A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
The trickster Madam Blanche Tyler lures the elder millionaire Julia Rainbird that believes she is a spiritualist. After a séance, she discovers that Julia is tormented by her past, when she forced her sister and single mother Harriet to deliver her baby for adoption to avoid a family scandal. Julia promises the small fortune of ten thousand-dollar to Blanche if she finds her nephew and heir of her fortune using her phony powers. Blanche asks her boyfriend George Lumley, who is an unemployed actor working as cab driver, to investigate the whereabouts of Julia's nephew. Meanwhile, the greedy jeweler and collector Arthur Adamson kidnaps wealthy people with his girlfriend Fran to increase his collection of diamonds with the ransom. When George concludes that Arthur Adamson might be the heir of Julia Rainbird, the reckless Blanche gets in trouble with the kidnappers. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As a publicity stunt to promote this movie, Alfred Hitchcock held a press conference junket in a mocked-up fake cemetery. Journalists had their names embossed on mock gravestones and the whole event was a reference to this movie's Family Plot (1976) cemeterial title. See more »
As Blanche is trying to locate Arthur Adamson, she knocks on a door that says "A.M Adamson" and when a woman answers it, Blanche asks the woman if her name is Arthur Adamson. See more »
This film gets a bad rap because it was not a suspenseful blockbuster in the vein of "Psycho" and "The Birds". The fact is, is that after Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedrin did battle with seagulls in 1963, Hitchcock never again approached the heights of a major director and he dramatically slowed down his film output.
Still, this movie, along with 1964's "Marnie" and '72's "Frenzy" represent a decent effort by Hitchcock to stay current and hip with modern audiences. That he was still directing films at all in the 1960s and 1970s is quite remarkable for a man whose film work began in the silent era.
"Family Plot" is a fun, neat little comedy-thriller much akin to the NBC Mystery Movies of that era... i.e., "Columbo", "McMillen and Wife". Blanche is a phony psychic who, along with her reluctant boyfriend Frank, played hilariously by the underrated Bruce Dern, run afoul of big time crooks Karen Black and William Devane.
The plot does get a bit convoluted, but Hitchcock was smart enough to lay off the heavy-handed dictatorial directorship that categorized his earlier work and let the actors and their characters move the plot along. Unlike Cary Grant's Thornhill in "North By Northwest", we care about Blanche and Frank because they really are like us, the viewer. As much as we all adored the women in Hitch's films... Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak, and wanted to be like the men,Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewert, Ray Milland, Rod Taylor, Farley Granger, etc., none of these characters were remotely like US, and in his dotage, Hitchcock was still keen enough to realize that Cary Grant in 1956 was an admirable figure walking down the street... in 1976 he was apt to be pointed at and laughed about. Hitch knew INSTINCTIVELY that the gray suit and slicked back hair era was gone forever. In this film, it doesn't even look like Dern showers.
That's part of the charm and why it was so refreshing, at this late date, to go into the movie theater and enjoy an Alfred Hitchcock film without having to sigh that it was all about nostalgia. This film, in his humorous approach has much in common with "The Trouble With Harry" than "Psycho" or "Shadow of a Doubt".
Hitch didn't go out with a classic, that's for sure, but he went out with a modern film that showed he could still produce an entertaining flick. That was all he was ever about anyway. No higher praise is needed.
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