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
During the scene where Maloney and Adamson are in the back room of the jewelry store, Maloney takes all but two cigarettes from the cigarette bowl. However, minutes later, the bowl is full again. See more »
Don't start to fret, George, or our waterbed will be no fun at all tonight; as an actor, you should know that fretting will ruin a performance.
You don't have to worry about my performance tonight, honey - as a matter of fact, this very evening, you're gonna see a standing ovation!
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The Universal logo does not appear anywhere on this film. See more »
No, not great Hitchcock, but entertaining nonetheless
Family Plot differs from all the other Hitchcock films. It lacks suspense, for the most part, and it is not as funny as many of his films. Instead, it is just an amusing little yarn. I like the way the film starts with two separate plot lines which gradually merge. Even if it is not the most original thing in the world (especially since two of Family Plot's stars were main players in Robert Altman's Nashville), it still makes the film interesting. If anyone else had made this film, it probably would be more fondly received by the public, although I doubt anyone would still be watching it today.
The two characters with whom we begin the film, whom we would consider the heroes, are the best, and are played lovingly by Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern. She's a hack psychic milking old ladies out of pensions, and he's a cabbie who cannot find enough time both to drive his cab and participate in Harris' schemes. Although the characters aren't as well developed as those in numerous other Hitchcock ventures, they're entertaining.
The other couple, Karen Black and William Devane, fare less well. They're more crafty in their crimes, perpetrating large-scale kidnappings for enormous ransoms. Karen Black's character is very underdeveloped, hardly showing any depth. What character she does have is not entirely believable, since Karen Black seems too nice to play a hardcore criminal. William Devane is decent as the sinister mastermind, but the history provided to his character is far more brutal than is believable (he locked his adopted parents in their bedroom and set fire to their house).
I liked the idea of the small time crooks clashing with the professionals, and I liked the outcome of the film. All in all, it is decent and worth watching. It does not feel anything like a Hitchcock film, so I wouldn't expect anything like Vertigo or Rear Window when approaching this, his swan song. 7/10
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