A French intelligence agent becomes embroiled in the Cold War politics first with uncovering the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and then back to France to break up an international Russian spy ring.
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
This is one of my favorite Hitchcock films, alongside things like Notorious, Psycho, North By Northwest, Frenzy, and Foreign Correspondent. Though Hitchcock applied the magic directorial touch to many of the sequences, I can't help but feel it is a small team of performers who make this a fun film to watch over and over again: William Devane, Barbara Harris, Karen Black, throw in Ed Lauter too--and most of all, of course, the marvellous Bruce Dern. I know that some of them were not first choices in the casting process, but what you end up with here are two teams of schemers who collide in splendid ways, all because one man's horrid past starts to intrude on his equally despicable present. You can hide, but you can't run.
I love the strong element of coincidence in the film, normally the mark of a tacky film. And how many of these serpentine machinations on display really do stem from coincidence? The first coincidence is a real one: Bruce Dern almost hits strolling stranger Karen Black with his car--and of course these two are destined to cross paths several times throughout the film. But Dern and Harris, as this wonderful contrast to the other sneaky pair of the film, Devane and Black, appear as ditherers, scatterbrains, goofs, even. We have the precise, cleanly- executed super-calm approach of Devane and Black versus what looks like a losing side in the bumbling obliviousness of the admittedly lovable Dern & Harris dysfunctional combo.
Or not dysfunctional, after all! Under all the histrionics, bickering and clowning around, Dern and Harris manage to function as plodding yet determined detectives--and they have an advantage over Devane's superior intellect: they are coming at him, slowly, from an angle he does not expect...his past. The few scenes with cops--wonderful scenes, playful scenes-- just indicate that if George (Bruce Dern) and Blanche (Barbara Harris) don't succeed in tracking a criminal (and his reluctant female accomplice) to his lair the hard way, no one will. The kidnapping-for-swag will go on and on because the villains are too perfect. Enter successful dysfunction, in just the most wonderful way shown in any movie.
I love all the intertwining, and I love Ed Lauter coming in from the sidelines and being that cool fifth-guy-in--and I love a last Hitchcock movie that has, of all things, self-absorbed faceless teenagers in a car, who--after accidentally forcing an oncoming car off a cliff, just sort of drive off to continue their partying. After all, who cares? Whimsy in death. And I do cherish the little wink at the end--as if it's Hitchcock himself taking the first brick out of the "Fourth Wall" and saying 'I'm just about done pretending". I love Frenzy, but I prefer a charming, breezy exit. With just a hint of menace. Vastly under-appreciated movie.
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