The working title was Deceit; the replacement one provides a fitting label both for the film itself, in which a graveyard features prominently, and for a thematic strand that had dominated Hitchcock’s output from start to finish. Family Plot has no big stars and no big ambitions, but skilfully recycles a variety of motifs and techniques, refined over half a century, in a lightweight crime story about two rival couples on the trail of family secrets and an inheritance.
Late in the film, one couple’s car goes out of control on a steep winding descent, and Hitchcock constructs one of his finest action set-pieces: a triumphant final demonstration, harking back to his formative years in silent cinema, of his belief in the power of the visual image and the principles of creative editing.
This film is screening as part of The Genius of Hitchcock: Part Two. A full retrospective of Hitchcock’s 52 surviving films is taking place at the IFI from December 2012 to March 2013.
A six-week Evening Course, Shadow of a Genius, will look at the work of directors influenced by Hitchcock and will take place from February 5th to March 12th.