Monday, October 17, 2016

One Last Spin on The Murder Roulette Wheel, or Thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot

Alfred Hitchock’s final film Family Plot (1976) is at its heart a dark comedy, and the best example of the director’s later period.  A breezy California Gothic filmed in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, Family Plot followed the intersection of two criminal couples, the small time Madame Blanche and George running scams on unsuspecting widows and the professional kidnappers and actual bad guys Fran and Arthur.
Madame Blanche and George are played by Barbara Harris from the original Freaky Friday (1976) and Bruce Dern (Laura’s dad, most recently appearing in The Hateful Eight (2015), and with an IMDb page of over 150 credits that goes back to 1960), while Karen Black and William Devane, who you may remember as the President in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) portray Fran and Arthur. 
Written by Ernest Lehman of North by Northwest (1959) but with none of the sly sophistication, the movie is not as mean-spirited as Frenzy (1972) and more along the lines of The Trouble With Harry (1955,) but with the added freedom of swearing and more explicitly adult themes.  The director didn’t entirely benefit from the post-Vietnam, post Watergate demand for more realistic and cynical movies, and struggled to find a new audience and stay relevant.
Hitchcock was always willing to push boundaries as far as the censors were concerned, Psycho (1960) was the first American movie to show a toilet, but the existing Hollywood mores he fought against inspired him as a director to utilize subtlety and nuance to create his signature Hitchcock style.  Once the floodgates of the 70’s were open and he had access to nudity, more graphic violence and stronger language his movies suffered.  All the elegant tools he had developed over his 50-year career were replaced by louder, shinier distractions and an audience who didn’t have the patience or the sophistication for his meticulous plots and twisted romances.
Watch out for Hitchcock’s final cameo, at the Registrar of Births and Deaths.  He holds up two fingers, and it’s up to the audience to decide what he was looking for.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).