Released 20 years after it was made, this hilarious tale of a small-time hood who can't get a break stars Martin Priest as the infamous Harry Plotnick, whose bad luck starts the moment he is freed after a nine-month prison term, when Max (Henry Nemo), his faithful driver and not-too-bright
sidekick, is late meeting him. On the way home, they have an car accident, not just with anyone, but with Harry's ex-brother-in-law, Leo (Ben Lang), whose passengers include Harry's ex-wife, Kay (Maxine Woods), and the grown daughter Harry didn't know he had. Just as Harry is starting to settle
into life on the outside, he becomes ill, prompting visits from his overprotective sister, Mae (Ellen Herbert), and an entourage of assorted relatives bearing fruit baskets and vaporizers. While reporting to his parole officer, Harry faints from anxiety and is taken to the hospital, where he
learns he has an enlarged heart. His woes continue when he checks out of the hospital and returns to his hotel only to discover that there has been a fire, set by Max, who, panicking over an impending IRS audit, torched Harry's accounting books. Naturally, everybody--including Max--contends that
Harry put the driver up to the dirty deed. To complicate matters further, Harry's daughter becomes pregnant, and Kay informs Harry's parole officer about one of her ex-husband's parole violations. Later, Harry is invited to the Heart Foundation's "Have a Heart" marathon, during which he becomes
drunk, walks onto the set, and has a heart attack on national television. Thinking he's not long for this world, Harry pledges $20,000 to the Heart Foundation, and claims that he did, in fact, tell Max to burn "the books." Eventually, Harry ends up where he began, in prison.
Michael Roemer and his talented cast have created an extremely funny film, which, unlike Woody Allen's overtly neurotic comedies, conveys the problems and anxieties of its characters with great subtlety. As interesting as this well-crafted film is, the story behind its long-delayed release is
even more fascinating. After garnering critical praise for their low-budget feature NOTHING BUT A MAN (1965), Roemer, a professor of Film and American Studies at Yale, and former Harvard classmate Robert Young (director of the acclaimed SHORT EYES) received financing from the Seattle-based King
Screen Productions to make another film. Made on a budget of $680,000, written and directed by Roemer with Young again acting as the cinematographer, that film, THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY, was completed in 1969; however, Roemer was unable to find a distributor. Shelving THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY, Roemer
continued to teach and made a number of documentaries and features, mostly for public television, the best-known being the fiction film "Haunted," which was aired on PBS's "American Playhouse" series in 1984. Twenty years after his original attempt to distribute THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY, Roemer
decided to transfer the film to videotape so that, as he explained to the New York Times, his kids could see it. In the process of reworking the soundtrack, he decided to make new 35 mm prints of the film and sent them off to the New York and Toronto film festivals, where THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY
was extremely well received, leading to the film's general release.
A period film that was not intended to be a period film, THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY is a wonderful document of the sights and sounds of the late 1960s. Well-acted, deftly written and directed, and expertly shot by Young, this darkly comic tale of a hapless small-time gangster is an engaging cinematic
artifact that remains as fresh today as the day it was made.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1971
- Rating: NR
- Review: Released 20 years after it was made, this hilarious tale of a small-time hood who can't get a break stars Martin Priest as the infamous Harry Plotnick, whose bad luck starts the moment he is freed after a nine-month prison term, when Max (Henry Nemo), his… (more)