Family Plot

A professional psychic and her cab driver boyfriend promise to track down an elderly woman’s last remaining heir in exchange for a hefty paycheck, but they get more than they bargained for as they become involved with another couple who kidnap wealthy people and hold them to ransom.

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Family Plot is the follow-up to the much darker and more violent Frenzy, and Hitchcock’s final film. It’s an intricately plotted thriller, but with comedic elements throughout it’s a lighter affair than much of Hitchcock’s previous output.

Barbara Harris gives the standout performance as Blanche Tyler, a phony psychic, who hustles for $25 a pop. Think of Uri Gellar but the nemesis of old ladies rather than cutlery. Harris’s attention to detail is excellent in her pitch-perfect performance, as is Bruce Dern as her boyfriend George.

The intricate plot is kept easy to follow, even if there are two major coincidences in the film which detract from the plausibility somewhat.  The conclusion is also somewhat unsatisfactory, leaving an element of the plot unresolved in a classic Hitchcock maguffin.

It’s well scored by the young John Williams, who apparently jumped at the chance to work with Hitchcock in spite of not being a particular fan of the film. Hitchcock told Williams to remember one thing: murder can be fun.

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