Film / Family Plot

A 1976 Black Comedy thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was his last film. The main cast included Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, and William Devane.

The film starts with a Spooky Sťance contacted by Blanche Tyler (Harris). Her latest client is elderly Julia Rainbird (Cathleen Nesbitt), who wants to locate her last living relative: the illegitimate son of her sister, given up for adoption decades ago. Now that boy is supposed to inherit the family fortune, and Julia offers Blanche $10,000 to find her heir. Blanche is actually a Phony Psychic. The facts she reports to her clients are the results of some detective work by her boyfriend, George Lumley (Dern), an unemployed actor and part-time cab driver. The two bumbling detectives now have proper motivation to find that heir.

The scene shift to the heir Arthur Adamson (Devane) and his girlfriend Fran (Black). They are both Wicked Cultured. Arthur murdered his foster parents many years before and now works as a jeweler and upper-class house. He and Fran actually earn most of their money from a highly-successful career as kidnappers, their targets being millionaires and dignitaries. By the time the film starts, the thrill of the work has become part of their motivation. Danger turns them on and really helps their sexual activities. These two are dangerous people.

Naturally, seeking out the two master criminals turns out to be a more dangerous mission than Blanche and George expected.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aside Glance: Blanche winks at the viewers as the movie ends.
  • The Cameo: Alfred Hitchcock makes an appearance in silhouette behind the door marked Register of Births and Deaths.
  • City with No Name: Unlike most Hitchcock films which feature an iconic city or landmark, Family Plot was filmed in San Francisco, but all references to the city's name were removed from the script.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Fran readily goes along with Arthur's kidnapping schemes, she's reluctant to murder Blanche, as Arthur intends to. She doesn't even want to drug Blanche at first.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The dialogue is loaded with Double Entendre.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Arthur hides the diamonds from his kidnappings (the diamonds are the ransom payment) in the chandelier in the hallway of his house. Blanche is the one who discovers this at the end.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Rare for a Hitchcock film. In the final frame Blanche winks at the audience.
  • Phony Psychic: Blanche Tyler. Possibly subverted in the very last scene.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The brakes on George's car are tampered with, sending he and Blanche hysterically careening down a winding mountain road.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Arthur Adamson is a respected jeweler, but behind the scenes he's a successful kidnapper and jewel thief.