Page 6, 27th August 1976

27th August 1976
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Page 6, 27th August 1976 — Hitchcock mischief and mastery
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Locations: Phoenix, New York, Edinburgh

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Hitchcock mischief and mastery

by FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART

SAID with relish, "vintage Hitchcock" was the verdict heard from two separate gentlemen coming out of Family Plot ("A", Empire), And so it is: a distillation of essential Hitchco.zk mischief and mastery, alluding back a score of times to favourite Hitchcock trends and tours de force.

Here from the vory start is the caricature of a p rofessional medium, Blanche (Barbara Harris) being hired by the venerable and wealth y spinster (wonderful old e.athleen Nesbitt) to trace her missing heir, an illegitimate nephew and object of her guilt. In no time at all the t rail has led Blanche and her amiable boy-friend, George (the engaging Bruce Dern) to the pursuit of a different couple, Fran (Karen Black) and Arthur (William Devane is a,n interesting new menace), be int on kidnapping and jewel robbery. A brilliant screenplay' by Ernest Lehmann (he wrote "North by North-West") alhays scope for some of Hitchcock's favourite scenes, such as t he rural funeral, escapade througli church service (to catch a bishop) and an absolutely classic old-time car-chase dowiri it mountain road with brake:; out of control.

What is fascinating is not so much any particular scene as the immaculacy with which they-are integrated, the silkensmooth matching of all Hitchcock's different elements. Above all, "Family Plot" towers over every other film in the West End by its vindication of the cinema as entertainment, It has no other purpose than to entertain pleasurably. And this it does superlatively well. Thank you, Mr Hitchcock.

Martin Scouses' Taxi Driver ("X", Odeon, Haymarket) seems to me so much the opposite of entertainment, such antientertainment even, that I have never understood its success at festivals around the world. (including Edinburgh).

Of course this nightmare of a Vietnam veteran working out his worries on a New York taxi's night rounds is effective. But when you make a film about a psychopath and make it with no holds barred, it cannot be too difficult to make an effect. Robert De Niro is effective as the increasingly demented driver. So arc Cybill Shepherd and Jodie Foster as the the two

girls (the confusing resemblance across the age-gap is deliberate) with whom he becomes involved to the ultimate point of appalling bloodshed. What is difficult is to understand why anybody should be expected to want to See it.

Not to be confused with Hitchcock's "Family Plot,' Family Life ("AA", Phoenix, East Finchley) is a sad Polish film by a usually brilliant director, Krzysztof Zanussi. A bright and witty opening shows

amusingly the visit of an Indian delegation to an advanced Polish factory. A telegram recalls a young design engineer (Daniel Olbrychski) to the country because of an accident to his father. There we — and the companion he takes home learn of the estrangement that has grown up between the modern young worker and his scattered family. It is a slow and difficult film, but rewards patience and imagination. Harry and Walter Go to New York ("U", Odeon, Leicester Square) has no rewards that I could discern through the haze in which it seems to have been photographed except the occasional cheery smile of Michael Caine appearing as a gentleman cracksman to read the riot act to blundering safebreakers Elliott Gould and James Caen.

The setting seems to be a music hall, and I could never tell when the bank was actual or a stage prop. The only other reward is a still more infrequent glimpse of Diane Keaton.

Down the Ancient Stairs f"X" Studio Two) is a mystifying title for an Italian movie about, an Italian lunatic asylumduring the is intended to imply that awful conditions prevailed in clinics of Mussolini epoch. Presumably it the day run by a combination of beautiful ladies and doctors who probably ought to be patients.

might g

ht be expected of the subject and the setting, the film is variously and consistently shocking, though with Marcell° Mastroianni as the head doctor, it is not wholly uninteresting. Edinburgh Film Festival, as well as being one of the festivals 'which have picked up "TaxiDriver," has assembled a striking collection of probable attractions, both for its lavish avant-garde section and some lector 1 eh a rveev ialreadyv a l s. Sopmaseseodf, the e Cuk tor's "Sylvia Scarlett," starring Katherine Hepburn; Oph itls's "Letter from an Unk IPOWD Woman"; Von Sterm'aerg's "Morocco," starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Coopt....r, and Hitchcock's "North by North-West" and "The oBniirldsp. ;:obable attractions would not Include Underground (showing this evening at Edinburgh's Ca meo) chosen to show to the 1-ondon Press as representative of Edinburgh's Film Festival.

It is a straightforward and

frankly revolutionary propaganda documentary by Emile de Antonio and five members of I? he' so-called Student Demo.;ratic Society dedicated to the overthrow of wimhpatertiahleisymcaaiiiiI1dUtnoitecdomSmtautensism as "the highest human aspiration."

It seems an extraoromary offering for Edinburgh's Festival, but lik o many such propaganda documentaries is boring enough to repay revolutionary sym,orthisers.

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