", the movie.

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Did you ever read the book, "The Rainbird Pattern"?  Hitchcock did like to make significant changes.  There is quite a difference between "Marnie", the book and "Marnie", the movie.

 

I haven't read it, but it doesn't surprise me. If he saw greater cinematic potential in adjusting something, he would do it.

 

Yesterday I read this comment about A ROYAL SCANDAL (1945). It talks about how Otto Preminger took over for Ernst Lubitsch but it's still considered Lubitsch's film. It made me think about Hitchcock getting help on FAMILY PLOT:

 

Lubitsch was the initial director, but fell ill and had to be replaced by Preminger However, Lubitsch directed the rehearsals, and he worked with Edwin Justus Mayer in the scripting process. A Royal Scandal is a remake of Lubitsch's silent film Forbidden Paradise. All of the scenes were developed under Lubitsch. So it is considered a "Lubitsch film."

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I've always liked the film..the lighter elements appeal to me, as they do in some of his early works, like The 39 Steps and ​The Lady Vanishes.  ​He said what appealed to him about the plot was two parallel stories coming together.  William Devane was not the first one cast to play his role.. it was Roy Thinnes.  Hitch fired him after 2 days of shooting..the first time he ever did that to an actor.  At age 75, with a new pacemaker, he evidently did not have the patience to work with what he perceived as a 'difficult' actor... the US prints have a 'suspense segment' cut out, but it remained in the Eur prints..have no idea what it is.

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I've always liked the film..the lighter elements appeal to me, as they do in some of his early works, like The 39 Steps and ​The Lady Vanishes.  ​He said what appealed to him about the plot was two parallel stories coming together.  William Devane was not the first one cast to play his role.. it was Roy Thinnes.  Hitch fired him after 2 days of shooting..the first time he ever did that to an actor.  At age 75, with a new pacemaker, he evidently did not have the patience to work with what he perceived as a 'difficult' actor... the US prints have a 'suspense segment' cut out, but it remained in the Eur prints..have no idea what it is.

 

I can't imagine Thinnes in this, since I think Devane does rather well. I'm a huge Karen Black fan so she's my fave. But they're all excellent. From what I've read, Hitch got along best with Barbara Harris-- he appreciated her irreverent sense of humor which was similar to his own. If he hadn't retired, he probably would have cast her again in another film.

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Would anyone agree that the movie has never found its' way into "the Hitchcock canon"?

 

I think this is because he directed so many, including episodes of his TV series that are worth re-examining. And let's be honest, a few of his well-known films are slightly overrated. In the case of FAMILY PLOT, we have a film that is underrated. I also think FRENZY, which I like very much, and TOPAZ (a great cold war thriller) are both underrated. In fact, people tend to wear rose-colored glasses about the earlier stuff and dismiss his later films. Which seems a bit unfair if you ask me.

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I think this is because he directed so many, including episodes of his TV series that are worth re-examining. And let's be honest, a few of his well-known films are slightly overrated. In the case of FAMILY PLOT, we have a film that is underrated. I also think FRENZY, which I like very much, and TOPAZ (a great cold war thriller) are both underrated. In fact, people tend to wear rose-colored glasses about the earlier stuff and dismiss his later films. Which seems a bit unfair if you ask me.

Yes, "Frenzy", which is largely a portrait of an ugly, deranged man, is a stunning piece of work.

 

If he hadn't made "Psycho", he could not have made "Frenzy". 

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I quite like 'Family Plot' myself. Strong acting carries one over the inconsistencies of plot. Low-key and down-beat and not so heavy-handed as some of his others.

"Frenzy" remains my favorite Hitch flick. I've got scattered admiration for a couple handfuls of his other titles but not every single hit, is a hit with me.

I run contrary to consensus as well, when I say I enjoy a work like 'Torn Curtain'.

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