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The Plot Against Harry

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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(Apr 26, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An ex-convict Jewish gambler reunites with his family and becomes middle class. Directed by Michael Roemer.

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An early delight of American independent cinema (before there was American independent cinema, really), The Plot Against Harry is proof that failure is not necessarily the final word. Shot independently in 1969 by the collaborators of Nothing But a Man, writer-director Michael Roemer and photographer/co-producer Robert Young, Harry couldn't find a distributor and was quickly forgotten. In 1989, Roemer took another look at the movie, submitted it to a couple of film festivals, and suddenly found critical acclaim and a respectable release.

In retrospect, it now looks like a cinematic cousin to Philip Roth's Goodbye-Columbus, with its middle-class Jewish milieu and observant humor. Harry (Martin Priest) is a mid-level mobster whose racket has weakened during his stint in prison. Newly out, he tries to piece together the business, or possibly go straight, meanwhile reconnecting with his ex-wife and the two daughters he barely knew. Nothing seems to work--it's almost as though there's a plot against him.

As a curio, Harry is choice. It's easy to see how the movie had trouble in 1969, however; the style suggests an in-the-streets documentary, rather than a culture comedy. (An opening sequence in the jailhouse looks like the beginning of a grim prison exposé.) This bizarre approach actually gives the movie much of its appeal today, however, as does the relentless eccentricity of the supporting cast, many of them non-professionals; Harry's henchman Ben Lang should've had a wonderful career as a good-natured goombah. --Robert Horton


Special Features

  • Special making-of featurette with director Michael Roemer and cinematographer/coproducer Robert Young
  • Filmmaker biographies

Product Details

  • Actors: Martin Priest, Ben Lang, Maxine Woods, Henry Nemo, Jacques Taylor
  • Directors: Michael Roemer
  • Writers: Michael Roemer
  • Producers: Martin Priest, Robert M. Young, Michael Roemer, Michael Hausman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Video Group
  • DVD Release Date: April 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006212IQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,738 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Plot Against Harry" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Shot independently in 1969, "Plot" could not get distribution until re-discovered in the late 1980's and shown at film festivals, where finally, it received its due. Produced on a shoe-string budget with a host of non-actors, "Harry" has more truth, flavor, and character in its pinkie-ring finger than ten of those loud and obvious, big-budget releases currently passing for comedies. A living, breathing tribute to the ingenuity and potential of independent film.
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Format: VHS Tape
This little indie sleeper--made in the sixties, died immediately, was resurrected in the 1989, and is now part of the New Yorker Video series--is distinguished by an original satiric story and a fine, sympathetic performance by Martin Priest who plays the title character Harry Plotnick, a middle-aged New York Jewish racketeer.
The film begins as Harry is being released from prison after a nine-month stay. His chauffeur immediately tells him some of his numbers runners have jumped ship and his gambling flotilla is in danger of sinking. They pick up a couple of his lieutenants who speak Spanish (which Harry doesn't understand) and they more or less ignore him. Harry quickly learns that they and his other runners think of him as washed up. Meanwhile he runs into a couple of his ex-wives and discovers that he has grandchildren. Now a rather unusual mid-life crisis ensues for Harry. He wants to give up the rackets and become an upstanding member of the community, to attend weddings and bar mitzvahs. Just how difficult that is and what transpires form the comedic story of the film.
Director Michael Roemer who also wrote the script uses authentic New York/New Jersey lifestyle details from the sixties (contemporary to him and therefore without the strained or flashy, obtrusive effect we often encounter in period piece movies) to spin his tale. There is a documentary feel to the film overlaid with light-hearted irony. The camera work is amateurish at times and the abrupt cuts lend a kind of jumpy, somehow authentic feel to the story. This can be seen as a satire of gangster films with the warm-hearted and gentle Harry as a kind of anti-Al Capone.
Bottom line: wryly original.
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Format: DVD
The Plot Against Harry keeps the viewer guessing well into the first half hour whether it's a comedy, drama or documentary ...and by then you don't care...it's just interesting. It's funny,fast and kooky. The characters are very real people and I had no trouble imagining that they had full complex lives beyond what was depicted in the film. A classic.
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