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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > The Plot Against Harry

The Plot Against Harry


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B



Harry Plotnik (Martin Priest) has just come out of prison and the world he used to rule as a Jewish numbers operator with more connections than a telephone switchboard.  That was not enough to keep him out of the slammer, then he finds that all kinds of new and unexpected developments have occurred.  The Plot Against Harry was made in 1969 and disappeared for 20 years.  In 1989, the film resurfaced as an indie film hit and that only continued its cult classic status.


Michael Roemer, who already had the impressive Nothing But A Man (1964) under his belt, came up with an amazing piece of New York School filmmaking at the time the rise of John Cassavetes, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese were on the rise.  It is one of those rare films that really lives up to the term and idea of “slice of life” in its remarkably naturalistic portrayal of the wackier side of New York and those who are up to no good.  What today in usually lesser hands would have been a bunch of pretentious vignettes that do not add up, Roemer produced and totally wrote the screenplay of Harry’s trip back into the world he loves.  Too bad he is getting bad news form all sides.


This includes a funny court appearance that gets broadcast on television.  Fortunately, the film does not try to imitate TV or have the footage shot on video, which is a very tired cliché today.  Though the look of the film reveals it is a product of the late 1960s, in many ways it is more alive, fresher, and more vibrant in its vivid black and white than all the desaturated film-as-video and outright video garbage that has glutted the market today.  The result is a great comedy that is dramatic and played seriously, yet keeps smacking of the truth at every turn.  The Plot Against Harry is a minor classic of New York Filmmaking.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image, which is not even credited on the DVD case to this releases detriment, is one of the best-looking older black and white titles we have seen to date.  Robert Young’s cinematography is terrific, offering fine composition throughout and many moments of deep focus photography.  This is one of New Video’s best picture quality DVDs to date.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is not bad, from the recovered reissue sound in 1969.  This does not have any surrounds and does not need it.  In combination, it is almost as good as Paramount’s similar DVD of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966) in the performance department.  Extras include filmmaker biographies and a terrific reflection piece (33:26) in which Roemer and Young discuss their films and the comeback of their work.  The Plot Against Harry, like the men who made it, was ahead of its time by at least two decades.  This is must-see filmmaking.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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