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Family Plot
  • Composed by John Williams
  • Varese Sarabande CD Club / 2010 / 63:27

Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot is also one of his most overtly comedic, and the film is rarely-seen today.  His legendary collaboration with Bernard Herrmann over several years earlier, the director selected as composer the man who had recently seen a single score elevate him to the top of the A-list – John Williams, fresh from the success of Jaws.  The album begins on a high note, “The First Seance” a beautiful piece including wordless female choir, producing a beautifully evocative sound.  Occasional set piece cues offering a darker sound are a highlight – the brief “Maloney’s Exit”, for instance, is vintage Williams action music.  The sound dominating the rest of the score is the harpsichord – just the right instrument to capture the mixture of the macabre and the comic.  It seems to be everywhere – a constant presence which brings the score a very distinctive sound.

That said, there are elements here which clearly foreshadow more famous Williams works to come, particularly Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Witches of Eastwick.  Michael Matessino puts it beautifully in his liner notes – this “was the coda to Hitchcock’s celluloid symphony; for Williams it was an overture.”  While there isn’t really enough breadth in the material to sustain an album of this length, the score is dominated by a rather light, breezy sound which makes it eminently listenable and always enjoyable, despite its somewhat repetitive nature.  Unsurprisingly, the main theme is strong and memorable (the composer is John Williams, after all); and while it’s unlikely to ever be considered one of the great scores associated with either the composer or the director, it’s wonderful to have an album of it for the very first time.   *** 1/2

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