|Devane as a crafty kidnapper.|
|George (Dern) in the cemetery.|
Family Plot has its admirers. Donald Spoto, in The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, calls it "the purest film Hitchcock has given us since Psycho, and it is this meticulous structure and the lightness of tone that make it unique among recent Hitchcock works." Certainly, there's a comic element to the relationship between Blanche and George that recalls the offbeat humor of The Trouble With Harry. Indeed, Barbara Harris sometimes acts as if she was starring in a screwball comedy. Her broad attempts at humor seem totally at odds with the rest of the film, especially the scenes featuring sinister Arthur Adamson, who--in the capable hands of Devane--is one of Hitchcock's most heartless (if perhaps one-dimensional) villains.
|Harris and Dern in the runaway car.|
Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman (who penned North By Northwest) reward discerning viewers with some subtle in-jokes: a street named Bates Avenue, someone smoking at a gasoline station, and discussions about having a "bird in hand." The film's best joke, though, lies with its ironic plot twist (not revealed here!). Interestingly, Lehman had earlier rejected an opportunity to make his own version of The Rainbird Pattern, the 1972 novel on which Family Plot was based.
Hitchcock was 75 when he completed Family Plot, his 53rd film and a modest success. During the final years of his life, he worked with Lehman and James Costigan on the screenplay for a spy film tentatively titled The Short Night. Hitchcock died in 1980 of renal failure.