In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mv5bmje1mzi2mzcxov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnte2mjk4nte_._v1__sx1216_sy640_

Cartel Land

The film provides a fascinating, on-the-ground account of people struggling with situations that range from challenging to horrific.

Thumb_large_nxcfdsanskih09xq74fjnyhw4g0

Stray Dog

"Stray Dog" largely succeeds because Granik's technique complements her subject. Both he and the film are modest in their goals and cherish the value of…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives
Primary_fphitch-thumb-510x277-39805

Hitchcock's Family Plot Photo Album

I've been enjoying reading Dave Kehr's book, When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade, a selection of pieces he wrote between 1974 and 1986. One of them, his choice for best film of 1976, is a review of Alfred Hitchcock's 53rd and final feature, "Family Plot," which I hadn't seen since the 1970s. Boy, did I enjoy the re-visit. The structure (screenplay by Ernest Lehman ["North by Northwest"], based on a 1972 novel, The Rainbird Pattern, by Victor Canning) concerns two couples: a "spiritualist" and her taxi-driver boyfriend (Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern), amateur sleuths trying to track down the lost heir of a rich client; and a pair of slick jewel thieves (Karen Black and William Devane, who sounds -- and sometimes looks -- so much like Jack Nicholson it's scary!). Their plots intersect at a point involving a case of... not mistaken identity, but concealed identity.

Kehr wrote: "There are things in 'Family Plot' that we haven't seen in an American film in a long time; things like care, precision, and detail. 'Family Plot' is probably the most beautifully crafted, thematically dense film that we're going to see this year."

Also, there are some fun Hitchcockian puns/jokes (DK has a lovely account of the spilled white "blood" that becomes a clue). Here are a few of them, just for the enjoyment of it:

fpbates.jpg

Off the main highway, definitely...

fpmotel.jpg

fpmatch.jpg

Gas station attendant to Bruce Dern: "You better watch it with the matches." Yeah. Hasn't he seen "The Birds"?

fpbirds.jpg

fppeep.jpg

Karen Black, meet Tony Perkins...

fppsychpeep.jpg

fpbdmarnie.jpg

Above: Bruce Dern as a memorable overnight visitor in "Marnie" (1964). Below: Bruce Dern as one of the leads -- an actor/taxi driver/amateur detective -- in "Family Plot," 12 years later.

fpdern.jpg

And here's one that looks forward instead of back: Hitchcock blondes, from Hitch himself in 1976, to Brian DePalma ("Dressed to Kill") in 1981...

fpladyblack.jpg

fpdtk.jpg

fpnash.jpg

Above: Barbara Harris was also handed the ending of one of the great American movies, Robert Altman's "Nashville," just the year before (though DK* is not fond of that one!). Below: The last shot from the last Hitchcock feature film. The lighting actually shimmers as Harris sits down on the staircase, and it's magic.

fpwink.jpg

- - - -

* DK wrote:

"Family Plot" is a movie filled with more incidental brilliancies than there's room to mention -- the kidnapping of a bishop before a church filled with penitents, a slow chase through the Mondrian pattern formed by the paths of a graveyard, etc., etc. At once, it's a film of remarkable richness and remarkable economy. Not a single detail -- a garden hose hung on a basement wall, for example -- is placed without significance. I doubt that a dozen viewings would reduce its fascination one bit. "Family Plot" is made in a style that many will find anomalous or old fashioned. But if the exercise of care and craftsmanship is out of style -- which it seems to be, judging from the reception that a mess like "Nashville" can get -- then that's our loss, not Hitchcock's.

Of course, I'd argue that Altman exhibits another kind of care and craftsmanship -- one that is very different indeed from Hitchcock's, and with different aims and different effects. It don't worry me...

fpwhite.jpg

Popular Blog Posts

Why Can't Sad Be Fat?

A rebuttal to Joni Edelman's piece on "Inside Out."

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part 19: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"

The July 2015 edition of The Unloved looks at Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert...

Magic Lantern Show: The Sensual Pleasures of "The Third Man"

On the look and sound of "The Third Man."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus